California Gov. Jerry Brown revealed his proposed $122.5 billion state budget for 2017-18, which projects a deficit of $1.6 billion due to tax revenues and federal uncertainty.
“This year’s budget will be the most difficult that we have faced since 2012,” Brown said in a statement to legislators. “The surging tide of revenue increases that we enjoyed the past few years appears to have turned.”
To address this deficit, the budget proposes a reduction in approximately $3.2 billion in spending, which includes a roll back of planned spending increases for education to the minimum required by Proposition 98 and the phasing out the Middle Class Scholarship Program.
Overall, education spending in 2017-18 will count for 54.5 percent of the state’s spending, with 42.6 percent, or $52.1 billion, going toward elementary and secondary education (K-12 education) and 11.9 percent, or $14.6 billion, going toward higher education.
For K-12 education, Brown proposes reducing funds provided by Prop 98, a 1988 proposition that determines the minimum funding requirement for schools and community colleges, to the lowest guarantee.
The roll back of the spending increase, however, still proposes an increase in K-12 funding by $2.1 billion to $73.5 billion and a per-pupil spending increase to $15,216, from $14,822.
“In a year where California’s overall revenue is down, this is still another positive step forward for California’s 6.2 million public school students,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson in a press release. “The governor’s proposed budget continues to invest more in helping students succeed on their way to 21st century careers and college.”
Brown’s budget addresses the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), now at 96 percent implementation, which provides supplementary funds to districts with high-needs students and gives more autonomy to individual district spending.
This includes an increase of more than $744 million in Prop 98 funding for districts and charters to continue transition to the full implementation of the LCFF.
Additional budgetary increases include funding for career technical education and charter school growth, as well as one-time discretionary funding for school districts, charter schools and county offices of education to use at local discretion.
Special education will see a funding decrease of $4.9 million to reflect a “projected decrease in special education average daily attendance,” a trend common throughout the state where legislators expect a statewide decline in average daily attendance in 2017-18.
California’s higher education efforts include keeping student costs low, promoting technology and innovation and improving graduation rates.
Total funding for higher education is proposed at $31.9 billion from the general fund, local property tax and other funds.
Fees for students within the California Community College system will remain flat. For the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU), preliminary reports indicate a 2.5-percent tuition increase for UC and a 5 percent tuition increase for CSU.
The largest change facing higher education is the proposed phase out of the Middle Class Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to UC and CSU families that make between $80,000 and $150,000 annually.
Scholarships will only be renewed for the approximately 37,000 students receiving awards in the 2016-17 year with no new awards distributed for the program. It is projected that this will reduce costs by nearly $116 million.
The change was met with opposition from Speaker of the California Assembly Anthony Rendon, who said the end of the scholarship will increase the cost of tuition by up to $9,000 at CSU and up to $20,000 at UC.
“We must work to keep college affordable for California students, and I will not support burdening them with higher fees and greater student debt—whether that’s done by raising tuition or phasing out the Middle Class Scholarship,” Rendon said in a press release.
The budget is good news, however, for California Community Colleges which are positioned to receive $150 million for its Guided Pathways Program, $20 million for Innovation Awards, $43.7 million for deferred maintenance and instructional equipment, $10 million for online education and $6 million for an integrated library system.
“It (the proposed budget) demonstrates continued confidence in our colleges and provides additional resources to build upon investments made by the state over the past few years aimed at improving student outcomes and fulfilling the promise of a quality college credential for more Californians,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz in a press release.
The proposed budget will act as a launching point for discussions and negotiations before it is finalized and approved by summer 2017.
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