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On A Star Wars Scale: This Year’s Budget Rates @ The Phantom Menace


Another year and another budget season in the books! After some back and forth negotiations between Governor Newsom and the state legislature, California has landed its final budget. And how would we rate it? A very solid “OK.”

On a scale of Star Wars movies, this year definitely feels like The Phantom Menace of budget years. It wasn’t good, but it could’ve been worse. We got some Darth Maul, but we also got some Jar Jar Binks; basically, there was some stuff we liked, and some stuff we didn’t. Given the past two years of historical amounts of funding for California education, we were excited to build off our previous wins with our communities, but also know there were going to be some cuts because of the budget shortfall. In terms of K-12 education though, it definitely could’ve been worse!

Thinks We Liked:

  • Keeping the over $4 billion investment into the California Community Schools Partnership Program that CFJ and our partners at the California Partnership for the Future of Learning helped win!
  • Keeping the $100 million investment to expand the Community Engagement Initiative, AND strengthening the language to support partner organizations.
  • The 8.22% LCFF cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) increase.
  • The $20 million investment in the Bilingual Teacher Professional Development Program to increase the number of bilingual educators.

Things We Didn’t Like So Much:

There were also some cuts proposed in the May Revision, and in this June budget, some were rolled back a bit, some completely, some just not as deep (like the Learning Loss Recovery Grant’s initial cut from $2.5 billion to $1.5 billion). One of the things we’ve been keeping an eye on is the LCFF Equity Multiplier, which is a $300 million investment meant to address some of the racial disparities in our school system, especially for Black students. 

The initial proposal was to distribute that money based on students who qualify for free lunch, but would only reach about 6-7% of Black students in the state. In this new budget, that allocation will be based on students who are socio-economically disadvantaged (eligible for free or reduced-priced meals or if neither parent graduated from high school) and non-stability rates (a complex way of measuring student attendance). This should reach a slightly higher percentage of Black students, but there’s still a long way to go to fund, repair, and address all the historical harms that Black students and families have faced. 

We had and will always have high expectations for education funding in California, because we know our students deserve a high quality education. So for this year overall, very OK. Phantom Menace levels of OK. Next year and every year after, we want A New Hope.

Karn Saetang, Policy and Alliance Director at Californians for Justice

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