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Education Desk August 26, 2015

“Unprecedented”CA School Funding Year But One-Time Windfalls Won’t Last Forever

A few months ago California schools were promised more money by the state’s ‘May revision’ budget. Now some of that is being reallocated or reduced in Governor Jerry Brown’s 2015-2016 state budget. For Santa Clara Unified, the good news is that most of the changes won’t affect the district’s budget because, being a Basic Aid district – property tax funded – the district wasn’t getting many of those increases anyway.

Brown’s budget is based on the Department of Finance’s (DOF) revenue forecast rather that the Legislative Analyst’s Office’s (LAO) projections, The LAO projects that personal income tax revenue will increase almost 8 percent ($6 billion) while the DOF is only forecasting 3 percent ($2.3 billion).

This final spending plan slightly cuts money for the Local Control Funding Formula – Browns’s 2012 restructured state education funding formula – phase-in by about two percent, reduces the one-time discretionary funding per student – “ADA,” average daily attendance – to $530 from $601. At the same the budget adds about 7,000 new full day preschool spots – instead of the original 2,500 partial-day spots – and provides $490 million for teacher training and support, which will bring SCUSD an additional $1 million, Santa Clara Unified Asst. Superintendent of Business Services Mark Allgire told the board at its July 23 meeting. The $400 million in grants for career and technical education (CTE) remains.

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The goal of the LCFF is restoring school district buying power to 2008 levels by 2021. “Simply stated, five years from now we’ll have the purchasing power we had eight years ago,” said “Being Basic Add we have additional revenue. However, it [LCFF plan] doesn’t address increases in purchasing power.”

That means there’s no provision in the state budget to address rising pension costs – which are projected to grow to 25 percent of the LCFF funding – or raising California’s educational investment to meet the national average of $12,360 per pupil (2013). The U.S. Census Bureau ranked California 34th ($10,763) in 2013 per-pupil spending. By contrast, California has the top GSP (Gross State Product) in the country, $2.3 trillion, according to the U.S.Bureau of Economic Analysis.

“This has been a banner year for education funding, said Allgire. And the expectation is that state revenue will exceed estimates and there will be another one-time increase for education.

But there are many reasons for caution, nonetheless. “Someday there will be another recession,” he said. Brown will leave office in a few years. The LCFF will be judged –and perhaps changed – based on the results that unfold in coming years. There’s no indication of politicians will respond to Prop 30’s sunset – the end of the temporary income tax hikes in the top brackets to fund education – nor to their willingness to allocate money to education beyond that earmarked Prop 98’s mandatory minimums.The bottom line is that the district shouldn’t get “hooked” on one-time windfalls.

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