In the budget proposal released last week by Governor Jerry Brown, one of the big winners was education. After the passage of Proposition 30, the governor is following through on a promise to reinvest in both schools and colleges.
“Governor Brown began his elected service as a trustee for a community college district — Los Angeles — the largest in the state,” said SBCC President Lori Gaskin. “To this day he continues to have a very grounded and authentic understanding of what it is we seek to accomplish and how California’s 112 community colleges open doors to millions of our citizens. Because of that I feel he has honored his commitment to higher education, that he has stood by his pledge, that he was dismayed by the reduction in access that the budget crisis brought about. I see him trying to reverse it.”
Specifically, the budget predicts a 5-percent increase in funding for community colleges next year and a $1.3-billion total increase in funding for higher education. Primary and secondary schools should expect $2.7 billion more, according to the document. While school officials are cautiously optimistic that the governor has prioritized education, they are also aware that many of the details of the budget still need to be ironed out and, furthermore, that any plan will get sliced and diced by the Legislature.
“What we have now,” Santa Barbara Unified Superintendent David Cash told The Santa Barbara Independent, “are broad brushstrokes.” Governor Brown’s proposal calls for new funding formulas — to be phased in over seven years — that will transfer categorical, or specifically earmarked, money to the general fund. It also says that districts with more English-language learners and socioeconomically disadvantaged children will receive more funding.
“One of the big issues that every district in the state is going to face is how are we going to support students that don’t have built-in advocacy groups.”
Those changes could potentially hurt disadvantaged children, however, if districts now have the ability to abolish some of the categorical programs designed to serve them. The governor would like to transfer more control from the state to local districts, yet, Cash said, “One of the big issues that every district in the state is going to face is how are we going to support students that don’t have built-in advocacy groups.” Furthermore, he worries that districts will choose not to remove the tag of “English learner” from children who have become proficient in the language so as to procure more state funding. At a recent school board meeting, Emilio Handall, assistant superintendent for elementary education, suggested that specific school sites in the Santa Barbara district are already doing so in order to maintain state and federal cash flows.
An issue more unique to Santa Barbara is that the new funding formulas are supposed to be benchmarked to the 2007-2008 school year — before the Santa Barbara Unified School District existed. Cash said he hoped that the state defaults to the first year — 2011-2012 — after the elementary and high school districts unified.
While it’s a bit early to speculate on the impacts the budget would have on UCSB, Patrick Lenz, UC system vice president for Budget and Capital Resources, issued a statement praising Brown’s budget. The governor promised the 10-campus system $125 million in funding in exchange for not increasing tuition this year. (The total increase proposed is actually $256.5 million.) Brown has asked the UC Regents and CSU Trustees to freeze tuition for four years. UC and CSU students have seen the price of education increase more than $5,500 and $2,700, respectively, the last five years.
Brown’s budget summary does indicate that increased funding will come with strings attached. “The UC, CSU and community colleges,” it reads, “need to move aggressively to implement reforms to provide high quality instruction at lower cost, decrease the time it takes to earn a degree, and increase graduation rates, by deploying their teaching resources more effectively.”