Education Spending Tops California’s $220 Billion State Budget Proposal

January 13, 2020 Updated: January 13, 2020
FONT BFONT SText size

California Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a $222 billion budget proposal with plans to spend nearly record-breaking $48 billion on increased K-12 funding, including a $900 million to tackle the statewide shortage of teachers, especially in math, sciences and for special-needs students.

Education is made a priority in the $222 billion plan, which was introduced during a news conference at the California State Capitol in Sacramento on Jan. 10. The 52-year-old Democratic governor called for a “steady focus on the basics,” starting with addressing the state’s need for more educators by dedicating massive investments in teacher recruitment.

“The state has a well documented, long-term, statewide teacher shortage in the areas of special education, science, and math,” Newsom wrote in his proposal (pdf). He added not only rural areas but also the high cost of living areas, have reported difficulty hiring fully-trained teachers regardless of the subject.

Newsom is proposing roughly $1.2 billion to increase ongoing funding for the Local Control Funding Formula, the main source of school spending. An additional $900 million would go toward educator recruitment and training, including $350 million in competitive grants to districts for teacher training in mental health intervention, English learner supports, anti-bullying efforts and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) development.

According to a 2017 survey conducted by Palo Alto-based Learning Policy Institute, about two-thirds of California principals serving schools with high proportions of students of color and students from low-income families reported that they had to leave teaching positions vacant or hire teachers with substandard credentials.

This is partially a result of fewer college students pursuing teaching careers following post-recession teacher layoffs across the state. The institute reports that between 2002 and 2013, enrollment in teacher-education programs declined by about 70 percent, and it has barely budged upward since. To make it more affordable to become a teacher, Newsom proposed to provide $100 million to pay a $20,000 bonus for teachers willing to teach four years in a high-demand subject.

Newsom’s K-12 budget also steers $900 million in increased funding for special education, $300 million to improve the lowest-performing districts, $300 million to expand community schools, and $70 million in additional state funding for the federal meals program. That includes a farm-to-table fresh fruit and vegetable program to improve nutrition in school meals.

Additionally, the 2021 budget includes funding for several programs designed to help homeless children, whose numbers have been rising as California’s homelessness crisis worsens. A recent state audit found that schools and districts reported 274,714 homeless students—children living in cars, motels, shelters, campgrounds or doubled up with another family, due to financial hardship.