Wilson Seeks New Funding Boost for State's Schools
Call it the "May Surprise."
Gov. Pete Wilson of California announced last week that he wants to add more than $500 million to the education budget plan he unveiled in January in order to help pay for teacher training and textbooks, as well as intervention for low-performing schools and students.
Earlier this year, the Republican governor proposed spending $23.5 billion on K-12 education in fiscal 1999. The latest round of additions would boost that to $24 billion--a 7 percent increase over last year.
Golden State chief executives traditionally revise their budget proposals in the spring to reflect updated budget forecasts.
But Mr. Wilson, who is pushing a broad school reform agenda this year that includes creating the post of an education inspector general, caught many in the state off guard with his latest burst of generosity.
"We did not anticipate that he would give education this much more," said Kevin Gordon, the assistant executive director of the California School Boards Association. "The governor deserves substantial credit."
It is the first time in state history that a governor has proposed a K-12 spending level that exceeds the minimum spending levels set out in the state constitution and in place since 1988.
The plan would provide $250 million to help districts purchase instructional materials aligned with the state's new learning standards. Mr. Wilson's original budget proposal called for setting aside $40 million to train teachers in the new mathematics standards.
The May adjustments also call for spending an additional $55 million on teacher training and recruitment. For example, $33 million would go toward a program that pairs veteran teachers with newcomers, and $8 million would help non-credentialed teachers earn credentials. Mr. Wilson would also raise the value of state college scholarships to first-time teachers who agree to work in inner cities to $11,000 from $8,000.
The efforts are aimed at helping to address the shortage of credentialed teachers in California because of the state's K-3 class-size-reduction initiative, which Mr. Wilson has championed.
Mary Bergan, the president of the California Federation of Teachers, the state affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, said she appreciates the attention, but added that restrictions on the teacher training funds should be removed.
"The governor says that he wants to bring more teachers in the classroom," she said. "Some higher beginning salaries would go a long way to getting the teachers we need."
The governor's revised spending plan would also:
- Spend $230 million on library and science-lab equipment;
- Allocate $50 million to expand remedial summer school programs in reading and math; and
- Provide $40 million to pay for crisis-intervention teams that would help low-performing districts.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin, a Democrat, also praised Mr. Wilson's proposal, but said that he could do more.
"I am disheartened that of the $2.5 billion in new revenues in the budget year, only $500 million will go to our schools," she said.
Vol. 17, Issue 36, Page 23