Meaning of Aid Increase in Golden State Debated
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2004 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Amid a storm of protests over his spending plan for fiscal 2006, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a $117.4 billion state budget that he says allocates more money than ever for California’s schools.
The $36.6 billion K-12 budget—which represents a 6.7 percent increase over last year’s—includes first-time funds of $183.5 million for emergency school facility repairs, $18.2 million to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables served in school breakfasts, and $1 million for the California Teach program, which is designed to increase the number of new credentialed math and science teachers from 250 to 1,000 per year.
The budget also includes $57.5 million for supplemental instruction to help students deemed at risk of failing the state’s high school exit exam, and almost $50 million in new grants to low-performing schools to help them recruit, retain, and reward teachers and principals.
Close to half the governor’s overall budget—almost $50 billion—is spent on Proposition 98, the voter-approved initiative that requires a certain percentage of the budget to go to K-12 education and community colleges. That amount, Mr. Schwarzenegger says, is a $3 billion increase for the state’s public schools and community colleges, and is $736 million over what the law requires.
But the governor’s critics, including the California Teachers Association, say they are deeply disappointed that the budget fails to restore the $2 billion taken from Proposition 98 in the last fiscal year, when the state was facing a severe budget crisis. Over the summer, they joined state schools Superintendent Jack O’Connell in filing a lawsuit against the Gov. Schwarzenegger, asking a court in Sacramento to force him to pay a total of $3.1 billion back to the education budget. The case is pending.
The education groups also disagree with the governor’s claim that per-student spending has increased to over $10,000, saying that the figure includes one-time expenditures that would not necessarily reach the classroom.
The governor, a Republican, has continued to seek more flexibility in financing education by pushing for Proposition 76, a proposal on the state ballot next week that would make funding for schools more subject to yearly decisions by the governor and the legislature. ("Calif. Teachers Rally Against Ballot Measures," Oct. 26, 2005.)
Gov. Schwarzenegger also vetoed a bill that would have exempted special education students from taking the state’s high school exit exam because the bill violated the terms of a September settlement between the state and the group Disability Rights Advocates. The settlement allows students with disabilities who are scheduled to graduate in 2006 to be exempt from taking the exam while the state continues to improve instruction for those students in the future. ("Gov. Schwarzenegger Vetoes Changes to State Exam Policy," Oct. 19, 2005.)
In addition, the governor vetoed a bill—supported by state Treasurer Phil Angelides, a Democrat—that would have created an education endowment to help students attend college. Mr. Schwarzenegger said he was opposed to the bill because it would establish a new entity that would receive money without a mandate from the voters.
Vol. 25, Issue 10, Page 23