California Budget Passed, Signed
Now that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a fiscal 2009 budget, almost three months into California’s new fiscal year, school districts will soon begin receiving more than $2 billion in long-delayed funding for programs such as remedial assistance and student transportation.
Child-care and preschool providers, which have not received money for subsidies to serve children from low-income families since June, will also see relief. Some agencies had to close their doors or turn families away during the budget standoff involving Democrats, the governor, and his fellow Republicans. (California Schools Squeezed in Fiscal Vise, Sept. 17, 2008.)
In a press conference Sept. 23, the day Mr. Schwarzenegger signed the budget—the last remaining item of business from a legislative session that was to have concluded in August—he said he was directing the state controller to expedite “sending checks out to all the people we owe money to.”
The $103.4 billion budget includes $58.1 billion in Proposition 98 funds for public schools and community colleges—$1.3 billion more than proposed by the governor in May and about 2 percent higher than in fiscal 2008. Proposition 98 is a school funding guarantee approved by state voters in 1988.
School employees will get a 0.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment.
The budget includes $180 million in federal funds to help school districts that are in the program-improvement phase of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Another item is a one-time appropriation of $12.5 million to launch new high school “partnership academies” focused on “green” technology.
California, which faced a $15 billion deficit, is required to have a balanced budget, so lawmakers and the governor were forced to come up with budget-balancing measures, some of which still will have to pass muster with voters.
Among them is a plan to have investors pay the state $5 billion in exchange for revenues from a soon-to-be-revamped state lottery. That will have to go on a statewide ballot, possibly next spring.
Provisions for the governor’s “rainy day” fund will also require voter approval.
While the budget spares schools from some of the deep cuts proposed earlier this year, some education groups argue that the governor’s push for budget reform and the Republicans’ opposition to a tax increase came at the expense of the state’s students.
“Failing to provide any ongoing new revenues, this ‘new deal’ budget is no real budget at all,” David A. Sanchez, the president of the California Teachers Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, said in a Sept. 19 press release.
Gov. Schwarzenegger had vowed not to sign any other bills passed by the legislature until the budget impasse was over. Last week, he signed one bill giving school disricts more flexibility to use professional development funds to pay new and existing math, science, and special education teachers. He also signed a bill containing $100 million over the next five years for charter school facilities.
Among those awaiting his consideration are two involving the state’s early-childhood-education system—an advisory committee to work on setting up an “early-learning quality-improvement system,” and a plan to consolidate the state’s five different early-childhood-education programs into a more streamlined system.
Vol. 28, Issue 06, Page 19