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Record amount of education funding included in budget proposal
Turlock Unified is expected to receive $250 million in one-time funds to incentivize expanded Transitional Kindergarten (TK) and full-day Kindergarten programs (Journal file photo).

Both Turlock Unified School District and Stanislaus State will benefit from a record amount of funding for education included in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed State Budget, presented earlier this month.

Newsom proposed the largest education budget in California’s history, which includes $89.2 billion for K-12 schools and community colleges next year as well as a 3% increase in funding for the University of California and California State University systems. Additionally, the budget includes $4.6 billion for summer school and extra learning time to address academic setbacks many students are dealing with in the wake of COVID-19.

In a lengthy statement, California Teacher Association President E. Toby Boyd stated the pandemic has underscored years of disinvestment in the state’s public schools and described the proposed budget as encouraging. The CTA has advocated for counties in the state’s Purple Tier, like Stanislaus County, to remain in a distance learning model, but Boyd noted that the budget proposal will aid in creating safe learning environments for students of all backgrounds.

“...We share many of the concerns that some superintendents and others have articulated about the structure and implementation of the governor’s proposed reopening plan, but look forward to continuing to work with the administration and the legislature on ensuring a safe reopening of all public schools. CTA members stand ready to provide additional learning support to students who have been struggling during the pandemic. Together with parents and administrators we will work toward solutions that best meet the needs of our local students,” Boyd said. “We look forward to having conversations with both the governor and legislators about the proposed funding levels to pay down two-thirds of the deferrals, special education appropriation and services, and funding for UCs and CSUs.”

According to TUSD Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Accountability Marjorie Bettencourt, who presented the budget proposal to the Board of Trustees last week, the $3 billion increase to Proposition 98 this year was estimated seven months ago to resemble levels seen in 2015-16, but recent unexpected tax revenue at the state level provided more funding. 

“Obviously, a lot has changed since our enacted budget,” Bettencourt said. 

Bettencourt noted that the 2020-21 enacted budget also included almost $13 billion in K-12 deferrals. Newsom’s proposed budget would pay down $9.2 billion of those referrals, effectively eliminating the ongoing deferrals scheduled for February 2022 through May 2022; TUSD would still need to pay $33 million in deferrals this year. 

“Including referrals, schools services recommends that all districts, when we create our multi-year projections, that we still include the ongoing deferral as this is just a proposal and we should always plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Bettencourt said. “Hopefully this goes through so the deferrals will not be ongoing.”

TUSD is expected to receive $772,000 as part of the $300 million in ongoing funds for the Special Education Early Intervention Grant included in the proposed budget, which also includes:

·         $250 million one-time funds to incentivize expanded Transitional Kindergarten (TK) and full-day Kindergarten programs.

·         $50 million to train TK and Kindergarten teachers in providing inclusive instruction for students with disabilities, support for English Learners, and to help address the social-emotional needs of students.

·         $264.9 million one-time funds to expand existing networks of community schools.

·         $450 million one-time investment in three mental health programs.

·         $10 million one-time investment to support widespread access and use of school climate surveys.

·         $540 million one-time funds to support professional learning, teacher effectiveness, and the teacher pipeline.

However, Bettencourt stated the budget is missing key components such as COVID-19 liability coverage for local education agencies, Unduplicated Pupil Percentage being held harmless for those LEAs seeing a drop in their official number of low-income students, additional CalSTRS and CalPERS employer rate reduction and more discretionary dollars rather than those which are tied up in restrictive programs.

“Again, it’s important to remember that this is just a proposal and we’re in the beginning of the process for the 2021-22 budget,” Bettencourt said. “Negotiations will not begin in the legislature.”

In her Spring 2021 Welcome Address on Wednesday, Stanislaus State president Ellen Junn touched on some key benefits the university will see from the proposed budget. 

The budget proposes a total of $786 million for the 10-campus UC system and the 23-campus CSU system, and rejects any in-state tuition or fee increases. The CSU will receive $144.5 million as well as $225 million in one-time funding for emergency aid to students, “culturally competent” professional development and deferred maintenance. 

As part of the budget, Stanislaus State’s Stockton campus will receive $1 million in enrollment funding. 

“We are grateful to Governor Newsom’s support and to making higher education a priority,” Junn said. 

Stanislaus State Chief Financial Officer Christene James added that Stanislaus State received just over $22 million as part of the second federal COVID relief package, in addition to the first round of funding which provided $14.3 million.

“We are now working to understand how these new funds can be spent and are waiting for some additional instruction from the Department of Education and our Chancellor’s Office,” James said. “We hope to have student aid funding out to students soon.”