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Gov. Brown’s proposed budget means ‘modest’ funding boosts for schools

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California Gov. Jerry Brown releases his proposed budget for 2017-18 at the State Capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Facing a projected $2 billion budget deficit, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Tuesday smaller-than-expected funding increases for public schools in the state under his proposed budget for next fiscal year.

The governor said he would budget $73.5 billion for kindergarten through 12th grade schools as well as community colleges in the state in the 2017-18 fiscal year, a modest increase from the $71.9 billion budgeted in the current fiscal year under Proposition 98.

In a letter to the state legislature, the governor called the budget for next year the “most difficult” since 2012.

“While rolling back some planned spending increases, my proposed budget protects our most important achievements—more money for education, an earned income tax credit for working families, the rising minimum wage, the extension of health care to millions, and the pay down of our long‑term liabilities,” Brown wrote.

The budget includes an increase in funding for the Local Control Funding Formula, which allocates money for school districts across the state. The San Francisco Unified School District has been preparing for less funding from the LCFF in the coming years as the state finishes implementing the formula by 2020.

SFUSD Chief Financial Officer Reeta Madhavan said the “slight increase” of $331 per student under the LCFF compared to this fiscal year is “encouraging.” The state plans to spend $10,910 per pupil.

“We are happy to see that the the governor’s new budget proposal maintains the state’s core fiscal achievements, which includes a continued commitment to adequately fund the implementation of the [LCFF],” Madhavan said in a statement.

However, Board of Education President Matt Haney was more critical of the proposed budget, claiming that the funding increases are “much smaller” than needed to serve students and pay staff a living wage.

“We can’t keep trying to educate our kids on the cheap. It’s shameful,” Haney said in a text message. “At this rate, California will continue to have one of the lowest rates of per pupil funding and be the last in the nation in student-to-teacher ratios.”

While still critical of the proposed budget, California Federation of Teachers President Joshua Pechthalt said that voters spared education funding and the LCFF from potential budget cuts by passing Proposition 55 in November.

“The intent of the voters was that Prop. 55 would allow us to continue to increase our investments in public education,” Pechthalt said in a statement. “This budget proposal does that, but at a very modest level.”

The SFUSD said it will continue to review the budget and its impact on the school district over the next several months as it crafts the district budget for next fiscal year.

California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said in a statement that the proposed budget “is good news for community college students.”

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