Gov. Gavin Newsom sent a budget proposal to the state legislature that allocates additional funding for schools. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Gavin Newsom sent a budget proposal to the state legislature that allocates additional funding for schools. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times)

Newsom’s budget proposal could be a ‘game changer’ for schools

New funding included for reopening, learning loss, mental health

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday announced a proposed budget for the upcoming year that includes a record estimated $90 billion in K-14 funding to tackle reopening schools, learning loss, and mental health for students.

Additional funding for schools would include $2 billion for reopening schools, $4.6 billion for summer programs and efforts to address learning loss, and $400 million for school-based mental health services, as well as changes to the local funding formula. Transitional kindergarten programs would expand with another $250 million and special education for young children would increase by $300 million.

The University of California and California State University systems would receive an additional $786 million under the proposed budget. It also includes a one-time allocation of $250 million for workforce development and $25 million to expand apprenticeship programs through community colleges.

“The governor’s budget recognizes the stark reality of this incredibly difficult time for the state of California,” said Mayor London Breed in a statement. “In addition to all the challenges we have been facing for years, right now in this moment, our workers, families and young people are in desperate need of immediate relief. By proposing direct investments to working people, small businesses and our schools, the governor is doing just that.”

San Francisco Unified School District estimated it could cost up to $44.8 million to reopen as it faces a $169.7 million deficit over the next two fiscal years. How these state proposals and the recently-approved federal stimulus package would change the forecast is still being analyzed, but will be discussed at the budget committee meeting later this month, school board member Jenny Lam told the Examiner this week.

San Francisco Board of Education President Mark Sanchez said he was “really heartened” to see the proposed investments. He added that resources needed to address learning loss are hard to determine at this time, but summer could play a key role in playing catch up.

“I feel like the governor’s on the right track in terms of prioritizing public schools,” Sanchez said. “It looks like educators are going to be in line next for vaccines and I think that’s going to be essentially what brings us back to school. I think it will be a game-changer.”

Newsom previously announced the $2 billion legislative package to reopen schools and indicated educators could be prioritized for vaccines. The plan, which could mean $450 per pupil, is available to districts able to reopen due to lower COVID-19 transmission rates, which could make for uneven funding across the state.

Superintendent Vincent Matthews, with six other superintendents in districts including Oakland, Los Angeles and Fresno, wrote a letter to Newsom on Tuesday urging changes, like uniform safety standards and specific funding for special education students. Of primary concern is that funding would benefit advantaged districts able to meet the Feb. 1 deadline to complete plans. San Francisco, Oakland,and Los Angeles schools planned to reopen in January but announced indefinite delays last month.

“While pleased that ‘Safe Schools for All’ prioritizes the reopening of public schools with substantial funding, we cannot ignore that the plan fails to address the needs of the urban school districts that serve nearly a quarter of California students, almost all of whom live below the poverty level,” the letter read. “The plan does not address the disproportionate impact the virus is having on low-income communities of color.”

While the California Federation of teachers applauded Newsom for significantly increasing funding for public schools, it pushed back on immediate plans to reopen schools.

“This is a step towards the type of education investment the 5th largest economy in the world should provide,” said California Teachers Association President Jeff Freitas in a statement. “We are in the middle of a devastating COVID-19 surge, and any discussion of returning to in-person instruction is premature. If we can’t get the pandemic under control, we cannot ensure a safe learning environment.”

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