California Gov. Gavin Newsom, pictured in March, is unveiling a series of budget proposals this week. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, pictured in March, is unveiling a series of budget proposals this week. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Newsom’s school plan has billions for college savings accounts, after school programs and more

Hannah Wiley

The Sacramento Bee

California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to send schools and community colleges $93.7 billion in state funding over the next several years to hire more teachers and counselors, set up universal transitional kindergarten and expand learning opportunities for low-income students, according to administration officials.

The investment is part of a state a budget plan he’s expected to formally unveil in detail and send to the Legislature on Friday. Part of that blueprint includes an additional $100 billion in state surplus and federal aid dollars that Newsom said will help the Golden State recover from COVID-19.

Because schools are legally entitled to a significant portion of the state budget, this year’s unprecedented $75 billion surplus could help local education agencies invest in new resources and ambitious programs.

The proposal banks on schools getting back to full-time, in-person learning by the fall, according to the administration officials. Newsom has in recent days reiterated that kids need to finally get back to the classroom after more than a year of interrupted instruction.

Because Newsom wants schools to fully reopen by this fall, he’s proposing $2 billion to help schools set up any additional health and safety protocols they need to physically welcome kids back. That funding could finance COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment and vaccination efforts. Newso had already signed legislation in March to send $6.6 billion to help schools safely reopen.

Here are some of the programs he wants to fund:

  • Set aside $2 billion in federal funds for a college-savings program for young, low-income students.
  • Kickstart universal transitional kindergarten in the 2022-2023 school year, to be fully implemented by 2024-2025. The budget plan includes $900 million for the first year, to increase to an eventual $2.7 billion.
  • Expand after-school and summer school programs for low-income kids who qualify for free or reduced lunch, English language learners and foster youth. To start, the plan allocates $1 billion in funding for several hours of additional instruction time, to increase to $5 billion by 2025-2026. Administration officials said up to 2.1 million kids could benefit from such an investment.
  • Reduce staffing ratios in overcrowded classrooms by providing $1.1 billion in ongoing funds for disadvantaged schools to hire more teachers, counselors, nurses and support staff.
  • Provide $3 billion in one-time funding to help education agencies set up more so-called community schools, which provide additional services for families through local partnerships.
  • Spend $3.3 billion over five years on teacher preparation and training programs.

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, the Sacramento Democrat who has long fought for universal transitional kindergarten, said the funding would help California “invest in our priorities.”

“There is a lot we can do in the short- and long-term here,” said McCarty, who also chairs the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance. “I think this is a great chance to properly invest in our kids.”

The budget proposal also checks off a list of demands from school districts and local leaders who’ve requested additional resources over the last year to make up for lost learning time and to protect children and educators from contracting the virus.

California School Board Association spokesman Troy Flint said that every school should use the additional funds for extended learning offerings, better quality special education and emotional support opportunities. Flint said the money could also finance new technology and building upgrades.

“This is an opportunity for schools to think creatively about how they can enhance a system that hasn’t always served all students well,” Flint said. “With these additional surplus funds, there is more opportunity here.”

Flint also said that the association wanted to see Newsom and the Legislature make good on spending deferrals included in the 2020-2021 budget, when Newsom prepared for a severe recession that did not materialize to the extent he anticipated. Newsom’s plan so far includes bringing a previous $11 billion in deferrals for K-12 schools to $2.6 billion.

Newsom is scheduled to detail the education spending at a 1:15 press conference Wednesday afternoon in Monterey county. After he submits the blueprint on Friday, lawmakers will review and recommend revisions before they’re required to pass the 2021-2022 budget by June 15.

Newsom already announced this week that his plan includes sending $600 checks to most Californians and allocating more than $7 billion to help tenants pay down rent and utility debt. He also wants to set aside $12 billion for homelessness solutions like affordable housing units and wrap-around services.

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