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In the News: San Mateo County Leaders Laud Education Funding Boost

Original article courtesy San Mateo Daily Journal

By Sierra Lopez
Daily Journal staff  
May 14, 2022

With more than half of California’s $97 billion budget surplus going to education following the release of a revised 2022-23 budget, many local education leaders are lauding the boost while acknowledging more must be done to stabilize funding of the state’s public education system.
 
Following the governor’s May 2022-23 budget revise, more than $128 billion will be funneled into the state’s public school system. Those dollars will go toward improving campus facilities, supporting teacher credentialing and residency, boosting the amount of funding some schools receive per student and backing early education programming.
 
“The May Revise provides us all with confirmation that our districts will continue to experience record funding levels,” Diego Ochoa, superintendent of San Mateo-Foster City School District, said.
 
A highlight for Ochoa was a promise to infuse the public system with $8 billion of one-time discretionary block grant funding that could be allocated on a per-student basis, potentially granting the district an additional $1,400 per student. Ochoa noted those funds could be used to address student learning challenges, staffing levels and support mental health and wellness needs for students and staff.
 
The district was also awarded a $200,000 planning grant to support its efforts to establish a community school in the North Central neighborhood as part of the California Community Schools Partnership Program. Legislators approved the $3 billion program, aimed at providing wrap around services to students, a year ago and Gov. Gavin Newsom is dedicating an additional $1.5 billion to the effort through the revision.
 
Like Ochoa, E. Toby Boyd, president of the California Teachers Association, lauded the budget revisions, including a cost of living adjustment of 6.56% for the Local Control Funding Formula, a measurement used to determine how much money should be given to districts per student, and an ongoing $2.1 billion boost to base LCFF funding.
 
Additionally, Boyd praised the administration for continuing to address school funding concerns after COVID-19 led many to miss days of school, daily average attendance being a key factor in the LCFF formula. The state anticipates the support to cost about $3.3 billion of ongoing funding.
 
“Educators welcome the very good news of robust revenues due to a strong economy and a budget proposal that would bring record funding for our public schools and community colleges. Our schools and students are still reeling from the pandemic and the inequities it exposed and this May Revise provides added hope that California’s 6 million students will be closer to having the resources they need to succeed,” Boyd said.
 
John Baker, president of the South San Francisco Unified School District, said officials were happy to see the state increase its contribution to the California State Teachers’ Retirement System given that it reduces the likelihood districts will have to contribute more than they do currently.
 
And additional investments into the state’s expanded Universal Transitional Kindergarten Program, meant to get all children as young as 4 years old into a classroom, also were appreciated, Baker said, but he noted the state has still not clarified how TK funding will work for basic aid districts — those fully funded by property tax revenue.
 
Key for Baker, though, is the $3.4 billion of additional funding the state will be dedicating to its Expanded Learning Opportunities Program which is meant to enrich elementary school programming in areas with the highest concentration of low-income students, English language learners and youth in foster care. The additional dollars fully fund the program four years ahead of schedule and will grant districts $2,500 per underserved student.
 
“In a district like ours, where about 45% of students meet at least one of those criteria, that money can make a huge difference. We can use that for reading specialists, language tutors, mental health counseling, etc., which are all key needs in our district,” Baker said.
 
Still, education leaders are calling for more to be done, including Boyd and Dr. Darnise Williams, Sequoia Union High School District superintendent. Boyd said the state has not yet met its funding potential given that it has one of the top five strongest economies globally but is not at the top for per-pupil funding, an issue Williams urged officials to begin working on to properly address student social and academic needs.
 
“I applaud the governor for prioritizing public education, as public schools are the key to ensuring that California remains a leader when it comes to innovation and opportunity,” Williams said. “However, it is important to remember that, even with the increase, California’s public schools continue being underfunded. Considering the growing academic and social emotional needs of students as we come out of the pandemic, the governor and Legislature are going to have to reexamine how California funds schools.”
 
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