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Governor Newsom’s 2021-22 January Budget: A Review of Key Proposed Investments

January 21, 2021

On January 8, Governor Newsom rolled out his 2021-22 January Budget. On that same day the Linked Learning Alliance (Alliance) shared a statement about the 2021-22 January Budget with the field, which commended the Administration for proposed investments that prioritize the social-emotional needs of students during this challenging time. In our initial review, it was also clear that the proposed Budget recognized the importance of breaking down silos between higher education and workforce systems that often create barriers for young people on the path through college and career. What follows is a deeper dive into the details of some of the Budget’s K-12 education highlights, including:

  • Proposition 98 funding levels above the 2020-21 amount
  • Targeted funding to support in-person instruction and expand instructional time
  • Resources for community schools and student mental health
  • Investments in the Cradle-to-Career Data System

Although this 2021-22 Budget proposal is only the first step in the budget process, and the Legislature and stakeholders will weigh-in during the coming months, it offers important signals about expected funding levels and the Administration’s priorities.

Proposition 98

Proposition 98, approved by California voters in 1988, sets forth rules for calculating a guaranteed minimum annual state funding level for K-14 education. The Proposition (Prop.) 98 guarantee for 2021-22 is estimated to be $85.8 billion, nearly $15 billion above the 2020-21 Prop. 98 funding amount provided in the 2020 Budget Act. Proposition 98 funding levels are also adjusted upward by about $12 billion in 2020-21 and about $2 billion in 2019-20.

In-Person Instruction Grants

The Governor proposed $2 billion in one-time Prop. 98 General Fund (GF) dollars available beginning in February 2021, to support a grant program that would provide additional resources for schools to offer safe, in-person instruction.

Under the proposal, assuming the Legislature agrees to fast track legislation, the grants would be available beginning in February. They are proposed to go out on a per-pupil basis (approximately $450 per student) to public schools that are open for in-person instruction.

As a condition of receiving grant funds, schools will be required to complete a COVID-19 School Safety Plan in compliance with the state Department of Public Health (CDPH) and occupational health safety requirements. Schools must adopt and implement a locally bargained plan for COVID-19 surveillance testing for staff and students that aligns with state public health guidance.

Funds would be available for use until December 31, 2021 and may be used for any purpose that supports in-person instruction, including:

  • Enhancing and expanding COVID-19 testing
  • Purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Improving ventilation and the safety of indoor or outdoor learning spaces
  • Teacher or classified staff salaries for those providing and supporting in-person instruction
  • Social and mental health support services provided in conjunction with in-person instruction

Early Action: Funding for Expanded Instructional Time

In addition to the $2 billion reopening grant program, Governor Newsom proposes $4.6 billion in one-time Prop. 98 funding for expanded learning and academic intervention grants. The single largest investment in the Governor’s proposed education budget, these dollars are designed to respond to the needs of low-income students, English language learners, foster youth, and homeless youth. This major expenditure seems to be an acknowledgement that the learning loss that has occurred since March 2020 cannot be mitigated in the time a typical school year provides.

This proposal will also need to move quickly through the Legislative process so that Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) will have the financial support necessary to plan for and operate extended school years and summer programs.


With the $12 billion increase in the Prop. 98 guarantee for 2020-21 ($82.8 billion in the Governor’s proposal compared to $70.9 billion in the 2020 Budget Act), the Administration could have proposed immediate action to rescind some or all of the 2020-21 K-12 principal apportionment deferrals (totaling $11 billion) which start next month. However, it appears that the Governor prioritized funding for in-person instruction and expanded learning time. This approach also protects the state if revenues do not keep pace with current projections, and the Prop. 98 guarantee turns out to be lower than expected.

The Governor does propose paying off almost all of the deferrals before the next school year, eliminating the February through May 2022 deferrals and leaving only the June 2022 to July 2022 deferral.

Community Schools

An additional $264.9 million of one-time Proposition 98 GF dollars are proposed for community schools. These schools share many of the same features as Linked Learning, including integrated supports and services addressing students’ academic, personal, and social-emotional needs, family and community engagement in student learning and outcomes, and collaborative leadership and practices. This additional funding would enable LEAs to expand existing community schools networks, establish new community schools, and coordinate a wide range of services to these schools. Priority would be given to schools in high-poverty communities.

Community schools help mitigate the educational disadvantages associated with poverty and can improve students’ attendance, behavior, and achievement by making schools a hub for community resources. They offer a unique model to more efficiently and effectively provide integrated educational, health, and mental health services to students with a wide range of needs.

Student Wellness and Mental Health

A crucial issue even in the best of years, student mental health is more important now than ever as our state and nation continue to navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, the Governor proposes several programs to help address the increased levels of depression, anxiety, and isolation that are afflicting so many of our students and families, including:

  • A one-time, multi-year investment of $400 million in non-Prop. 98 funding to increase the number of students receiving preventive and early intervention services through Medi-Cal Managed Care Plans. This program will be implemented through the Department of Health Care Services.
  • A one-time increase of $25 million to expand collaboration between county behavioral health departments and schools through the Mental Health Student Services Act Partnership Grant Program. Grant dollars will be prioritized for high-poverty and rural areas to support prevention services for high-risk students.
  • An ongoing investment of $25 million in Prop. 98 GF for LEAs to match Mental Health Services Act funding to develop partnerships with county behavioral health departments.

The Governor’s budget also proposes $10 million for county offices of education to expand and improve the use of school climate surveys by providing training on interpreting and using data to inform continuous improvement, providing grants to LEAs to help with costs associated with conducting surveys, and making information available on valid, reliable and appropriate school climate surveys to assess community needs due to COVID-19 and distance learning.

Cradle-to-Career Data System

The proposed Budget includes $15 million ($3 million of which is one-time) for a robust state longitudinal data system that can help families, educators and communities understand individual student progress over time as they transition from prekindergarten through 12th grade, to postsecondary education, and onto the workforce. This proposal would establish an office within the Government Operations Agency to support continued development of the Cradle-to-Career Data System. The Administration envisions leading the nation with an advanced data system using technology that would stand the test of time, reflects a “whole child” approach to serving Californians from cradle-to-career, and focuses not just on what can be learned from integrated data but what tools can be created using the data that would help students and families navigate multiple systems.

The Budget also proposes $3.8 million ongoing Prop. 98 GF dollars to support the California Career Guidance Initiative (CCGI) to provide an interface for student data between high schools, students, and families that will be integrated into the Cradle-to-Career Data System.

We will continue to monitor the budget process and keep the Linked Learning field updated on major developments.