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In This Moment (5/29): Legislators Meet with the Budget Deadline Right Around the Corner

May 29, 2020 | Iish Ryaru

The Capitol was abuzz this week, with meetings on Memorial Day and a full convening in the Assembly chambers on Tuesday, to continue to find a way forward on the state budget given the looming June 15 deadline. Read on for updates about action taken on federal funds distribution, legislators’ response to proposed Career Technical Education cuts, and plans for the University of California, the California State University, and the California Community College systems’ approach to engaging students in learning this Fall.

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Budget Discussions Heat Up at the State Capitol

There was considerable movement at the state Capitol this week as the Legislature convened in person on a holiday in the Assembly chambers to work on hashing out a state budget compromise by the June 15th constitutional deadline. The Constitution was amended in recent years to withhold lawmakers' pay if the deadline is missed, perhaps motivating them to convene on a holiday. However, they deferred action on the majority of significant issues, like the Prop 98 funding level and the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).


Distribution of Federal Funds

One of the committee’s most significant actions was to approve an alternative distribution for $2.855 billion of federal funds that Governor Newsom proposed to distribute to Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) that received LCFF concentration grant funds in 2019. Instead, the Senate committee approved a distribution of those funds in proportion to total LCFF funding. The action also includes language that would allow LEAs to use those funds for wrap-around supports to students provided through the community schools model, and to provide or supplement existing before and after school care programs to include enrichment to address learning loss or other student needs. This is particularly noteworthy since the community school model was one of the programs proposed in the January Budget that had to be withdrawn due to the COVID-19 economic downturn.

Special Education

The Senate Subcommittee differed from the Governor again on special education funding and reform. The May Revision proposes $645 million to increase the special education base rate to $645/pupil using a new base formula based on the three-year rolling average of an LEA’s Average Daily Attendance (ADA). The Senate Subcommittee rejected the new base formula and instead proposed providing $545 million to increase the base rate to $625/pupil using the current AB 602 base formula. The remaining $100 million would be used to augment funding provided for pupils with high-cost, low-incidence disabilities. A couple other items in the Senate proposal worth mentioning include:

  • Adopting the May Revision proposal that $1.5 billion of federal funding be distributed to LEAs based upon the number of students with disabilities.
  • Approving the appropriation of $1.48 billion for the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to be appropriated to schools on the Title 1 formula basis.

Legislator Response to Proposed Education Cuts

The State Assembly also met on Tuesday as a ‘Committee of the Whole’ for the first time in 25 years to review the entire budget. Each member was given four minutes to speak or ask questions of the Governor’s Finance Director or the Legislative Analyst’s Office. There are currently 79 sitting members of the Assembly which made for a very long meeting, even by Capitol standards. Members pushed back hard on the proposed, and in their eyes, disproportionate cuts to education, cuts to Career Technical Programs, and funding for Calbright College, an online community college experiment championed by former Governor Jerry Brown. Since COVID-19 has forced all 114 accredited community colleges online, members believe Calbright is duplicating courses that are already offered, rendering it an unnecessary and costly expense. Unlike the Senate, the Assembly did not take any action on the May Revise or determine their funding priorities.


What’s Next for the Budget Process?

Getting to a June Budget

The Senate plans to finish their committee work by Thursday May 28 and the Assembly plans to complete their version of the budget by Friday May 29. It also appears that the Legislature has decided not to have a Budget Conference Committee during which chosen members of both houses negotiate the details of the Budget. Absent a Conference Committee, final budget negotiations will be left to the big three: the Governor, Speaker of the Assembly, and President Pro Tem of the Senate.

Under current rules, the vehicle for the state budget (which is a like a bill), must be in print for 72 hours before the Legislature can take a vote. It is likely the budget details will be buttoned up around June 10 or 12.


California State Universities (CSU) Will Begin Fall Classes Online

Citing concern for the health, safety and welfare of students, faculty and staff, and a potential second wave of COVID-19, CSU Chancellor Timothy White is moving forward with plans to continue online learning for the Fall 2020 semester. Courses will primarily be virtual with limited exceptions for classes like labs that can’t be delivered virtually. The Chancellor hopes this approach will be less disruptive for students who may otherwise begin classes in person then have to transition midway through the semester to virtual instruction. Each of the 23 campuses will have some flexibility to create hybrid classes and make class determinations that respond responsibly to COVID-19.


University of California (UC) and California Community College (CCC) Fall Status

At this point, the University of California’s 10 campuses are likely to partially reopen for the Fall 2020 semester if COVID-19 testing and tracing sufficiently ramps up, students and faculty practice social distancing, and those on campus wear masks. Some of the 114 California Community Colleges also plan to continue virtual learning but have not made a system wide uniform decision on Fall 2020 courses like CSU.