With California Governor Jerry Brown releasing his January budget proposal the administration’s educational priorities have become clear for everyone to see and it will ultimately help charter schools and their funding. The budget proposal increases per pupil funding by $1,100 for 2013-14 and projects per pupil funding to gradually increase until 2016-17 when there will be an increase of $2,700 per student over the current funding level. Proposition 98 overall will see an increase of $2.7 billion dollars with $1.8 billion going to pay back deferrals that the legislature has instituted.
The Governor has also doubled down on his Student Weighted Formula proposal from 2012 and has proposed a newly crafted student funding formula for 2013, the Local Control Funding Formula. Resembling last year’s proposal, this year’s proposal still starts with a base level of funding that will be the same for all public schools (charters included) with increased funding for English Language Learners and students participating in the Free and Reduced Lunch Program. To soothe some of the tensions from interest groups that objected to his proposal last year, the Governor included K-3 class size reduction into the funding base of his proposal. For charter schools specifically the new funding formula will greatly reduce the inadequacies in funding that charters have seen since their existence between themselves and traditional public schools. However, this measure will pit some suburban school districts vs. some inner city districts as the latter is clear to see an increase in their funding that could come from cuts to the former. Though the Governor’s proposal is far from perfect it represents a giant step forward in terms of charter schools reaching a level of funding parity with their traditional school partners.
The Governor’s budget has some other good proposals for charter school funding specifically. It contains $48.5 million for pupil growth in charter schools. He is also proposing to move two charter school programs, the Charter School Facility Grant Program and the Charter School Revolving Loan Fund, from the California Department of Education (CDE) to the California School Finance Authority (CSFA), which is located within the State Treasurer’s Office. This can be seen as a bonus to the charter school community because the CSFA has been an easier partner to work with than CDE. The CSFA already runs their own federally funded charter school facility program and has partnered with many charter schools to ease their overall facility and funding needs. This would also place the State’s Treasurers Office in charge of two very large charter school programs and is sure to be seen as a slight to CDE. Yet another set of positive proposals appear in the Governor’s budget as he wants to allow non-classroom based charter schools to access funding from the Charter School Facility Grant Program and ease the regulatory burden that the funding determination process places on non-classroom based charter schools. Much like his funding proposal, these are proposals that he put forward last year and shows his continued commitment to the charter school movement. It is yet to be seen how the legislature will react to these proposals but the Governor has made his stance clear. Governor Jerry Brown is a strong supporter of charter schools in California and understands the need for charter school funding.
Legislative hearings will began on the Governor’s budget proposal in the next few weeks. These hearings will continue throughout April or May. In May the Governor will submit a revision to his budget proposal which will take into account new state revenue projections and may reflect some of the issues that the legislature has weighed in through the committee process. The legislature then has until June 15th to pass an on time budget. Undoubtedly the Governor’s new per pupil funding proposal will lead to very strict legislative scrutiny but he is committed to changing the way that we fund schools in the state.
To view the Governor’s budget and other featured information visit www.dof.ca.gov.