5 things to know about the state budget and K-12 funding

Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom and the Legislature passed the 2020 Budget Act – a $202.1 billion spending plan to promote economic recovery while closing a $54.3 billion budget shortfall caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

While it still remains unclear how students will ultimately return to the classroom this fall, below are five important things to know about the 2020-21 budget and what is being done to help mitigate the impacts of the state’s revenue decline on funding for K-12 schools.

1. School districts can spend more in 2020-21 than they’ll be funded for, with the understanding they will receive full payment in the following fiscal year, 2021-22.

Eleven billion dollars in deferrals (meaning money allocated but not funded until a year later) will be provided to K-12 education to make up the gap in Proposition 98 funding. For those unfamiliar, Prop. 98 funds represent about 72 percent of the funds that K-12 schools receive and are primarily based on revenue that comes through income, sales, corporate and capital gains taxes, combined with local property tax revenues. This fiscal year, Prop. 98 will fall from $81.5 to $70.5 billion, and the $11 billion in deferrals will make up the difference. If Congress provides $14 billion to California through the proposed HEROES Act, deferrals and some additional cuts may be reversed.

money in education jar

2. Per-student funding will be guaranteed at the 2019-20 rates before the onset of COVID-19.

Although school districts and charter schools will have to wait a year to be repaid for $11 billion, state funding for K-12 schools will remain the same as last year. To be paid, districts must do the following:

  •  Offer a full year of instruction (180 days for districts, 175 for charters). In an effort to offer teachers more flexibility during distance learning, instructional minutes will be reduced to a minimum 240 minutes per day for grades four through 12 (180 minutes for kindergarten, 230 minutes for grades one to three.
  • Provide documentation of daily student participation, weekly engagement records, and attendance reporting for purposes of chronic absenteeism tracking.

3. Additional federal funding will be allocated for districts to provide aid associated with learning loss, especially for economically disadvantaged students.

Through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress allocated billions in one-time funding for states to respond to the COVID-19 emergency in K-12 schools. In addition to this funding, districts will receive $1.6 billion in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds that California was recently awarded. Of this amount, 90 percent ($1.5 billion) will be allocated to districts in proportion to the amount of Title I-A funding they receive to be used for COVID-19 related costs. The remaining 10 percent, or about $164.7 million, is available for COVID-19 related state-level activities such as meal programs, mental health support, educator professional development and Department of Education support.

4. In lieu of an annual Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), districts are required to submit a Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan.

In order to ensure transparency around the expenditures of these new federal funds, and in alignment with new flexibilities related to distance learning, the LCAP has been replaced with a Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan, to be completed by Sept. 30, 2020. This plan will describe how districts will respond to the impact of the coronavirus on in-school and distance learning, learning loss, and students’ mental health.

5. No layoffs in 2020-21 for teachers and classified employees who provide custodial, nutrition and transportation services.

To ensure the continuity of employment for essential school staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, the new budget calls for the suspension of the Aug. 15, 2020 layoff window for teachers and other non-administrative certificated staff, as well as the suspension of layoffs for classified staff working in transportation, nutrition and custodial services from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.

As with everything related to the coronavirus pandemic, this is an ever-evolving and changing situation. Please continue to stay tuned and check the OCDE Newsroom frequently for additional information related to the reopening of schools.