State budget means more money for schools, but still more work to do

Yesterday California lawmakers approved the 2018-2019 California state budget, sending it to the Governor for his signature. While the budget offers a substantial funding increase for the University of California, and solid funding increases for K-12 and community colleges, there is much left to be done.

Just last week, Education Week released its annual school finance report, giving California an ‘F’ in K-12 school spending, and ranking the state 44th in the nation. Despite the dismal ranking, and the largest budget surplus in decades, the Governor and Legislature have made the conscious decision to further pad the state’s Rainy Day Fund, choosing to put away an additional $3.8 billion more than required by the state constitution, instead of increasing funding for our public education system and our vital social services.

While the intent behind the Rainy Day Fund is a good one, this decision by the Governor and the Legislature is a missed opportunity. Our students and their families simply can’t wait while we continue to underfund schools and vital social services.

The budget also includes two proposals vigorously opposed by faculty and staff across the state: The creation of a fully online community college and a fundamental restructuring of the way community colleges are funded, focusing on higher education only and ignoring the needs of our communities.

We are extremely disappointed that these two flawed ideas have been included in the budget. Both initiatives come at a great cost and are unlikely to improve student outcomes. Nevertheless, we will continue to engage the Governor, the Legislature, and the Community College Chancellor’s office to ensure that our students and our faculty are protected from harm done by these proposals.

June 5th election a win for public education

Public education advocates are cheering the results of the June 5th election because Gavin Newsom, the CFT-endorsed candidate for governor, and Tony Thurmond, the CFT-endorsed candidate for superintendent of public instruction, both made it through to the November general election. Both Newsom and Thurmond ran campaigns based on fully funding public education and respecting educators, summed up perfectly in Newsom’s election night speech.

The strong performances by Newsom and Thurmond come despite record spending by billionaires who seek to undermine quality public education. A small handful of people gave nearly $23 million in support of Antonio Villaraigosa for governor, the largest in the history of California politics according to one veteran campaign strategist. A similar group gave over $8.5 million in support of Marshall Tuck for state superintendent.

While voters saw through the overspending in the governor’s race, rejecting Villaraigosa’s candidacy, we anticipate the same wealthy charter school backers will now redirect even more money into the Tuck campaign. Tony Thurmond has the right experience and vision to lead our schools, but he is going to need our help to prevail in November.

Other bright spots in the election include the passage of the Oxnard Union High School Measure A, which had strong support from the Oxnard Federation of Teachers and School Employees, and the passage of the Prop. G parcel tax to raise educator wages in San Francisco, which was placed on the ballot by United Educators of San Francisco.

Take the AFT survey on student and personal debt

CFT members! Please take a few minutes to fill out the AFT survey on student loan debt, medical debt, and other forms of personal debt. Results of the survey will help AFT better support its members, including developing programs and tools to help those struggling with debt.

Take the survey here.