What We’re Watching in California Education – CA State Budget Edition

Welcome to the July 2022 edition of What Were Watching in California Education, a newsletter that we hope will offer you insight into public education conversations happening at our state Capitol.

Governor Newsom and California‘s legislature passed an unprecedented state education budget before adjourning for Summer Recess (July 1 – August 1), committing to record-high investments in K-12 public schools and community colleges.

Here are the toplines:

Accountability for California‘s Record-High Education Budget: Governor Newsom’s budget includes over $128 billion in total funding for K-12 schools, the highest in our state’s history. Over $4 billion of ongoing funding is allocated to improve the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), but there is still the ongoing question of whether that money will be spent as intended. 

Learning Recovery Emergency Block Grant: The budget commits almost $8 billion to mitigate COVID-related learning loss, including consideration of instructional practices, instructional time, and pupil supports to close learning gaps and increase college eligibility. However, only 10% of previous investments into the academic impact of the pandemic have so far been spent. 

Access and Affordability Improvements for California Community Colleges: The Cal Grant Equity Framework, included in the state budget, allows for more access and affordability for community college students in California. Proposed reforms to the Cal Grant program would expand financial aid eligibility to over 100,000 community college students. 


Accountability for California‘s Record-High Education Budget

Governor Newsom signed the 2022-23 education budget on July 1st, committing $128 billion, the highest amount of funding for K-12 schools and community colleges in our state’s history. The largest investments included in the budget are the Learning Recovery Block Grant (read more about this in the next section) and funding for the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). 

Aside from these two substantial allocations, the most considerable investments are: 

  • School construction ($4.2 billion);
  • Arts, Music, and Instructional Materials Discretionary Block Grant ($3.6 billion);
  • The Expanded Learning Opportunities Program (a total of $4 billion ongoing funding);
  • Community school grants for high-needs students (a total of $3 billion);
  • Additional funding is outlined for transportation, transitional kindergarten, special education instruction and services, college and career pathways programs, literacy coaches, and STEM professional development. 

Amid appreciation and praise for this unprecedented amount of money for schools, we join advocates for equitable funding and transparency in urging a focus on accountability. The Governor’s 2022-23 budget allocates $4.32 billion of ongoing money to increase LCFF base funding to address staff shortages and operational needs. And while California recently accepted the 2022 Frank Newman Award for State Innovation, celebrating LCFF as “one of the nation’s most equitable formulas,” there is still a long way to go in terms of tracking dollars intended for our most marginalized students, including low-income students, English Learners, and foster youth. 

Ongoing discussions of LCFF equity continue in the legislature. AB 2774 (A. Weber), which passed the Senate Education Committee in June, would provide $400 million in annual LCFF funding for the lowest-performing subgroup. As of 2019, Black students are the lowest-performing subgroup, but are not receiving LCFF funding– an equity issue that AB 2774 seeks to address. This bill is a reintroduction of AB 575 (S. Weber), which was enacted as a block grant in the 2019 Budget Act. AB 2774 will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on August 8th.

Learning Recovery Emergency Block Grant


The largest amount of money allocated in the Governor’s budget is a $7.9 billion one-time funding for the Learning Recovery Emergency Fund. School districts are given 5 years to spend approximately $2,000 per student (through the 2027-28 school year), which can include services such as tutoring, literacy intervention, after-school programs, mental health and social-emotional support, and other actions to mitigate issues that have arisen– or been exacerbated– during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Learning Recovery Emergency Fund is designed to counteract the phenomenon of pandemic-related learning loss, as one study estimates that elementary students in majority-Black schools may now be 12 months behind those in majority-white schools. Loss of instructional time compounds this problem, as chronic absenteeism, which has at least doubled since pre-pandemic levels – and is even higher for students in poverty and students of color – is a significant concern as students continue to navigate trauma (140,000+ children in the U.S. lost a caregiver in the first year of the pandemic). 

Given this context, $7.9 billion to remedy the harm of the pandemic is a necessity for students across the state. However, a recent analysis by the California School Boards Association took a closer look at how school districts have used the $40 billion in federal and state funding they have already received for COVID relief. The analysis revealed that by March 31, school districts “had spent but a 10th of the $3 billion Congress designated to address setbacks in learning caused by the pandemic.” Only 5% had been spent on tutoring, and only 4% of learning loss funding was spent on summer learning, which some parents and advocates have named as top priorities. This lack of accountable spending may be due to broad spending categories, including “other evidence-based interventions” and “other activities necessary to maintain operations.” (You can find out how much money your local school district or charter school has received in COVID relief funding here.) We remain hopeful that the funding in the Governor’s budget will be used to effectively address achievement and opportunity gaps among California students.

Access and Affordability Improvements for California Community Colleges

Major changes may be coming to Cal Grants, the largest source of state-funded financial aid in California. This year’s budget includes the Cal Grant Equity Framework, which removes barriers to financial aid and could extend eligibility for over 100,000 additional students. The framework would eliminate a GPA requirement for community college students and streamline the Cal Grant into just two kinds of awards: Cal Grant 2 for community college students, and Cal Grant 4 for students at four-year institutions. 

It is important to note that this year’s budget allocates money for the California Student Aid Commission to start planning for upcoming changes, but does not fund the changes this year. Rather, it relies on funding that has yet to be secured for the 2024-25 school year. Advocates for Cal Grant Reform are confident that the funding will be available at that time. 

California Community Colleges are a focus of this budget, as it includes $200 million of ongoing funds to increase the Student Success Completion Grant, which would offset the burden of non-tuition costs (over 90% of community college students’ expenses) and $25 million of ongoing funds to expand availability of the California College Promise Grant program for returning community college students. Other advancements in California Community College affordability include $150 million in one-time funds to support strategies that would increase student enrollment and retention rates, especially for marginalized student groups, and $10 million of ongoing money to increase and support community college financial aid offices. These changes will make a huge difference for low-income and non-traditional community college students and we are excited to see how college will continue to be more accessible and affordable in the years to come.

In Community,

Darcel Sanders, Chief Executive Officer 

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