With crossed fingers, the Legislature passed and sent a 2020-21 state budget to Gov. Gavin Newsom that will rely on $14 billion in additional congressional coronavirus relief to avert cuts to early and higher education. State funding for K-12 schools will be the same as last year, although school districts and charter schools will have to wait for a year to be repaid for $11 billion in funding.

The sudden onset of the coronavirus created havoc with the state’s economy, opening up a $54 billion budget gap of higher expenses and plunging revenues since Newsom presented his initial budget in January.

The Legislature approved the final, balanced budget along party lines — 29-11 in the Senate and 57-16 in the Assembly — with Republicans criticizing the reliance on borrowing and an extensive use of the state’s rainy day fund.

Following are the highlights in the budget for education.

Proposition 98 funding will fall from $81.5 in 2019-20 to $70.5 billion next year.

Increases for K-12

  • $11 billion in deferrals (money appropriated but not funded until a year later) will make up the difference. If Congress provides $14 billion to California through the proposed HEROES Act, deferrals and some additional cuts will be reversed.
  • $6.3 billion, primarily federal CARES Act funding to address coronavirus needs and learning loss, must be spent by Dec. 31.
    • $2.9 billion to districts for learning loss, distributed to districts based on numbers of low-income students, English learners, foster youth and homeless youth.
    • $1.5 billion to districts for learning loss distributed based on numbers of special education students.
    • $1.4 billion to districts based on federal Title I formula.
    • $980 million to districts based on Local Control Funding Formula.
  • $2.3 billion in funding relief to pension funds CalPERS and CalSTRS over 2 years.
  • $645 more for special education, including $545 to equalize funding.
  • $100 million proposed cuts restored for after-school programs critical for low-income working parents.

Other K-12 changes

  • No layoffs in 2020-21 for teachers and classified employees who provide custodial, nutrition and transportation services.
  • Per-student funding will be guaranteed at 2019-20 rates before the onset of COVID-19. Additional funding for districts and charter schools with enrollment growth may be dealt with at future date. To be paid districts must fully:
    • Offer a full year of instruction (180 days for districts, 175 for charters).
    • Document daily student participation and communicate with parents for students not participating a minimum of three days per week.
  • California schools will continue to provide 180 days of instruction per year (175 days for charter schools). Instructional minutes will be reduced to a minimum 240 minutes per day for grades 4-12 (180 minutes for kindergarten, 230 minutes for grades 1 to 3) in an effort to offer teachers more flexibility during distance learning (see section 43501 of AB-77).
  • If permitted by the local health agency, districts must provide some form of in-school instruction (see sections 43502 and 43503 of AB 77).
  • In lieu of a full Local Control Accountability Plan, by Sept. 30 districts must do a Learning Continuity and Attendance plan describing how they will respond to the impact of the coronavirus on in-school and district learning, learning loss and students’ mental health (see section 43509 of AB 77).

Community colleges

  • Spending levels will be maintained — $1.45 billion in funding to colleges will be deferred; $791 million of deferrals will be rescinded if the federal government provides additional stimulus aid.
  • Calbright College, the system’s online college, survived calls for elimination. Instead, it will lose $5 million of $20 million in ongoing funds and $40 million from the $117 million in unspent one-time funds.

In response to reports of uneven access and low-quality distance learning during school closures, legislators will require districts to do the following (see section 43502 of AB-77):

  • Confirm that all students have access to a computer and internet at home in order to participate in distance learning.
  • Provide standards-aligned content and instruction.
  • Provide daily live interaction with students “for the purposes of instruction, progress monitoring and maintaining school connectedness.”
  • Maintain regular communication with parents on student progress.
  • Establish procedures to reengage students who are absent for more than 60 percent of instruction per week.
  • Provide academic supports for English learners, students with disabilities, foster youth, homeless students and students who have fallen behind in their academic progress.
  • Continue special education services.