Political Road Map: The rules for how California pays for its schools may lead to a surprising result this year
If this sentence leaves you confused, you’re not alone: Education spending rises under Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed state budget, but some California schools are bracing for cuts.
That both statements are true is a reflection of the byzantine rules that govern the flow of dollars to K-12 schools and community colleges. Sacramento policy wonks used to joke that only two people understood the rules approved under the landmark Proposition 98 — the man who wrote the law and a veteran legislative staffer. The staffer retired last year, while the law’s author died in 2015.And yet, the voter-approved amendment to the state Constitution lives on.
The shorthand to Proposition 98 is that it sets a minimum level for school funding — one that generally grows with the economy — by using a series of complex formulas for earmarking state and local tax dollars.
That usually results in a mandate that hovers around 40% of the state’s general fund, though any honest state budget-watcher will admit the final number — just like the annual prediction of tax revenues — is sometimes subject to political negotiation.
For education groups, some of which helped draft the 1988 ballot measure, the funding guarantee is a blessing and a curse. Proposition 98 is a bulwark for public school funding in times of deep recession, but it also leaves many politicians with the impression that helping some six million students is as simple as using a mathematical formula.
“It just squashes any real consideration of whether those resources are adequate to teach kids,” said Kevin Gordon, a longtime education lobbyist. “We spend a good deal of time reminding our friends at the Capitol that Proposition 98 is a minimum guarantee, not a Political Road Map: The rules for how California pays for its schools may lead to a surprising result this year - LA Times: