We are grateful to Governor Newsom and California legislators for putting in the hours of negotiations to identify a budget solution that will reduce the need for cuts in the coming year as we address the pandemic’s toll on students who have persistently fallen behind.
Funding deferrals are always preferable to budget cuts, but they do present challenges for districts. We at the LA County Office of Education will be doing everything possible to support districts and get them through this crisis, especially as they look for ways to manage cash flow and pay their bills. We remain hopeful that federal aid will be coming our way.
It will be more expensive to run schools now and in the future. According to one national estimate, an average sized district with 3,700 students may need to spend an additional $1.8 million to reopen safely in the fall in response to the pandemic.
I am grateful that $45 million in grants has been earmarked for Community Schools through 2025. This model of turning schools into hubs for easy access to health and social services has perhaps never been more vital. When schools reopen, a top priority will be to address student mental health and learning loss. LACOE already has a Community Schools pilot underway at 15 high schools countywide, and my priority is to promote this model throughout the region.
The budget deal for education is about the best we could hope for given our current crisis. But let’s not forget that our state gets a C+ in school finance, ranking 20th in the nation in terms of equity and spending on K-12 public schools. An improved grade, but nothing close to where we should be in California, one of the nation’s richest states and its largest economy.
Protecting the health and safety of students and staff while providing a high-quality education presents enormous challenges as schools reopen in the fall. Fortunately, LA County is 80 districts strong with LACOE fully committed to working alongside districts to support our students with the greatest needs. We are in this together and we will prevail together.
We look forward to working with the governor's office, legislature and California Department of Education on a long-term budget solution that will meet the increased needs of districts and schools.