Governor’s Budget Does Not Prioritize Our Neediest Schools

CA Governor Jerry Brown released his revised state budget earlier this week and the results are disappointing.  While the budget prioritizes education, an area that has been underfunded and ignored for far too long, we have some serious concerns with the details. Specifically, Global Green wants to see Proposition 39 money (the ballot initiative passed by voters in November 2012 that closes a business tax loophole in California and directs roughly $2.5 billion towards clean energy projects in schools) allocated in a way that schools with the least energy efficient buildings and those in underserved areas are made the highest priority. The Governor’s proposal to use a per-pupil allocation formula misses the point.  The number of students in a school district does not necessarily correlate with the age of the buildings, the need for renovation, or the socio-economic disparities between schools.  Using this funding formula will put low-income and energy inefficient schools at a disadvantage.   The Prop 39 monies should instead be allocated through a competitive grant process that prioritizes economically disadvantaged schools and schools that use higher than average levels of energy.  Funding should also be used to measure and improve classroom conditions that have a direct impact on student (and teacher) health and student academic achievement such as acoustics and indoor air quality.

Furthermore, while the Governor attempts to address concerns about insufficient funding for smaller school districts under his formula, the revised budget does not actually solve the problem. The revised budget proposes a $15,000 funding “floor” for small districts.  Yet this is still nowhere near enough money for schools to take on the type of big retrofits that they may need, such as new HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), major water efficiency projects or window replacements.

Finally, the UCLA Luskin School with the Los Angeles Business Council recommended leveraging the Prop 39 funds to increase the overall funding pool. The Governor’s budget did not adopt that recommendation which we believe is important.

We commend the Governor for his strong commitment to education, but his approach on the use of Prop 39 funds leaves much to be desired.   A successful Prop 39 program will use a competitive grant formula, will prioritize energy and key strategies that address student health and academic achievement and will leverage funds to the greatest extent possible.