Students will benefit from California’s new budget


On Monday of this week, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a series of budget bills worth more than $ 100 billion, giving the most detailed snapshot yet of the distribution of the huge surplus. state budget over the next few months and the Californian experience of social democracy. accelerates in 2021 as the September recall elections approach. It’s a stark contrast to the far right in Texas, the country’s other giant state, in the recent legislative session. The difference sets the stage for national struggles, in future election cycles, between states drawn to the Texan model and those seeking to recalibrate their fiscal and political priorities in the more inclusive way California is currently doing.

Included among California budget details: stimulus checks of $ 600 to Californians with gross income less than $ 75,000 per year or $ 1,200 for residents excluded from federal stimulus programs due to their immigration status, more than $ 5 billion to cover the back rent of low-income tenants who have been put in arrears by the pandemic, and $ 2 billion to help cover the water and utility bills of those tenants.

On the education front, the budget ushers in extraordinary changes. At the forefront is the creation of a whole new school year, called “transition kindergarten”, for all 4-year-olds – rather than just the 100,000 currently eligible – and extended school days and years. for all low-income children. The Transitional Kindergarten, to be implemented by 2025, is an attempt to promote educational equity in a state that has long been plagued by enormous extremes of opportunity and access to facilities. educational. In the meantime, however, other important changes will come into effect, including the provision of two free school meals to all public school students. The state will also invest billions of dollars in expanding after-school and summer programs.

For a State which, since the adoption of Tax Limitation Proposal 13 in 1978, has long been plagued both by insufficient spending on education as a whole and, more particularly, by huge deficits in Education dollars and resources funneled into low-income students and communities is a huge change. Once implemented, California will no longer be among the worst states in the country for per student spending. Instead, as was the case during the golden days of California’s expansion after World War II, she will once again be a national leader in innovative education reforms.

And the shift in priorities isn’t limited to the K-12 arena. Building on proposals lawmakers started pushing earlier this year, the budget measures also remove the age limit for Cal grants, meaning well over 100,000 mature students in the sprawling community college system state funding will now be eligible for increased financial assistance.

Reforms are also continuing in other areas. On the mental health front, the Child and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative will receive, as was widely announced in May, a one-time injection of $ 4 billion, to be spent over the next five years, to fight against cascading mental health crises experienced. by young people during the pandemic.

Less publicized, but equally important, the budget allocates $ 50 million per year to the state’s public defender offices to facilitate the implementation of sentencing reforms that lawmakers have already approved and to hire social workers who can help families of inmates who seek to change their original sentences.

Over the next two months, according to criminal justice reformers I spoke with in Sacramento, the Newsom administration will continue to negotiate with lawmakers to repeal a number of fees (court fees and others). expenses) which, over the decades, have proved particularly devastating. to the poorest people caught up in the criminal justice system. These charges, which are of marginal importance to the wealthiest defendants, may prove impossible for the poorest people to ever get out of it. (As an example of how devastating they can be, in Florida a few years ago GOP lawmakers dramatically reduced the impact of an amendment to rehabilitate criminals by passing a law requiring all of these fees have been fully paid before a person can re-register to vote.)

For California, which once had nearly 170,000 prisoners and tens of thousands more in county jails, until then Governor Brown, under pressure from federal courts, has begun to cut back on the incarceration system. a decade ago, those were big changes.

Too often in the recent past, prisoners have been released onto the streets, the system washed their hands of them and they floundered, contributing to the skyrocketing number of homeless people in the state. From now on, if the legislator and the administration reach an agreement, significant resources could soon be devoted to accompanying ex-prisoners, to their navigation in the costs due and more generally to their offer of assistance to the reintegration to outside.

These are fascinating times in California. The huge influx of dollars into the general state fund – at a time when Governor Newsom is desperate to leave his mark on the state as the recall vote looms – is leading to a blossoming of policies and programs creative. Their impact will likely be felt for decades.

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