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California's budget issue: What to do with all this money?

California Gov. Jerry Brown.

More than 12 percent of school kids in the country live in California. And they got $10 billion worth of good news in Governor Jerry Brown's new budget proposal.

Schools knew they were going to get a bump: state law guarantees schools a percentage of revenue, and income taxes are sharply up, thank you Silicon Valley. John Gray, president of School Services of California, a consulting firm that works with school districts, says he was “pleasantly, pleasantly, pleasantly surprised.”

“It's huge,” say Gray. “We haven't had a year like this in a long, long time.” He says schools, on average, could get an extra $750 dollars per student. To rehire teachers, restart programs, and maybe even create new programs.

Most of the money, $6 billion, is going to pay back schools for the money the state stiffed them in previous years.

$10 billion sounds like a lot.  But how big is it really?

“It's a lot in the context of an education system that has suffered genuinely draconian cuts in revenue over the last five or six years,” says David Plank, executive director of Policy Analysis for California Education

California schools are still short of where they were in 2007, he says. But the budget proposal is a sign of real progress. “Three years, perhaps even two years ago, California was looked at, across the country, as a basket case,” says Plank. An ungovernable mess.

This budget, says Plank, the improving picture, is a sign that California and its schools maybe can work.

 

About the author

Adriene Hill is a senior multimedia reporter for the Marketplace sustainability desk, with a focus on consumer issues and the individual relationship to sustainability and the environment.
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