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2014 News and Bulletins
January 9, 2014 | Volume 5, Number 1
By Tim Fitzharris, Ph.D., Fitzharris & Associates
"Representing Early Education Since 1996"
Governor Submits FY 2014-15 Budget Proposal
Governor Jerry Brown is scheduled to release his annual budget proposal at the Capitol this morning, one day earlier than expected. The governor has approached improving budget indicators with caution, urging lawmakers to bolster reserves. In the budget document, Brown calls for "fiscal restraint," saying "economic expansions do not last forever."
Specifically, he proposed:
- Reducing the state's long-term debt by more than $11 billion next budget year and fully eliminating it by 2017-18.
- Repaying about $6 billion in deferred payments to schools and contributing $1.6 billion to a rainy day fund.
- $670 million in new general fund spending to pay for the expansion of Medi-Cal benefits, including mental health, substance use disorder, adult dental and specialized nutrition services
- Several health-related programs would receive funding boosts. In-home supportive services, which saw dramatic reductions over recent years, will get a 6.4 percent increase over the current budget, bringing its general fund allotment to about $2 billion. Part of the increase stems from U.S. Department of Labor regulations that take effect Jan. 1, 2015 and require overtime pay for domestic workers.
- State managers and supervisors will receive similar pay hikes to avoid salary compaction, which occurs when rank-and-file wages exceed management's.
- The plan's summary projects that spending on K-12 schools will grow to almost $70 billion, an increase of $22 billion from 2011-12.
- To help carry out the first year of the Brown-championed Local Control Funding Formula, the budget increases general fund money for schools by $4.5 billion in 2014-15.
- The budget taps $188 million from the general fund for emergency school repairs.
- In addition, the plan would allocate $26.3 billion for higher education and repeats calls for major changes in how the system operates.
The budget projects $217.8 billion in unfunded retirement mandate and total state unfunded liabilities of $354 billion. The budget calls for spending $154.9 billion from all funds, including $106.8 billion from the General Fund.
Brown is expected to support a proposal by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez to put a rainy-day fund constitutional amendment on the November ballot. He wants it to go farther, according to The Sacramento Bee. The budget proposes an alternate constitutional amendment that would regulate the flow of money into and out of the state's budget reserve.
The summary makes no mention of transitional kindergarten expansion, something championed by Democrats in both the Assembly and Senate in recent days (see TK article below). Source: The Sacramento Bee
NEWS UPDATE: Since writing the above, we have seen the leaked FY 2014-15 Budget Summary. Here are the most relevant Child Care and Development items:
Education significant adjustments:
- Stage 2 - An increase of $6.3 million non-Proposition 98 General Fund in 2014-15 to reflect an increase in the cost-per-case of eligible CalWORKs Stage 2 beneficiaries and a slight decrease in the number of cases. Total base cost for Stage 2 is $364.1 million.
- Stage 3 - An increase of $2.8 million non-Proposition 98 General Fund in 2014-15 to reflect an increase in the cost-per-case of eligible CalWORKs Stage 3 beneficiaries and a decrease in the number of cases. Total base cost for Stage 3 is $185.8 million.
- Child Care and Development Funds - A net decrease of $9.1 million federal funds in 2014-15 to reflect a reduction of available carryover funds ($3.2 million), and a decrease of $5.9 million to the base grant. Total federal funding is $555.6 million.
- There is no COLA provided for State Pre-K programs (BTW, the statutory COLA for K-12 is pegged at 0.86%). We haven't yet seen the Budget detail to learn whether the RMR market survey remains limited to 2005 costs.
Social Services significant adjustments:
- Parent/Child Engagement Demonstration Pilot - To support some of the most vulnerable low-income families who have multiple barriers of entry into the workforce, and do not have access to licensed child care, or who fall into CalWORKs sanction status, the Budget proposes a six-county, 2,000-family pilot project over three years to:
** Connect vulnerable children with stable licensed child care.
** Engage parents with their children in the child care setting.
** Enhance parenting and life skills.
The project will cost $9.9 million General Fund in 2014-15, assuming March 2015 enrollment of the first cohort of families, and $115.4 million General Fund over three years.
- Maximum Aid Payment Levels - The 2013 Budget increases the CalWORKs Maximum Aid Payment levels by 5 percent, effective March 1, 2014. The 5-percent increase is expected to cost approximately $168 million annually. The increase will be funded by 1991 Realignment growth funds deposited in the Child Poverty and Family Supplemental Support Subaccount as well as a $6.3 million General Fund augmentation. Subsequent increases will be based on analysis of revenue and caseload estimates in future years.
- Assumes average monthly caseload in the CalWORKs program to be 529,000 families in 2014-15, a 4 percent decrease from the 2013 Budget projection. Total Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) expenditures are $7.1 billion (state, local, and federal funds), with $5.5 billion used for the CalWORKs program itself and $1.6 billion in other state programs.
- Community Care Licensing - In response to a number of high-profile incidents at children's and adult residential care facilities licensed by the state, the Budget includes $7.5 million ($5.8 million General Fund) and 71.5 positions for quality enhancement and program improvement in Community Care Licensing.
By significantly increasing civil penalties and improving the timeliness of investigations, this proposal will strengthen enforcement.
A specialized complain hotline will assist in acquiring better initial information, conducting consistent prioritization, and dispatching incoming complaints to regional offices.
Further, the Department will assist with policy and practice development for medical and mental health conditions in community facilities to enhance quality and accountability by increasing training for new field staff and creating training for 60 supervisors and managers. The Department will also commit resources to achieve quality assurance and consistency for consumer safety and protection throughout the state.
These changes are funded in part by a proposed 10-percent increase in licensing fees.
California Revenues Are Up
The Sacramento Bee reports that California income tax collections came in $1.6 billion, or 20 percent, above projections in December. So says the Legislative Analyst's Office, just days before the Brown administration releases its annual spending plan.
December is a significant month for personal income tax payments by California's wealthiest taxpayers, says The Bee. Including that month, the nonpartisan analyst's office said revenue from personal income and corporation taxes were running $2.1 billion above projections so far this budget year.
The Legislative Analyst's Office projected last fall that the state could post a $5.6 billion surplus by June 2015, with annual surpluses reaching $8.3 billion by the 2016-17 budget year.
New Proposal to Expand Quality Early Learning in California
Highlighting early education as a top priority, Senate Democrats have introduced a bill that would create a new grade level - a pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds - in California's public schools.
"This is at the top of the list. I can't think of anything more important," Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg said at a news conference announcing the new bill Tuesday.
Steinberg joined with 10 of his Senate colleagues in proposing that the state's transitional kindergarten program, which currently serves only a small number of California's nearly 500,000 4-year-olds, be expanded to accommodate all 4-year-olds in the state wishing to enroll. Under the proposal, the expansion would begin to roll out in the 2015-16 school year and would accommodate all eligible students by the 2019-20 year.
Steinberg said the anticipated cost of the expanded program, $990 million per year once it's fully implemented, was "modest" and easy to defend as a worthy investment of public money. Advocates of the program point to research suggesting that children who attend preschool are more likely to graduate high school and less likely to commit crimes, thereby increasing their earning potential and reducing their cost to society.
Transitional kindergarten was offered for the first time during the 2012-13 school year as an extra grade level for children who turn 5 during the first three months of the school year and are too young for traditional kindergarten. When the program is fully implemented next fall, only about a quarter of the state's children will be eligible to participate, based on the current age restrictions.
The Senate proposal would create a half-day transitional kindergarten program for all 4-year-olds.
Money to pay for the new program would come from revenues set aside under the voter-approved Proposition 98, which sets a minimum funding guarantee for the state's schools. Steinberg said schools are projected to have an additional $7.1 million for Prop. 98 in the budget year that starts July 1. However, other educational programs will be vying for those dollars as well, including community colleges and K-12 districts.
The proposal, introduced as Senate Bill 837, the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2014, follows a similar proposal from the Assembly Democratic Caucus, which identified universal transitional kindergarten among its priorities in its "budget blueprint" for the coming year. The proposals potentially carry significant weight in the Democrat-controlled Legislature, where Republican support is not needed to pass a budget.
Gov. Jerry Brown had no comment on the new bill, a spokesperson for his office said Tuesday.
Steinberg said he's had "good conversations" with the governor regarding the new legislation. But Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, chair of the Black Caucus and a supporter of the bill, was less optimistic about the governor's likely support. Early education, she said, "is not an area (Brown) has been sensitive to."
Republican Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, wasn't ready to support the proposal, noting that he hadn't yet seen any evidence that transitional kindergarten improved academic outcomes for children. Huff was also wary of any new spending measures, despite California's sunnier fiscal outlook.
"Legislators will introduce many new spending proposals this year on a variety of policies that may sound wonderful," Huff said. "The most responsible action is to look at all of them and then prioritize based on available resources rather than committing to new spending right now."
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, a sponsor of the bill, said the new proposal would not take money away from existing funding for early childhood care and education. On the contrary, he said, expanding transitional kindergarten would allow existing state programs to concentrate on serving children younger than 4.
The proposed program would last three hours. Torlakson suggested that the state-funded preschool program, targeting low-income 3- and 4-year-olds, could work with public schools to provide care and education to students for the other half of the day. Students would spend that time in a classroom of no more than 20 students under the care of one credentialed teacher and one associate teacher with training in early education, according to the language of the bill. Torlakson said the expansion would create 8,000 new teaching jobs in the state.
Finding teachers likely won't be a problem in Riverside, said Judi Paredes, the assistant superintendent for elementary instruction at Riverside Unified School District. Finding space to house a new grade's worth of students could be tougher, she said.
Anticipating potential impacts on classroom availability, the bill specifies that facilities bonds could be used to build transitional kindergarten classrooms. Private preschool (or early education) providers that meet quality standards could also be used to supply transitional kindergarten services, according to the bill, another possible release valve for overcrowded schools.
Despite the challenges, Paredes said an extra year of school would be a good thing for children in her district.
"If the curriculum is developmentally appropriate for 4-year-olds, I would predict that by 1st grade we'd see higher levels of achievement," Paredes said.
Operating a program that served all 4-year-olds would actually be an easier task than running a program for a small portion of the population, as the current transitional kindergarten legislation mandates, Paredes said.
Were the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2014 to become law, it would bring California to the forefront of the universal preschool movement, joining states like New Jersey, Oklahoma and Georgia, which offer universal preschool for 4-year-olds. It would also qualify the state for funding under federal legislation proposed in the House and Senate that would provide grants to states interested in expanding their public preschool offerings.
Public preschool in California is currently a patchwork affair. Head Start, a federal program, and a state-funded preschool program serve about 50 percent of the state's 4-year-olds. The rest either stay home or attend private programs that can run parents around $15,000 a year, though prices vary widely across the state. Some districts, like San Francisco Unified, Los Angeles Unified, Long Beach Unified and Fresno Unified, have started their own public preschool programs with funding streams from various sources.
Mike Hanson, Fresno's superintendent, was enthusiastic about the notion of enrolling all of his city's 4-year-olds in transitional kindergarten.
"It makes tremendous sense for us in Fresno," Hanson said. "This is the poorest city in California. Getting to universal (enrollment) and having the resources to back it would be a huge advantage for us."
Hanson was less impressed with what sounded to him like the overly prescriptive nature of the proposed bill. The legislature needs to offer districts maximum flexibility in implementing to programs, Hanson said.
"Fund us to get 4-year-olds into school, but don't tell us how to staff a classroom," he said. "That's the local education board's purview."
By Lillian Mongeau, EdSource Today
In summary (from the Senate Pro Tem's fact sheet), SB 837 will:
- Provide all 4 year olds with high-quality, developmentally appropriate transitional kindergarten (TK).
- Combine the best quality standards from current TK and State Preschool, creating a model that results in sustainable gains in school performance.
- Be funded through Average Daily Attendance (ADA), with additional resources provided for low-income, English learner and foster children.
- Allow for a mixed delivery system, in which school districts and charter schools may contract with private TK providers who meet quality standards.
- Allow existing federal and state preschool funds to be focused on additional early care and education programs for low-income 3- and 4-year olds, giving them an added boost when they need it most.
- Not take any funds away from existing state-contracted child development providers.
- Reduce the average cost per child of current TK by creating a two-session model.
- Phase in over five years, starting in 2015-2016, to allow ample time to expand services to all children whose parents wish to enroll them.
SB 837 is authored by Senator Steinberg and joint authors are Senators Jim Beall (D-San Jose), Marty Block (D-San Diego), Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge), and Lois Wolk (D-Davis). The bill is co-authored by Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Alameda).
"Smart Start" Proposal Coming, Too
Early Edge California, co-sponsor of the TK expansion for 4-year olds, says it is also advocating for a companion piece affecting 0-3 year olds. To be called "Smart Start," the program would create an innovative, comprehensive and high-quality program for our state's most vulnerable young children. This new program would focus on laying the foundation early, emphasizing children's learning starting at birth.
- Through the new "Strong Start" and Head Start programs, California could more than double the number of 3 year olds and infants and toddlers served.
- This framework would combine part-day and full-day State Preschool for 3 year olds with our General Child Care for infants and toddlers program
- The "Strong Start" program would create the nation's first evidence-based, comprehensive, locally controlled birth through age 3 program.
- $200 million of the $400 million previously spent on part-day State Preschool will help fund the new California "Strong Start."
A team of early childhood experts and practitioners will convene to design the "Strong Start" program during the first part of 2014.
"Strong Start" services could include:
- Full- and part-day State Preschool for 3 year olds
- Full- and part-day infant and toddler care
- Family engagement and support
- Voluntary home visitation
- Nutrition and other health services
- Early intervention
- Early childhood mental health
Over a five year period, quality would be increased, says Early Edge California. This is because the new program would be aligned with current quality improvement efforts such as the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge and First 5 California's Child Signature Program. The program model, the advocacy group says, would be comprehensive and flexible to allow local communities to easily blend and braid with other programs such as First 5 California and federal home visitation programs, child care, CalWORKs, federal Early Head Start, early childhood mental health and health programs.
Assembly Democratic Caucus Supports
The new TK expansion and Smart Start plan has already been enthusiastically received by the Assembly Speaker John Perez and his Majority Caucus. They are making it the centerpiece of their Blueprint for a Responsible Budget.
"We're still looking for the Strong Start author," said Scott Moore, Chief Policy Advisor for Early Edge California.
** Provide parents with work readiness activities that will move the family toward self-sufficiency.
Notice: This is a report on California politics, a very dynamic, fluid circumstance at best. Information contained herein is our best effort to be both timely and accurate, but things change. Readers are cautioned to investigate the conditions and facts themselves before acting upon any information presented here.
The Child Development Policy Institute - Education, a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization whose mission is to help establish sound public policy that benefits the children of California, is providing access to its website and managing subscriptions this publication.The opinions expressed in herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Child Development Policy Institute - Education or its individual board members.