Senate Budget Subcommittee Rejects Concentration Grant Approach - May 26, 2020

One of the committee’s most significant actions was to approve an alternative distribution for $2.855 billion of federal funds that Governor Newsom proposes to distribute to LEAs that received LCFF concentration grant funds in 2019. Instead, the Senate committee approved a distribution of those funds in proportion to total LCFF funding. The action also includes language that would allow LEAs to use those funds for wrap-around supports to students provided through the community schools model and to provide or supplement existing before and after school care programs to include enrichment to address learning loss or other student needs. 
The Senate subcommittee voted to adopt the May Revision proposal that $1.5 billion of federal funding be distributed to LEAs based upon the number of students with disabilities. 
The Senate committee also voted to approve the appropriation of $1.48 billion for the federal ESSER funds to be appropriated to schools on the Title 1 formula basis. However, it rejected the Governor’s proposal for a State Set-Aside and instead, as a part of that action, provided $63.2 million for a COVID-19 child nutrition reimbursement account to provide a reimbursement for LEAs who have served or will serve school means from the date of COVID-19 closure to the start of the new school year meal program. Under the Senate’s plan, if USDA nutrition funds are made allowable for this purpose, then LEAs will instead receive those USDA funds, and this funding would be distributed to all LEAs consistent with the Learning Loss Block Grant funding.
Another area where the Senate Subcommittee differed from the Governor was special education funding and reform. The May Revision proposes $645 million to increase the special education base rate to $645/pupil using a new base formula based on the three-year rolling average of an LEA’s ADA. The Senate Subcommittee rejected the new base formula and instead proposes providing $545 million to increase the base rate to $625/pupil using the current AB 602 base formula and the remaining $100 million to augment funding provided for pupils with high-cost, low-incidence disabilities. The Senate proposal also includes the following changes to the Governor’s proposal:
  • Increases the amount of one-time federal IDEA funding for the development of regional alternative dispute resolution services for cases arising from COVID-19 special education distance learning delivery models, from $7 million to $8.6 million
  • Rejects proposal for a separate workgroup to develop a distance learning IEP addendum and instead adds the development of such an addendum to the Governor’s proposed workgroup to develop a standardized IEP template 
  • Rejects proposal for a study on the costs of out-of-home care and instead directs the LAO to develop recommendations for addressing out-of-home care
The Subcommittee also unanimously voted to reject the Administration’s proposal to cap enrollment for charter schools at age 27. There is mounting pressure to reject this proposal from county offices of education and niche charter schools serving adult farmworkers, immigrants, and incarcerated youth. We’re told the Senate is interested in cleaning up the adult education charter school space, but lacks the time to get the policy right during the rushed process resulting from COVID-19. 
What’s Next?
We’ve never seen anything like this. Public input on this budget is vital, but also remarkably constrained by the nature of the crisis. Today’s subcommittee began at 10:00 a.m. and gaveled at 3:45 p.m. Senators wore masks and sat in different corners of the dais. Public testimony mostly came in by telephone, in what at times could have been a SNL skit. Senators, committee staff, and advocates were left frustrated by this slow, cumbersome dynamic. We’ll predict that testimony by phone will not be an evolutionary development for the Legislature as a result of COVID-19...
The State Assembly is meeting as a ‘Committee of the Whole’ on Tuesday to review the entire budget. Members tell us they’ve each been given four minutes to make a statement. There are currently 79 sitting members of the Assembly. The calculator says that’s just shy of 5.5 hours of speaking time. Some members of the Assembly will be participating remotely. There was a rumor they were going to also take public comment, but we’ve been told that’s not happening. 
The Senate plans to finish their committee work by Thursday (5/28) and the Assembly plans to complete by Friday (5/29). We’ve also heard there will be no Budget Conference Committee, leaving final negotiations to the Governor, Speaker, and Pro Tem.
The final budget deal will need to be in print for a few days before they can vote, so we expect to know more details around June 10-12. 
We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, let us know if we can provide any additional information. 
Hope you are getting a much-deserved rest this Memorial Day,
Barrett Snider
Capitol Advisors Group