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Schools, colleges, and universities have just celebrated their alumni’s accomplishments with graduation ceremonies across the state. And here at The Education Trust–West, we are also celebrating the tremendous 2022-23 final state budget, one that rightfully prioritizes the students who face the greatest barriers to a quality education, as all state budgets should.

Come fall, too many of those triumphant graduates will enroll in schools, colleges, and universities and confront entrenched barriers to success. Sadly, they are the lucky ones: for too many of their peers, their educational journeys have ended early because of an unjust lack of opportunity.

It’s this reality that drove the Ed Trust–West’s advocacy for a state budget that would prioritize the students who need resources the most. And by and large, we and our coalition partners won. In the spring, we introduced The Equity 8, which analyzed proposals for the state budget and new legislation and identified the top eight greatest opportunities to advance educational equity and justice. And we are proud to say that all of The Equity 8 budget proposals made it into the final state budget signed by Governor Newsom on June 30.

What follows is our team’s “Closer Look” analysis of the final state budget along with some recommendations for how we can continue to push for educational equity in the state.

Early Learning and Care

This year, Ed Trust–West was happy to see continued funding for new or existing early learning facilities, additional funding for pre-kindergarten planning and implementation grants, and an extension to waive family fees for childcare and hold harmless policies. Additionally, we were glad to see the state continuing to invest in data collection through its proposal to collect and track transitional kindergarten pupil data as a distinct grade.

With an unprecedented surplus of state revenue with which to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe the state must finally begin shifting toward long-term and sustainable funding for early learning and care. We plan to continue working with the Legislature to find permanent funding solutions that allow us to address the challenges which persist for families of color, with children ages 0-5, those who live in low-income communities, or those who are multilingual; and the workforce who cares for them, who are predominantly women of color.

K-12 Education

Important K-12 equity investments include $85 million to expand offerings of teacher professional development and coaching in math and science education, as proposed by Ed Trust–West and our partner, the California Association of Science Educators. Improving instruction is one of the most effective ways to raise student achievement, and low-income students and students of color need greater support in science, technology, engineering, and math-based fields. Dual enrollment was also a priority for Ed Trust–West because these classes help high school students improve their chances of success in college, and $200 million will be provided for this purpose. While this does not represent the full $500 million proposed by Governor Newsom, we are excited to see progress in expanding access to dual enrollment coursework for underrepresented students as we recommended in our policy brief (Ed Trust—West, Jumpstart: Setting Goals to Drive Equitable Dual Enrollment Participation in California’s Community Colleges). One of the largest K-12 investments is $7.9 billion for a Learning Recovery Emergency Fund that will be distributed according to the number of English learners, low-income students, and foster youth in each local educational agency (LEA). We joined our partners in the Local Control Funding Formula Equity Coalition to advocate for this distribution formula.

While all of the additional resources are helpful, we continue to believe the state should take a more central role in providing guidance to LEAs on how all these new programs should be working together to serve students and transform our schools, as well as on ways to streamline the planning and reporting for various block grants.

Higher Education

Ed Trust–West was pleased to see $64 million in one-time funding included in the budget to establish the Equitable Placement and Completion Grant Program. This critical investment will provide funding to community colleges to help students complete college-level math and English. Ed Trust–West was a proud co-sponsor of this budget request, which will ensure that California community colleges continue to phase out remedial education. We are also proud to co-sponsor a complimentary legislative measure on equitable placement, AB 1705 by Assemblymember Irwin, which is still pending in the Senate. We advocated for the bill and budget request to transform the long-standing systemic barriers in remedial courses that have historically harmed, and continue to harm, Black and Latinx students (Ed Trust–West, Equity Alert: Time to Close the Loopholes in Remedial Education at Community Colleges).

As an organization advocating for Cal Grant reform and a member of the Cal Grant Equity Coalition, we were pleased to see the enactment of the Cal Grant Reform Act in the final budget. However, it’s disappointing that funding to provide Cal Grants to newly eligible students will remain contingent on available revenues in 2024. We are in the midst of a historic budget surplus, and we believe that now is the time to put a down payment on college affordability. The adoption of the Cal Grant Reform Act is an important first step, but we still have a long way to go toward securing an equitable financial aid system that serves California’s most vulnerable college students.

This final budget includes several major steps forward which we believe, includes funding to advance equitable education for all, from early learning to K-12 education to higher education.