An Overview of Governor Jerry Brown's Fiscal Year 2017-2018 Budget Proposal for California

On January 10, Governor Jerry Brown revealed his proposed budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year, which projects a state budget deficit ($1.6 billion) for the first time since 2012. The $179.5 billion proposal maintains the state’s commitment to implementing the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), preserving the California Earned Income Tax Credit, and expanding healthcare access to vulnerable groups. Unfortunately, the budget proposal also recaptures nearly $1 billion in one-time expenditures provided in the Budget Act of 2016 (Budget Act) and delays spending increases for various programs and services, some of which, like LCFF, are designed to improve outcomes for low-income communities and communities of color.
 
We applaud the Administration’s continued commitment to important issues like healthcare access, LCFF implementation, and transportation, but believe more should be done through the budget to build an equitable California, one where all of the state’s residents can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. We urge the Governor to work with communities, advocates, and the Legislature in the coming months to develop a budget that allows California to address its intensifying housing crisis, maintain health insurance for the newly insured, guarantee immigrants targeted for deportation have effective legal representation, and protect and invest in the state’s most vulnerable populations.
 
Below we highlight areas of the budget that are likely to be of interest to equity advocates, including health and human services, education, housing, transportation, public safety, and climate change.
 
Health and Human Services
The budget maintains current spending levels for programs that ensure California residents have access to quality, affordable health care and services. For example, the proposal provides funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, as well as the expansion of Medi-Cal coverage to undocumented children and individuals earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. It also maintains funding for substance abuse programs and the transition of new immigrants from Medi-Cal to Covered California. In addition to continuing financial support for these services, the budget provides new funding to reflect the repeal of the Maximum Family Grant rule.
 
While we are encouraged by these aspects of the budget, we urge the state to continue investing in care coordination and integration programs for vulnerable residents, including the Coordinated Care Initiative, health care workforce initiatives, community infrastructure grants, and children’s mental health services grants. 

Education
The education budget provides a small increase of $2.1 billion in Prop. 98 funding for K-14 education and proposes cost-of-living adjustments for LCFF funding targets, as well as for various programs funded outside of LCFF. Unfortunately, due to the projected revenue shortfall, the Governor’s proposal, while providing an additional $744 million for LCFF implementation, “maintains the implementation formula at the current-year level of 96 percent.”[1]  Though we understand the new economic reality the state faces, we urge the Governor to fully implement LCFF as quickly as possible.
 
The budget also boosts investment in California’s Community College system. Notable areas of increased spending include efforts to address student disparities; the Guided Pathways program, an institution-wide approach to improving student completion rates; and school facilities energy efficiency projects financed through the Prop. 39 Clean Energy Job Creation Fund, which, in addition to improving energy efficiency on school campuses, targets training and jobs to individuals with barriers to employment.
 
Despite these positive investments in the community college system, the budget disappointingly proposes to phase out the Middle Class Scholarship Program, which provides has helped thousands of student to afford enrollment at CSU and UC campuses.
 
Housing
Even though the state faces a growing housing affordability crisis, the budget provides virtually no new funding for affordable housing. The proposal recaptures $400 million for affordable housing development included in the Budget Act,  and conditions continued financial support for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Initiative (AHSC), a major source of state funding for affordable housing in recent years, on the extension of the cap-and-trade program by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.
 
In the coming months, we urge the Administration to partner with the Legislature to allocate resources for AHSC without condition, provide meaningful new investments in affordable housing, and establish a permanent source of funding for the construction, preservation, and rehabilitation of affordable units.
 
Transportation Infrastructure
Although much of the transportation budget continues to focus funding on maintaining highways and roads in California, we are pleased to see an annual increase of $100 million for the state’s Active Transportation Program, which aims to improve the mobility, health, and safety of vulnerable residents by targeting walking and bicycling infrastructure in low-income communities.

To ensure our increased transportation spending achieves state equity and climate goals, funding should be targeted to grow investment in transit operations and complete streets, prioritize transportation projects that provide meaningful benefits to low-income people of color, and connect disadvantaged community residents to transportation sector training and jobs.
 
Public Safety and Justice
While the budget’s public safety proposal highlights many of the anticipated positive effects of Proposition 57[2], we hope the revised budget will deepen California’s commitment to investing in our people and communities, divesting from systems that separate families and perpetuate trauma, and eliminating policies that serve as barriers to the success of low-income people and people of color. These values are reflected in the budget’s proposal to end the use of driver’s license suspensions as a debt collection tool, a counterproductive practice that has caused financial insecurity throughout California’s low-income communities of color.
 
We hope the May Revision will build on the proposed repeal, by reducing funding for harmful institutions, including immigration detention centers, prisons, and law enforcement, and investing in reintegration services, quality legal representation for immigrants, and support for other vulnerable groups.
 
Climate Change and Natural Resources
The budget proposes a $2.2 billion dollar Cap-and-Trade Expenditure Plan using revenues generated through the State’s carbon trading program. This plan includes needed investments in transportation, housing, pollution reduction, and other programs that provide benefits to low-income, pollution-burdened communities. Unfortunately, the budget makes allocation of these proposed investments contingent upon the Legislature approving an extension of the state’s cap-and-trade program. Accomplishing this will require support of two-thirds of the Legislature and poses a significant hurdle to securing these important investments.
 
The Governor’s environmental and natural resources proposal also acknowledges the severe drinking water challenges faced by disadvantaged communities across California and commits to working with the Legislature and stakeholders to address these challenges. This commitment is very encouraging. However, with over one million Californians being served drinking water from systems that do not meet safe drinking water standards, we urge the Administration to take this commitment further and prioritize developing a sustainable funding source to ensure that all Californians have safe and affordable drinking water.

Conclusion
As we learn more about the incoming presidential administration’s policy goals, the Governor’s budget proposals are likely to change. In the coming months, advocates should engage their legislators and the Governor to ensure that hard fought gains for California’s low-income communities and communities of color are protected and expanded.
 
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[1] Governor’s Budget Summary – 2017-18, “K-12 Education,” 20, http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/2017-18/pdf/BudgetSummary/K-12Education.pdf.
[2] Proposition 57 allows non-violent offenders who have completed the prison term for their primary offense to be considered for parole and authorizes the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation to establish a “credit” system under which individuals can earn an early release from prison. The law also provides that only judges may determine whether juveniles 14 and older can be prosecuted or sentenced as an adult.

Power Your Advocacy with New Equity Data

Clean air and high-quality schools are fundamental elements of “communities of opportunity” that allow residents to thrive. Last week, the National Equity Atlas, produced jointly by PolicyLink and the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE), added three new opportunity indicators to equip local leaders with relevant data to build equitable cities and regions:

 

The National Equity Atlas team was proud to participate in the “The Opportunity Project,” an Open Opportunity Data event held yesterday at the White House where the new Atlas indicators were showcased. The White House effort focuses on facilitating the development of a suite of digital tools that puts neighborhood-level information on access to opportunity at the fingertips of families, community organizers, non-profits, local leaders, and the media.
 
Writing in a letter to the editor published in the New York Times, on March 7, PolicyLink President and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell noted the importance of disaggregating data by race and ethnicity is critical to understanding trends and developing solutions: “Recognizing this ‘people’ dimension of poor neighborhoods — and the complex interplay of race and place — is essential for catalyzing equitable and sustainable economic prosperity for all.”
 
School Poverty Data Highlighted in The Atlantic
The Atlantic is already demonstrating the analytical power of this new data. Abigail Langston and Sarah Treuhaft from PolicyLink are quoted in “The Concentration of Poverty in American Schools,” by Janie Boschma and Ronald Brownstein, who note that in about half of the nation’s largest 100 cities, most Black and Latino students go to schools where at least 75 percent of all students qualify as poor or low-income:
 
“Kids who spend more than half of their childhood in poverty have a high-school graduation rate of 68 percent,” said Abigail Langston, a senior associate at PolicyLink, and a public fellow at the American Council of Learned Societies. “You see how these things compound over time. There is a link between housing policy, economic and racial segregation, you see what those do to schools and to people who grow up in those neighborhoods.”
 
In the article, promising school integration models from Dallas and New York City are lifted up as tools to address these gaps. The Atlantic also uses the National Equity Atlas’s school poverty indicator in the stories “Separate and Still Unequal” and “Where Children Rarely Escape Poverty.”
 
Join upcoming Equitable Development and Environmental Justice Webinar
On Friday, March 11 the EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice will conduct the free webinar “New Data Tools for Supporting Analysis of Equitable Development and Environmental Justice.” Sarah Treuhaft, who is PolicyLink director of equitable growth initiatives will present the new air pollution indicators in the National Equity Atlas. The webinar will also feature a demo of the new environmental justice screening and mapping tool. Register here

Stewart Kwoh on Expanding Equity in Public Universities

America’s Tomorrow presents Equity Speaks, an interview series with leaders from activism, academia, and policy aiming to inspire advocates for all-in cities and an equitable, thriving U.S. economy.

Public colleges and universities across the country have been struggling for years to open up access for low-income youth and youth of color, even as ever-higher levels of education and skills are needed in the job market. The challenges have grown as states have cut funding for higher education. Now, the Supreme Court is considering a challenge to race-conscious admissions at the University of Texas, a ruling that could further restrict educational opportunities across the nation.

California, the first state to ban affirmative action in 1996 (specifically in public education, employment, and contracting), offers a glimpse of what such restrictions might mean for America’s future. Latino, Black, and Native American students made up 54 percent of the state’s high school graduates in 2012, but only 27 percent of freshman in the University of California system. Although Asian Americans as a whole attend college and graduate at high rates, these statistics mask the enrollment disparities facing distinct groups such as Vietnamese, Native Hawaiian, Cambodian, and Hmong. Meanwhile, by 2030, 38 percent of jobs in California will require a bachelor’s degree or higher, and there will be 1.1 million fewer college graduates statewide than the economy demands.

Working to close these gaps, a multiracial, multigenerational coalition in California led by Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles is demanding greater investment in state universities, increased access to admissions and financial aid, and a bigger, better, more equitable K-12 pipeline that helps all youth achieve their full potential. Stewart Kwoh, the organization’s founding president and executive director, building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, spoke with America’s Tomorrow.

You’ve reframed the conversation about college admissions. For years, people have been trying to figure out how to fairly apportion slots. You’re saying, let’s create more openings for everyone. Why this approach?

We do support affirmative action but in California, we haven't had it for 20 years, and most likely, it won’t change in the near future. We could wait for the timing to be right but we'll lose another generation of students so let's fight for policies that help every group in need. If the game is just to apportion the seats that exist, then most likely we'll all lose. There will just be an increasing number of young people who want the seats, and there will be fewer seats for everyone so then we're just fighting over the shrinking pie. Shouldn't we be fighting for expanding the pie for everyone, especially the underserved students?

How are you doing that?

Equity requires investment. When there's disinvestment, there’s probably less equity, and that’s absolutely true in the context of higher education in California. Over the past couple or so decades the state has built 22 prisons and only one University of California campus. The money flow has gone down, so there are fewer students in some of the universities, they're paying much higher tuition, and schools are bringing in foreign students and out-of-state students who pay triple the in-state tuition. It edges out California youth. Our view is that there has to be a whole new investment in higher education and new investment in the pre-K-12 pipeline to create equitable opportunity so young people are prepared to go to college and to graduate. We have to be working at both levels.

If you succeed in increasing investment in public universities, how do you ensure that access is equitable?

We're trying to expand the number of Cal State and UC enrollment openings for students from California. We're also trying to ensure that among those who get these open seats, we have a good share of racially and ethnically diverse students from low-income schools. A 2012 ballot initiative, Proposition 30, provided a big infusion of money into California schools, including greater funding to serve high-need students who are low income, English learners, or foster care youth. We're advocating using that same formula to bring in high-need students who are disproportionately students of color, as well as underserved White students, into the UC and Cal State systems. We’re also pushing for regional college preparation programs, better retention programs, and financial aid. It's a universal approach to increase higher educational opportunities for all, which we are calling our “Education for All Campaign.” It’s a specific approach to make sure that more racially and ethnically diverse students get into UC and Cal State as we open up more seats. And it's a practical approach because we want students to actually finish college.

How are you making the case for more investment?

We’re not just saying, “Oh, let’s be fair.” Over a million jobs in the California workforce will not be filled by California youth because they don't have a college education. Think about that — over a million California youth won't get a college education in the next 15 years who should have or could have. If we don’t build a strong movement of higher education for all and if we don’t make big policy changes, it will have dire consequences that will hurt us all.

The common wisdom says that Asian American students have benefitted from the ban on affirmative action — their representation on University of California campuses has increased markedly in the past 20 years. How do you address the idea of the model minority?

First of all, we stand in solidarity with underserved students of color who aren't able to get into the colleges or can't go from the community colleges to the four-year colleges. We absolutely think that we all benefit by having a greater pipeline and completion rate for students of color. The second point is that this model minority monolith, or stereotype, really hurts our community because it covers up and makes invisible the true needs of Asian and Pacific Islander groups.

What does your research show about those needs?

We recently released a study that was led by the Campaign for College Opportunity on the state of higher education for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and basically the main conclusion is that there's tremendous diversity in needs and success. For example, Southeast Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Hawaiians have far lower college completion rates than certain Asian American groups — comparable to the rates for Blacks and Latinos. Yes, some groups of Asian Americans have done well and have not done well — the differences are very stark. But we also found almost every group in the Asian American community has very high financial needs. Even the more successful groups have challenges — they have college access but they're graduating with a whole lot of debt. It’s not a good picture in terms of true access for anybody.

Describe your K-12 agenda and why it’s important to your advocacy on higher education.

There have to be major changes in the K-12 system so more students are prepared to go into community college or four-year college. A very significant percentage of high school students going to community college now need remedial math and English classes. That's very discouraging for students, and it’s problematic for the future of California. We need more concerted attention by all community groups to make sure all students, especially underrepresented students of color, enter school ready to learn, receive support to succeed and discover their passions, and graduate high school ready to go to college — and finish. At the end of the day we must have a much bigger pipeline of students getting college degrees with needed skills that will strengthen the state. They will be paying greater taxes; they will be more productive residents. It’s a win for everyone.

Learn more and get involved by contacting: Geralyn Yparraguirre, Education Policy Advocate at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (gyparraguirre@advancingjustice-la.org) or 213-977-7500 x267.