Asm. Cheryl Brown: Education Is Top Budget Issue In California

In 2010, California’s budget negotiations stalled for over three months past the constitutional deadline. Partisan gridlock muddied the debate over how to manage the state’s $60 billion deficit and spending per student in California ranked 46th in the nation, according to the California Budget Project. At the time, 80 percent of California voters said the state was on the wrong track.

Shortly thereafter, voters made a number of changes in Sacramento: Governor Jerry Brown took office in 2011; voters approved a law that allowed the Legislature to pass a budget with a simple-majority vote, instead of a two-thirds vote; California’s nonpartisan, top-two primary was passed by a majority of voters under Proposition 14; and new electoral maps were drawn up by an independent Citizens Redistricting Commission. Five years later, California’s budget is showing a surplus, and spending per pupil is on track to return to pre-recession levels.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office noted, “The state has made significant progress in addressing the wall of debt, including this budget’s anticipated elimination of all remaining school payment deferrals.”

Assemblymember Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernadino), serving her second term in the Legislature, says investing in education is the key to a healthy budget.

“It is important that we continue to invest in our schools,” she said in an interview for IVN. “Education is the best investment that communities can make to help businesses grow.”

She argues that if more students graduate from high school, they are more likely to get jobs at small businesses within the community. Brown identified increased funding for K-12 education as one of the biggest priorities to be addressed in the upcoming budget.

California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office reports that Governor Brown’s 2015-2016 budget proposal will result in a total of $7.8 billion in new funds for schools and community colleges under the Proposition 98 minimum funding guarantee. This means that under the governor’s budget there will be a $640 (7.2 percent) per student increase, totaling $9,571 per student in the next fiscal year.

Passed by voters in 1988, Proposition 98 is dedicated to K-12 schools and community colleges, allowing the state to invest in funding to better prepare students for college and a future career.

How legislators work together during the budgeting process has a big impact on what goes into the budget — or doesn’t go into it. For Cheryl Brown, the budgeting process is a reminder of her former career as a journalist, serving as a television talk-show host for 12 years on local access television, KCSB Channel 3, and appearing as a guest on Burden of Proof, MSNBC, The Brian Williams Show, and KTTV FOX 11 News.

“We have to take into consideration all factions. It’s like being a journalist and in writing stories; it is important to identify all the information so that you write stories that are fair,” she said. “You are like a judge; you have to look at both sides of an issue and know that people are affected by your decisions.”

For Brown, education is the top budget issue in 2015 because she believes that “by allocating more resources to K-12 education, the state is taking the critical first step to ending the school-to-prison pipeline that is all too common in disadvantaged communities.”