Windfall for California K-12 schools, more spending from early to higher ed in Newsom’s first budget

School districts laboring under higher mandated expenses would receive a surprise windfall — pension-cost relief — in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first proposed state budget for 2019-20, which will also provide big spending increases for early and higher education.

Using surplus money from the state’s General Fund, Newsom would wipe out $3 billion of districts’ rising obligations to CalSTRS, the pension fund for teachers and administrators, including $350 million each of the next two fiscal years. If the Legislature passes the budget as proposed, districts will be able to spend that money as they want. The remaining $2.3 billion would reduce districts’ liabilities beyond 2020-21.

The governor is also proposing $576 million more for special education — another fast-rising expense that has eaten into districts’ spending. And, with $10 million in one-time money, he would kick-start a project that Jerry Brown, his predecessor, had resisted: creation over time of a statewide database linking student information from early education programs through K-12 schools to post-secondary education and into the workforce.

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