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  • 06/28/2024 11:08 AM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)

    California’s new high school requirement: Balance a checkbook, manage credit, avoid scams

    A woman uses a red ATM.

    A woman uses an ATM. California students will soon have a new graduation requirement: financial literacy.

     

    (Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images)

    By Howard BlumeStaff Writer 

    June 27, 2024 3:10 PM PT

    California students will have to complete a course in pocketbook economics — balancing a checkbook, managing credit cards, avoiding scams — to graduate from high school under a bill that will become law, state lawmakers announced Thursday.

    “We need to help Californians prepare for their financial futures as early as possible,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “Saving for the future, making investments and spending wisely are lifelong skills that young adults need to learn before they start their careers, not after.”

    This bill — which has drawn criticism from those concerned about another requirement on crammed academic schedules — orders school districts and charter schools to offer a standalone, one-semester course in personal finance. To meet the requirement, the class cannot be combined with any other course beginning in the 2027-28 school year.

    Students graduating in 2031 will have to pass the class.

    The agreement among state lawmakers avoids a ballot-box verdict by voters. Backers of the new requirement had gathered enough signatures to place the proposed requirement, dubbed the California Personal Finance Initiative, on the November ballot. They will now shut down that effort.

    The new requirement and the bill that will make it law “will benefit countless future generations of Californians,” said Tim Ranzetta, a wealthy Silicon Valley businessman who bankrolled the signature gathering for the ballot initiative and also supported the legislation.

    Thursday was the legal deadline for Ranzetta to withdraw the ballot initiative, which he said he would do if an adequate version of the requirement was guaranteed to become law.

    “I want to thank all the people who worked with us on this legislation,” Ranzetta said.

    Ranzetta heads a nonprofit, Next Gen Personal Finance, that provides free curriculum and teacher training. He said the materials have reached nearly 100,000 teachers across the country, including more than 6,000 in California.

    Although there is broad agreement on the importance of financial literacy — not everyone supports the requirement or the process that brought it about.

    LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - DEC. 20, 2022. Students participate in a dance class offered through the Acceleration Days program at Alta Loma Elementary School in Los Angeles. After a slow start in registrations, about 72,000 Los Angeles students had signed up to be back in the classroom on their first day of winter break. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

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    “There is a philosophical opposition to governance by ballot measure — where billionaires by virtue of their wealth — are exerting a disproportionate impact on determining curriculum in our schools,” said Troy Flint, chief information officer for the California School Boards Assn. “We don’t believe that’s the best system.”

    He said financial literacy could have been incorporated into the existing one-semester economics requirement.

    “Financial literacy instruction could be included within that larger preexisting economics course without further cluttering the class schedule for high school students — and reducing their ability to take an elective course or a course of interest to them, which this new bill will do.”

    The final version of the bill attempts to speak to this concern, according to a legislative analysis, by allowing students to substitute personal finance in place of the one-semester course in economics currently required.

    Former L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner also expressed concern.”What is it that one is going to subtract to create time for financial literacy?

    “It’s more important for kids to build a foundation in literacy and math before they get to high school,” he said. “If they have that, then there’s little mystery in personal finance.”

    The legislation was introduced by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento). Not everyone was fully on board from the outset. McCarty introduced a similar bill last year that was amended to make financial literacy an optional component of economic classes, which could be done already. Ranzetta dropped his support of that bill — and even the watered-down version failed to pass.

    The fate of the bill on this round changed with the backing of the governor and leaders of each house.

    “Financial literacy is a critical tool that pays dividends for a lifetime,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Mike McGuire (D-North Coast). “There’s a wealth of data about the benefits of learning these valuable lessons in high school, from improving credit scores and reducing default rates to increasing the likelihood that our future generations will maintain three months of savings for emergencies and have at least one kind of retirement account.”

    “Ensuring our students have the skills and knowledge to thrive is paramount to California’s continued success,” said Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Salinas).

    Separately, California lawmakers recently added an ethnic studies course to the list of mandated classes.

    LADERA RANCH-CA-FEBRUARY 28, 2024: Karla Benzl, of Mission Viejo, center, holds her 15-month-old son Marcus while he gets his vaccinations by medical assistant Shellee Rayl at Southern Orange County Pediatric Associates in Ladera Ranch on February 28, 2024. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

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    Minimum graduation requirements include three years of English and two of mathematics, including one year of algebra. There also are two years of science, including biological and physical sciences and three of social studies, as well as two years of physical education, one year of visual or performing artsworld language, or career technical education.

    There are additional requirements if a student wishes to apply to a four-year state college, and selective universities carefully evaluate the rigor of a student’s advanced coursework. Individual school districts often have their own added requirements as well.

    L.A. high school teacher Colleen Ancrile said her school builds financial literacy into its advisory program, a class similar to the homeroom of old. “Adding a course to all of the other requirements will be a scheduling difficulty. Financial Literacy should be embedded starting in elementary school. Outreach to accounting firms to come in [is] actually a better idea.”

    “Great idea but difficult to implement,” said L.A. parent Beth Owen. “The requirements to graduate are already quite cumbersome and often at the end a student discovers they are missing something and have to scramble ... Electives are often courses that happen yearly, like band. It doesn’t work to have to drop something like that for a semester. Or it’s leadership or yearbook— yearlong commitments that are valuable.”

    Los Angeles-area parent Irene Luczynski was “surprised” by how few opportunities there are for her 9th-grade son to take electives: “There’s really no room for him to branch out and try something new, and isn’t that what electives are supposed to do ... Perhaps this is trivial, but where’s the fun in school?”

    Los Angeles, CA - June 18: LAUSD executive officer Michael McLean, left, listens as board member Nick Melvoin, right, comments prior to the board's vote on a Melvoin sponsored resolution to create truly phone-free school days across the district on Tuesday, June 18, 2024 in Los Angeles, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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    However, momentum appears to be building for financial literacy. The number of states that guarantee personal finance education for high school students has grown from eight in 2021 to 26, according to Ranzetta’s organization, which tracks the issue.

    In an earlier analysis, the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College gave California an F in the topic: “Personal finance is not included in the graduation requirements, either as a stand-alone course or embedded in another course, and schools are not required to offer financial literacy courses.”

    Researchers gave California some credit because the state education department offers “a robust list of financial literacy resources.”

    In addition, the state’s CalMoneySmart program provides annual grants of up to $200,000 to nonprofit organizations to “provide financial education and financial empowerment programs and services for unbanked and underbanked Californians.”

    report by the consulting firm Tyton Partners concluded that the lifetime benefit for California students of taking a one-semester high school personal finance course is $127,000 — although such figures are hard to prove and ultimately abstract to the real-world experience of young adults.


  • 06/27/2024 11:12 AM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)

    STATE EDUCATION POLICY

    Gov. Newsom vigorously defends, praises California, his own contributions in State of State 

    28-minute speech warns that the California way of life is under attack

    JOHN FENSTERWALD

    PUBLISHED

    JUNE 25, 2024

    Fighting for fair school construction funding in California

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    In his State of the State address, Newsom juxtaposed clips of his meetings with National Guard members charged with intercepting illegal drugs to contrast with Republican efforts to quash immigration reform.

    Credit: YouTube / Office of the Governor

    Gov. Gavin Newsom sharply contrasted California with red-state America during a pre-recorded State of the State address Tuesday, warning ominously that the state’s values and status as “a beacon of hope” are “under assault.”  

    “Forces are threatening the very foundation of California’s success — our pluralism, our innovative spirit, and our diversity,” he said. To underscore his claim, he liberally juxtaposed images during his 28-minute speech: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signing a ban on abortion with Newsom embracing an LGBTQ marcher at a Pride rally; headlines of congressional Republicans rejecting bipartisan immigration reform with National Guard members whom Newsom deployed to the border to intercept fentanyl. 

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    The partisan, politically charged talk came two days before the first debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump and five months before a national election that Newsom called “another extraordinary moment in history.”  Newsom, who has assumed the informal role as an articulate surrogate for Biden, underscored the importance of the president’s re-election for Californians.

    “For generations, we’ve stood for progress: championing women’s rights and LGBTQ rights, protecting the environment, and expanding civil rights,” he said. “Conservatives and delusional California bashers want to roll back social progress, social justice, racial justice, economic justice, clean air, clean water and basic fundamental fairness.”

    Primarily, though, Newsom’s talk both defended and lauded the “California way” and his administration’s accomplishments — in enhancing innovation and job creation, stopping drugs at the border, lowering crime, expanding environmental protections and providing shelter for the homeless.

    He pointed to the elimination of 9,300 unsafe homeless encampments while turning former hotels and apartments into 15,300 units of housing and the progress with the Delta conveyance to protect water supplies, the “largest climate resilience project in the nation.”  California is driving the electric vehicle industry and new industries to combat climate change, he said.

    While critics portray California’s cities as lawless dystopias, the governor said the state’s violent crime rate has dropped to half of its peak in 1992; California has a lower homicide rate than 29 other states, including Florida and Texas, he said. He attributed California’s gun safety laws as a cause and asserted that 140,000 more Americans would be alive if the nation had California’s homicide rate.

    Newsom devoted little of the address to education but pointed to the expansion of after-school and summer programs for low-income schools and the creation of community schools — a $4 billion initiative he protected from possible cuts — as accomplishments. At community schools, he said, students will receive family support, free meals and tutoring.

    He also cited the state-funded hiring and training of literacy coaches in high-poverty schools, the creation of universal transitional kindergarten — a new grade for 4-year-olds — and, starting next year, the screening of all young students for possible learning challenges, including dyslexia, while introducing a new, state-funded multi-language screener.

    Together, he boasted, these K-12 initiatives comprise “some of the most transformative policies in our state’s history, and most significant in our nation.”

    In a vague reference to the state’s efforts to thwart censorship of social studies textbooks and novels from school libraries by conservative school boards, Newsom said California has acted “to protect a student’s right to learn, and a teacher’s right to teach.”

    Diversity in demographics and in thought is California’s strength, he said. “Weird, wild, free-spirited California. A place that can elect Ronald Reagan and Jerry Brown — back to back,” he said.

    Through revolutions in farmworker rights, free speech, love, computing and biotechnology, “we are building a state that transforms the world over and over again,” Newsom said.

    In a news conference outside the Capitol an hour after the speech was released, Republican leaders laid out a vastly different counter-narrative.

    “We have crime out of control, inflation out of control,” said state Sen. Brian Dahle, R-Bieber. “$24 billion for homeless, and we’ve actually increased homelessness. For the first time in the state’s history, we’ve deployed CHP (California Highway Patrol) to Oakland, San Francisco and Bakersfield to combat crime.”

    “Republicans in California have not controlled a statewide office or the Legislature for decades, so (Gavin Newsom) needs to look in the mirror and understand that he’s running the state into the ground,” Dahle said.

    Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, called Newsom “unhinged” for diverting attention from his own performance by attacking Republicans in Congress.

    “Let me tell you what the state of the state is right now. It’s a husband and wife sitting around that kitchen table, head in hands, trying to figure out how to pay the bills,” Gallagher said. “It’s parents who are afraid to send their kids to the local park because they’re afraid they might be attacked because it’s human devastation on our streets in every city. People lost in homelessness.

    “And the problem has only gotten worse since Gavin Newsom has been governor,” he said.

    Newsom had planned to give the State of the State address in March but delayed it while awaiting the outcome of Proposition 1 on the March primary ballot, which he had championed. The initiative, which passed narrowly, channeled $6.4 billion to assist Californians facing chronic homelessness and mental health or drug abuse problems. 


  • 06/25/2024 2:18 PM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)

    After weeks of negotiations with Gov. Newsom, the Legislature is poised to pass 2024-25 spending plan

    JOHN FENSTERWALD


    Gov. Gavin Newsom answers a reporter's question about his revised 2024-25 state budget during a news conference in Sacramento on May 10, 2024.

    Credit: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

    True to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s promise, the 2024-25 budget compromise that the Legislature announced Saturday and will pass this week will spare TK-12 and community colleges from cuts that other state operations will bear.

    TK-12 funding will be flat and will continue Newsom’s major commitments to multiyear, multibillion-dollar programs, including community schools and before- and after-school expansion.

    WATCH NEWSOM’S STATE OF THE STATE

    Gov. Gavin Newsom will release a recorded State of the State speech Tuesday at 10 a.m.

    It will broadcast as the Legislature meets throughout the week to pass the 2024-25 state budget, which Newsom negotiated with Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas and Senate President pro Tem Mike McGuire.

    The speech, originally scheduled for March, will be broadcast on Newsom’s social media channels: @CAgovernor X page, California Governor Facebook page, and Governor’s Office YouTube page.

    The budget will even throw in a couple of billion in new revenue that Newsom didn’t call for in January or in his May budget revisions. Newsom and legislators, meanwhile, struggled to squeeze an additional $28 billion out of a $211 billion general fund spending.

    But protection for schools and community colleges will carry risk. To balance the budget, Newsom and legislative leaders rely on budget maneuvers that would give a button-down accountant acid reflux.

    They include creating a $6 billion debt that won’t be fully repaid to the state treasury for a dozen years, and draining most of the $8.4 billion education rainy day fund.

    The deal also requires delaying payments to schools and community colleges and suspending — for only the third time in its 36-year history — Proposition 98 obligations for the current school year, on the assumption the money will be repaid quickly. Proposition 98, a constitutional amendment voters passed in 1988, established a formula for determining the minimum level of general fund spending on transitional kindergarten through grade 12 and community colleges — generally about 40%.

    Rather than punish schools for money already spent, the budget bill creates a $6.2 billion debt that the general fund, not schools and community colleges, will repay the state treasury over a decade, starting in 2026-27. The remaining $2.6 billion will be a Proposition 98 obligation pushed ahead to 2023-24; that unfunded amount is called a deferral.

    The California State University and the University of California won’t fare as well in the budget deal, although better than Newsom had proposed in January, even with a drop in state revenues since then. Both will get a 5% budget increase in 2024-25 that Newsom had proposed delaying, equal to $227.8 million for UC and $240.2 million for CSU, to support enrollment growth of California residents this fall. 

    Another promised 5% budget increase for both systems in 2025-26, however, will be put off a year. UC and CSU also face one-time cuts in 2024-25 of $125 million and $75 million, respectively, which will be restored in 2025-26.

    Both CSU and UC will also face a 7.95% cut in their administrative expenses in 2025-26.

    There will be no reforming the Cal Grant program in 2024-25, but, at the Legislature’s insistence, the $637 million ongoing funding for middle-class scholarships will continue, with a $289 million one-time increase.

    Late spending changes

    The final budget will also restore some TK-12 and child-care cuts that Newsom had proposed in his May budget revision while maintaining others. They include:

    • Restoring $60 million for the Golden State Teachers Program, which provides $20,000 in scholarships to teacher candidates, although a new means test may pare back $10 million in eligibility.  
    • Restoring $100 million in funding to help preschools prepare classrooms and train teachers in order to enroll more children with disabilities, while withdrawing larger plans to expand the program.
    • Continuing the existing agreement to serve 200,000 more children in the state-subsidized child care system but pushing back the timetable for full compliance to 2028.
    • Rescinding $895 million in one-time spending on electric-powered school buses that Newsom had made a priority. Instead, the money will be used to reduce some of the late payments in state funding for schools.

    School districts receive the bulk of their funding through the Local Control Funding Formula, which is based on daily student attendance and a yearly cost-of-living adjustment. So, even though overall state funding won’t be cut, many districts with declining enrollments and high absenteeism rates will face financial challenges.

    The cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), which is based on a federal formula tied to the cost of goods and services but does not factor in regional costs, including housing, will be only 1.07% for 2024-25, forcing further belt-tightening. One option for school districts, giving layoff notices to staff, will be off the table. State law allows an additional round of layoffs in August in years when the COLA is less than 2%, but, at the urging of public employee unions, Newsom and legislative leaders included a clause prohibiting late summer layoffs. They have done the same statutory override before.

    The initial reaction from two veteran TK-12 budget watchers was mixed. “This budget remarkably insulates K-14 funding from cuts, abides by constitutional requirements to restore funding in the future, and even provides a modest cost-of-living increase, all amid a record budget shortfall. Pretty amazing,” wrote Kevin Gordon, president of Capitol Advisors Group, a school consultancy firm.

    Rob Manwaring, senior policy and fiscal adviser with the nonprofit advocacy organization Children Now, was cautious. “While the final budget is perhaps the best schools could anticipate given the budget challenges, we worry about the size of the suspension for schools, $8.3 billion,” he wrote. “Schools will eventually get paid back those funds in future years on top of the minimum guarantee, but these payments will result in increased school funding volatility and uncertainty until they are paid back.”

    And if revenues falter next year, schools and community colleges will no longer have a rainy day fund to turn to, since it will be depleted.

    Proposition 98 juggling act

    The proposed 2024-25 budget for schools and community colleges will be balanced, if revenue projections hold true, by juggling three years of Proposition 98 shortfalls, with one year’s solution creating the next year’s dilemma.

    The big drop was in 2022-23 when the Legislature “over-appropriated” the minimum Proposition 98 guarantee by $8.8 billion, while state revenue from the post-Covid stock market and the tech sector plummeted. Legislators didn’t see the warning signals because winter storms had pushed back the tax filing deadline from April to November.

    Under the mechanics of Proposition 98, the funding level for 2022-23 becomes the base level for 2023-24, even though the state still lacks the revenue to pick up the tab. So all but $1 billion of the $8.4 billion in the education rainy day fund will be drained to cover some of the 2023-24 deficit and the $2.6 billion deferral from the year before.

    On top of that, the budget deal calls for suspending $8.3 billion of the Proposition 98 funding for 2023-24. That has the effect of lowering the minimum guaranteed funding by that amount, while freeing up money to avoid deeper cuts in other state operations. That’s how the Legislature can restore cuts in 2024-25 for child care and preschool that Newsom had planned.

    The architects of Proposition 98 wanted to discourage the Legislature from suspending the law. So it requires the Legislature to declare a fiscal emergency and to make the suspended funding a priority for repayment as soon as there is new revenue. The 2024-25 budget assumes the state will have enough new revenue to pay back at least $4 billion of the suspended $8 billion, maybe more. But if revenues falter, districts won’t get what they’re entitled to, with no set date for repayment.

    That’s why the deal is also a gamble for schools and community colleges.

    There’s one more wrinkle. To raise revenue quickly, the Legislature has accelerated the temporary, three-year suspension of two tax benefits for large and medium-sized businesses: net operating loss deductions and tax credits. The period will start in 2024-25, one year ahead of schedule. It will yield a projected $5 billion, with $2 billion going to Proposition 98 — funding that will be used to pay down deferrals.

    Between this new money and the $4 billion payback for suspended funding, the Proposition 98 minimum guarantee is expected to rise to a record $115.3 billion in 2024-25.

    As with all deadline negotiations, legislators will have at most three days to review hundreds of pages of budget details spread over 16 separate bills. Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, and Speaker of the Assembly Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, are expecting that legislators will demand some changes when they return from vacation in August.  

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