As CSBA detailed recently in its summary of the May Revision of the Governor’s budget, the plan proposes to expand transitional kindergarten to provide a minimum of three hours of instructional time for all 4-year-olds in the state, beginning with an investment of $900 million for the 2022–23 school year and ramping up to $2.7 billion in 2024–25 with the goal of serving 250,000 new TK students. The proposal includes a rebenching of the Proposition 98 guarantee to adjust for the new students who are not currently a part of Proposition 98. Under the plan, local educational agencies would use the 2021–22 school year for planning and infrastructure development and TK would expand in increments of three months of age per year from 2022–23 through 2024–25.
The inclusion of rebenching of the Proposition 98 guarantee is an important shift in California’s approach that is responsive to CSBA’s legal advocacy. Rebenching entails increasing the minimum guarantee for programs shifted into Proposition 98 and decreasing the guarantee for programs shifted out of Proposition 98. Rebenching when adding programs ensures LEAs do not see their funding effectively lowered by adding programs without readjusting the minimum guarantee.
The state has tried to add programs without rebenching in the past. In 2015, CSBA and its Education Legal Alliance challenged the state’s manipulation of the Proposition 98 minimum funding guarantee in CSBA v. Cohen. The state had moved most of the funding for child care outside of Proposition 98 for state budget purposes in 2011, and rebenched the minimum guarantee to reflect the removal of childcare from within Proposition 98. In 2015, the state added some child care spending back into Proposition 98, but did not rebench the minimum guarantee calculation higher to reflect this additional expense — effectively lowering the amount of money education received.
CSBA’s lawsuit challenged the state’s failure to increase the minimum guarantee to education to account for this change. In 2016, the superior court held in favor of CSBA, finding that the state was required to rebench the minimum guarantee. On appeal, CSBA settled the case along with two other lawsuits against the state, ensuring public schools received repayment of $686 million due to prior year underpayments.