Newsom signs $123.9 billion education package to expand CA's kindergarten, summer programs

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Saturday, July 10, 2021
Gov. Newsom signs $123.9 billion education package
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Gov. Newsom has signed a new education package that provides record funding for California schools.

Gov. Newsom has signed a new education package that provides record funding for California schools.

Newsom on Friday invited a group of young students at a Napa Valley elementary school to help him sign the legislation, which directs how most of the $123.9 billion for K-12 education in the 2021-2022 fiscal year must be spent.

As part of a broad new education spending package made possible by the state's surprise budget surplus, the state's two-year kindergarten program will be expanded to include all 4-year-olds for free. The program aims to phase in the expansion by 2025 at a cost of $2.7 billion per year.

The new plan also puts more money toward after school and summer school programs, particularly in districts that serve many high-needs students.

"This is unlike anything we have ever done in this state...Not only creating a brand new grade in the state of California for all 4-year-olds to get high quality education and enrichment, but we're also providing wrap-around services," Newsom said.

This year's budget also adds money to fund free school meals for all students, with $54 million allocated for this year and $650 million in future years.

Newsom's kindergarten expansion fulfills a promise that he and Democratic legislative leaders made to foot the bill for universal 4-year-old kindergarten statewide.

Currently, there are about 91,000 4-year-olds enrolled in transitional kindergarten. The new plan would boost enrollment to about 250,000.

The bill achieves many longtime priorities for Democrats in the Legislature, said Democratic Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, who joined the signing ceremony.

"We are changing lives," said Aguiar-Curry, of Winters. "By the signing of this today, we're not going to leave anyone behind."

Newsom has said the funding aims to address many of the inequities that the coronavirus pandemic exposed, including the need for robust mental health services to address childhood depression and trauma, more teachers and lower teacher-student ratios.

California officials on Friday also said masks will continue to be required in school settings this fall, despite new guidance from the CDC that vaccinated teachers and students don't need to wear them inside school buildings.

"In places where we don't have the ability to have distancing as one of the other mitigating strategies... masking is the superior form of mitigation," he said. "So starting off our school year with kids masked, coming back safely with 100% of our students able to come in person, was the key strategy."

The mask requirement for indoor school settings "also will ensure that all kids are treated the same," according to a press release from the state Department of Public Health.

The health department plans to release more detailed guidance for school reopening next week, said Ghaly.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.