Commissioner of Education David Hespe testified before the Assembly Budget Committee on April 20 on the education budget  for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year.

Hespe spoke about the need for students to be college- and career-ready. In recognition of that need, he indicated that the governor has allocated $13.3 billion to total school aid, which is an increase of $548 million over the record spent in 2015-2016. This includes an increase of $94.3 million in direct aid to schools, and an increase of $401.5 million to teachers’ pensions and benefits. Hespe noted that every district in the state received an increase in state aid.

The commissioner engaged the budget committee in a discussion of professional learning communities, state-operated districts, PARCC testing, charter schools and the portfolio appeals process.  Hespe estimated that 10,000 students will graduate through the portfolio appeals process across the state this year.

The committee also engaged in a robust discussion of the School Funding Reform Act. The Commissioner discussed the need to make the funding formula more sustainable and the need to examine the funding assumptions inherent in the Act. The committee also discussed charter schools, pensions and benefits, aid to non-public schools, the Opportunity Scholarship Act, the anti-bullying bill of rights act, school facilities, and special education, among other topics.

The Legislature must send a state budget to the governor for his enactment in time for the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, 2016.