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“There is no other state doing as much to advance educational equity for its neediest students as California is doing today”

SACRAMENTO – Today, the Education Commission of the States announced California as the winner of the 2022 Frank Newman Award for State Innovation, the preeminent education policy award in the nation, in recognition of California’s improvements in educating all students and closing equity gaps.

“California is transforming education from pre-kindergarten through to college and beyond, empowering students and families with more supports, more choices, and more opportunities,” said Governor Newsom. “This award recognizes the hard work that’s gone into this transformative change by leaders throughout the state – including legislators, state government partners, educators, staff, administrators, and local leaders – and the winners here are California’s kids and parents.”

According to the Commission, California received this award for “its coordinated approach to educating all students from preschool to postsecondary, with explicit attention toward whole-child supports and services, as well as its historic financial investments to ensure educational equity.” Here’s what else the Commission had to say about California’s achievements:

  • “In the last two years, the state has approved an ongoing increase to the school funding formula to add more teachers, counselors, paraprofessionals and other student support providers on campuses. The budget also includes a large investment to scale summer, before- and after-school programming; and to convert thousands of schools into full-service community schools with wraparound supports. Additionally, beginning this school year, all public school students began to receive two free meals per day, regardless of family income status.”
  • “The state’s investments are not limited to K-12; they extend into both ends of the education continuum, early learning and postsecondary. For example, the state is on track to have universal pre-K available for all 4-year-olds by 2025, and it has already expanded its popular Cal Grant scholarship program, which benefited an additional 100,000 community college students last year. Leaders also allocated funding to construct affordable student housing and $115 million to expand zero-cost textbooks and open-educational resources.”
  • “California is demonstrating an intentional, comprehensive investment of funding and other resources that recognize and honor whole-child approaches to education, not only instruction.”

Since taking office, Governor Newsom has prioritized funding for public education, most recently having proposed the highest level of funding in state history – over $128 billion for California’s schools, amounting to $22,850 per pupil. That is up from $97 billion, or $16,350 per pupil, when he took office. In addition, the last enacted budget included total funding of over $47 billion for higher education.

Key investments include, but are not limited to:

  • Universal Pre-Kindergarten: California’s children will have access to crucial high-quality instruction by age 4 – effectively adding a new grade to the traditional K-12 system – regardless of a family’s income or immigration status. Additional funds are provided to construct facilities and to cut the adult-to-student ratio in half (1:12), with full-scale implementation anticipated by 2025.
  • Universal Extended-Day Learning: All elementary school students will have access to before- and after-school programs, as well as summer learning opportunities, by 2025. Schools serving the highest concentration of vulnerable students are prioritized for expedited implementation.
  • Universal Free Meals: No student will need to learn on an empty stomach, with all students having the choice of two free, nutritious meals per day – regardless of income or family status.
  • Community Schools: Thousands of schools will be transformed into hubs meeting the needs of students and families, including mental health services, support for basic needs such as food pantries, wraparound social services, and improved family engagement.
  • Youth Behavioral Health: Youth ages 0-25 will have access to a revamped youth behavioral health system, including an online one-stop hub and billions invested to integrate mental health services with schools.
  • College Savings Accounts: Every low-income public school student will have an account opened in their name with a seed deposit of $500 to $1,500 – cultivating a college-going mindset, building generational wealth, promoting college affordability, and developing financial literacy.
  • Tuition-Free Community College: First-time, full-time students can attend community college tuition-free for two years. High school students will also be encouraged and supported to dual-enroll in community college.
  • Post-Secondary Compacts: With a multi-billion-dollar reinvestment in higher education over five years, the UC, CSU, and community colleges will create seats for tens of thousands of students, close equity gaps in graduation, create debt-free pathways, and support students to enter into critical fields, such as climate, education, and healthcare.
  • Non-Tuition Costs: Access to affordable student housing will be expanded to thousands of students and significantly more courses will use open-source or other zero-textbook-cost options.
  • Regional Empowerment: Implementation will be coordinated and amplified by regional structures – including K-16 Collaboratives and partners working through the Community Economic Resilience Fund – to ensure local empowerment and collaboration across historic silos.
  • Data & Transparency: The transformational policies will be backed by a nation-leading cradle-to-career data system, which will provide transparency to parents, policymakers, and practitioners on how students are served and can be served better.

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