By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF REPORTER
(The Center Square) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill to eventually require public and charter schools to offer a full-day kindergarten class, raising concerns about the expense as state revenues come in lower than expected.
The governor vetoed Assembly Bill 1973 on Sunday, a measure requiring elementary schools to offer at least one full-day kindergarten class starting in the 2030-2031 school year, with a phased implementation beginning in 2027.
In a veto message, Gov. Newsom wrote that the proposed law would “create ongoing and one-time costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars to support school facilities and operational costs.” A fiscal analysis of the bill estimated the Proposition 98 General Fund costs are unknown “but likely to be significant, potentially in the low hundreds of millions of dollars just for one-time facilities related costs.”
“With our state facing lower-than-expected revenues over the first few months of this fiscal year, it is important to remain disciplined when it comes to spending, particularly spending that is ongoing,” Gov. Newsom wrote, adding that the state needs to prioritize existing obligations that include education, public safety and “safety net” programs.
The governor added that a bill like this with “significant fiscal impact” should be considered in the annual budget process.
Gov. Newsom’s message represents a familiar pattern in his recent vetoes. Several recent veto messages contain a similar refrain that raises concerns about the state’s revenues and the cost of certain bills.
California enacted a $307.9 billion budget at the end of June, which included a $97 billion surplus. The budget included total funding of $128.6 billion for K-12 education.
The 2022 Budget Act included $4 billion ongoing Proposition 98 General Fund for the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program, funding Gov. Newsom called a “historic investment in critical support for our kids.”
Shortly after the budget was enacted, the Department of Finance released a July report showing California’s tax revenues fell short of expectations in June. Cash receipts were roughly $2.4 billion under the forecasted $32.3 billion.
Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, the author of AB 1973, told The Center Square in a statement that he was “disappointed” by the governor’s veto.
“Although the governor cited funding for the reason he vetoed the bill, I have confidence schools can use previous funding to help provide full-day kindergarten to their students. In the last five years, we have spent $1.24 billion for transitional kindergarten (TK) and kindergarten facilities, and $800 million for PreK and K planning,” Assemblymember McCarty said. “Plus, this year’s budget is providing schools with an unprecedented 16 percent increase in funding — $128.6 billion. It’s important we help set California children up to succeed in life, and this bill was a way we could have done that.”
Gov. Newsom also vetoed another measure on Sunday, Senate Bill 70, which would have made kindergarten mandatory for students to attend first grade starting in the 2024-2025 school year.
The governor’s veto message contained similar phrasing as his message for AB 1973, raising concerns about the state’s revenues coming in “lower-than-expected” in the first few months of the fiscal year. SB 70 was estimated to have $268 million in ongoing Prop 98 General Fund spending.
Madison Hirneisen covers California for The Center Square.