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Hundreds of school trustees to express outrage over Prop 98 manipulation during May 18-19 CSBA Delegate Assembly in Sacramento


Budget and legal experts explain why Governor's budget would cost schools billions, undermine Proposition 98 and violate State Constitution

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (May 16, 2024) – On the surface, the Governor’s May Revise seems like a well-intentioned attempt to preserve public school funding. Upon closer inspection, however, it contains a ticking time-bomb that threatens to blow up California’s school funding system, subvert the State Constitution and violate the will of the voters.

During the May 15 webinar "May Revise: Prop 98 Under Siege," budget and legal experts explain why the Governor’s proposed manipulation of Proposition 98 is not only illegal but potentially devastating to the stability of California schools. That's why hundreds of school board members from across the state will speak out against the Prop 98 maneuver when they gather on May 18 and 19 for the California School Boards Association's Delegate Assembly in Sacramento.

Contact CSBA Chief Communications Officer Troy Flint  to speak to a school board member on the dangers posed by the May Revise’s Prop 98 maneuver.

View recording of "May Revise: Prop 98 Under Siege"
View the "Prop 98 Under Siege" webinar slides
Read a recap of the webinar

Proposition 98 was approved by California voters to help stabilize education funding and meet the needs of the state’s 5.8 million public school students. It’s designed to guarantee a minimum annual funding level for schools and community colleges and ensure they receive at least the same amount of state revenue in any given year as they received in the previous year. Prop 98 accomplishes this by using one of three different formulas based on past funding, tax revenues, and growth in the economy. Manipulating the input into these formulas, as the Governor does in his May Revise, not only breaks the law, it sets a dangerous precedent that would allow the State to effectively manipulate the formulas out of existence, spelling the end of Prop 98 and reliable state funding of public schools.

Specifically, the Governor is proposing an unconstitutional “funding maneuver” where the state essentially loans $8.8 billion in funds for schools to itself — money already given to schools — while reclassifying those funds as non-school spending for the purpose of Prop 98 calculations. In addition, the Governor seeks to spread the costs of this spending over a five-year period starting in 2025–26, kicking the can down the road for the next Administration. This maneuver may seem innocuous on its face — or even generous — as it could ease the pain of the 2024–25 budget. Yet, in reality, this sleight of hand would reduce education funding by tens of billions of dollars in the years to come and remove the funding safety net Prop 98 has provided schools for more than three decades.

In "May Revise: Prop 98 Under Siege," Robert Manwaring, senior policy and fiscal advisor for Children Now and former K–12 education director of the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, said to think of the maneuver like a school bond where the state has already spent the money and is going to then pay for it in future years out of the non-Prop 98 side of the budget. “That may sound to some like a pretty good deal, because schools get to keep the $8.8 billion and the expense of it is on future non-Prop 98 side of the budget,” Manwaring said. “The problem is that $8.8 billion creates the basis for the calculation for the 2023–24 minimum guarantee, the 2024–25 guarantee and beyond.”

By recategorizing money given to and spent by schools years ago as “non-education” funding, the Governor is attempting to lower the baseline for calculating future Prop 98 funding. If he is successful, schools will receive less money than they would have otherwise — for years to come.

Also during "May Revise: Prop 98 Under Siege," William Tunick, shareholder and chair of the Dannis Woliver Kelley’s Board Ethics, Transparency and Accountability and Litigation Practice groups, explained that the Governor’s maneuver poses a threat to Prop 98 from a legal perspective as well as from a funding and public policy standpoint.

“Prop 98 creates a constitutional, guaranteed level of funding for education, but it doesn’t actually establish what that amount is in numerical terms. Instead, what it does is it establishes three tests that are used annually to determine what that guaranteed level is,” Tunick said. “And because of that, and this is what the courts have said, the integrity of those tests are really fundamental to Prop 98 itself. What the maneuver does or attempts to do is alter how those tests work by altering the inputs. If you artificially alter the amount of allocations in a prior year, that’s going to then artificially lower those tests and the amounts that those tests give you when you run the Prop 98 calculations.”

In his comments on the May Revise, CSBA President Albert Gonzalez expressed disappointment that the Governor is persisting with this financial gambit, emphasizing that retrenchment would have been a wiser approach. “Instead, he doubled down and the proposed Prop 98 manipulation would now take $8.8 billion in spending that was clearly allocated to schools — and reclassify it as non-education spending,” Gonzalez explained “This accounting gimmick would lower the baseline for calculating education funding in subsequent years, subjecting California schools to lower revenue for the foreseeable future. This sets a terrible precedent that potentially destabilizes education funding and undermines the voters’ intent when they passed Proposition 98 more than 35 years ago.”

For more information or questions about press availability, please contact CSBA Communications Chief Troy Flint at 415-902-8589 or



CSBA is a nonprofit association representing nearly 1,000 PreK-12 school districts
and county offices of education throughout California.