(CALMATTERS) – For decades, educators and legislators have tried to close the achievement gap in test scores between California’s Black students and their white and Asian peers. An item in the governor’s proposed budget for next year was supposed to address that — but critics say it falls short, reports CalMatters’ education writer Joe Hong.

Last year the Legislature approved a bill by Democratic Assemblymember Akilah Weber of La Mesa that would have targeted extra money directly to Black K-12 students. Newsom didn’t agree to the bill, but promised to incorporate the idea into his next budget. 

Which he now has done, with a difference: Worried about violating state and federal laws banning preferential treatment of specific racial or ethnic groups, the governor aimed the extra money at high-poverty schools, rather than Black students specifically.  

The catch: Fewer than 26% of Black students attend a school that would qualify for the $300 million Newsom’s proposing, according to a CalMatters analysis.  

Some experts and advocates say this could perpetuate the achievement gap it’s supposed to help remedy. 

  • Tyrone Howard, education professor at UCLA: “I don’t think you can take 245 years of slavery and Jim Crow and a legacy of separate and unequal education and expect this gap to not exist.”

But Assemblymember Lori Wilson, a Fairfield Democrat and chairperson of the California Legislative Black Caucus, said she’s pleased.

  • Wilson: “To get to where you want to be, it has to be an incremental approach. We do not look at it as a loss in any way, shape or form.”

In other budget news, transit agencies, advocates and lawmakers pushed back more on Newsom’s proposal to cut transit spending. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon has said he’s open to dipping into reserves rather than cut transit and climate money

Budget negotiations will go until June. Up sooner is the Feb. 17 deadline for lawmakers to introduce bills. Many of those will be vague “placeholders” that lawmakers later amend with details. Some are already specific: 

Reminder: Most introduced bills never pass. Here are some that did become law in 2023.