The Fontana Unified School District will benefit from the state's budget turnaround.

When the coronavirus pandemic began in early 2020, it caused California's budget (which had previously been relatively healthy) to suddenly turn sour, and officials announced that the state faced a monstrous $54 billion deficit.

But then came another unexpected twist in the fall: Tax receipts ballooned, and the state experienced a positive reversal of fortunes.

Now, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who unveiled his proposed budget for 2021-2022 last week, California has a $15 billion surplus.

As a result, the proposed budget will make available extra money to address many of the state's needs -- and especially for schools. Newsom is proposing $85.8 billion in Prop. 98 funding for K-14 schools, which would be a new record.

This development has been warmly welcomed by the Fontana Unified School District, where Ryan DiGiulio, the associate superintendent of business services, has been reviewing Newsom's proposal.

"The good news for schools is that the revised projections in the Governor's budget significantly exceed the previous forecast, which represented some of the most extensive cuts and funding deferrals in recent history to the State and schools," DiGiulio said.

"The budget provides continued one-time funds to help support schools address challenges resulting from the pandemic and reopening schools safely. We appreciate the support of schools in the plan and hope to see growth in ongoing funding that will allow us to continue our growth of services."

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said the improvement in the budget situation will be advantageous in many ways.

“I want to thank Governor Gavin Newsom for proposing a budget that -- until our educators, school employees, and communities are vaccinated -- addresses main areas of need as public schools consider how to safely resume in-person instruction. Today’s budget proposal also represents a strong start at tackling the growing access and learning gaps experienced most severely among our students of color, low-income households, children with disabilities, and students learning English," Thurmond said in a news release.

The FUSD has a high percentage of students who are economically disadvantaged and face other challenges. The district has received extra funding from the state to address these concerns for several years.

----- NEWSOM said he wants to immediately provide $2 billion in grants to districts so that they can begin to open elementary schools in February under his previously announced Safe Schools for All Plan.

“In the midst of this pandemic, my Administration is focused on getting students back into the classroom in a way that leads with student and teacher health," Newsom said in a news release last month. "By focusing on a phased approach with virus mitigation and prevention at the center, we can begin to return our kids to school to support learning needs and restore the benefits of in-person instruction. It’s especially important for our youngest kids, those with disabilities, those with limited access to technology at home and those who have struggled more than most with distance learning.”

Newsom said his goal is to bring back the youngest children (TK-2) and those who are most vulnerable first, then gradually add other grade levels through the spring.

"This phased-in return recognizes that younger children are at a lower risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19," the governor's office said in a news release. "At the same time, distance learning will remain an option for parents and students who choose it and for those whose health status does not allow them to return to school in the near term."

FUSD officials are presently evaluating this proposal, which still leaves many details unsettled. The district has been operating under a distance learning arrangement for all grade levels since last March.

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