Governor Newsom establishes goals for the new year

Kaylin Li

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Inaugurated on Jan. 7, Gavin Newsom has taken his place as California’s 40th governor. Newsom looks to achieve what he calls “audacious goals” through a $209 billion state budget that could tackle some of California’s biggest issues, such as education, housing and wildfires.

As mayor of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011, Gavin Newsom strove for universal health care for the city through Healthy San Francisco, a program offering healthcare to uninsured residents. Newsom helped San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) teachers through a parcel tax to raise wages and improve students’ learning conditions, as well as a Rainy Day Fund to protect SFUSD staff from layoffs during the Great Recession. He has also been lieutenant governor of California for eight years, serving at former governor Jerry Brown’s side.

“[Newsom has] had the opportunity to see how to lead a city but also has been able to watch Governor Brown as he’s conducting his work, so I think in terms of experience and preparation he’s pretty well prepared for the job,” said FUHSD deputy superintendent Graham Clark.

Newsom is a father of four, which has given him a wide perspective on education. He not only put aside $1.8 billion toward universal preschool and $80.7 billion for K-12 education, but also plans on setting aside $40 million to make a student’s second year of community college free. To support teachers, such as those in Los Angeles Unified School District, who recently held a strike to demand increased school funding, $3 billion will go to reducing California State Teachers’ Retirement System pension obligations, meaning more money for the classroom.

“While keeping the pension system solvent is indeed a critically important priority, if school districts receive help from the state in this area, it allows us to use our financial resources in ways that are more directly impactful for students,” said FUHSD superintendent Polly Bove. “For our school district, it may help us decrease our expenses by about 1 percent. And we are well aware that the high cost of living makes it imperative that we devote any saved expenses toward increasing staff compensation, which plays a huge part in ensuring ongoing student success.”

Newsom has also discussed creating a college savings account for every kindergartener in the state, something he implemented as San Francisco mayor, and a state bank offering low-interest loans to reduce higher education costs. A statewide database would track student progress from pre K-12 to the workforce to evaluate the quality of California’s education.

“I think the nice thing about Governor Newsom is he will probably continue with many of Governor Brown’s programs which were generally positive for education,” said FUHSD deputy superintendent Graham Clark. “I think we’re heading in the right direction and we hopefully we can remain that way.”

While a large focus of Newsom’s budget is on education, his plans also address many other issues California is currently facing. Newsom calls for $500 million in state aid for Navigation Centers, shelters for the homeless that are being implemented in San Francisco, and another $500 million for local governments to combat homelessness. $140 million will go to expanding Medi-Cal coverage to illegal immigrants aged 19 to 25. $415 million will be invested into forest management for the prevention of future wildfires, as well as new equipment for fighting fires.

However, there is considerable risk in spending so much. The budget is an $8 billion increase in budget from the previous administration, and it is likely that California will experience a recession in the coming years. But some believe the benefits outweigh the costs.

“I think Governor Newsom is moving in the right direction. I know that people criticize him, because they don’t think that spending money on education and other social welfare aspects is going to be feasible for the state because it’s risky, and we might go into recession,” said junior Maya Abiram, the vice president of logistics for the club Model United Nations. “But I think it’s a good idea. If we invest in education, more people are able to go to college and have a good learning environment, and it will produce output later on, and we’ll see the results.”

There are many issues for Newsom to solve, such as education, wildfires and homelessness. As Newsom takes over the California administration, he hopes that through his plans, one day, these issues will be solved.