Governor Gavin Newsom now has an astonishing amount of surplus money to throw around, and he’s throwing a big chunk to bail out California schools with declining enrollment and awash in red ink.

Some of are old enough to remember that exactly 20 years ago, California was a national laughingstock of fiscal incompetence for being stuck with a $23 billion budget deficit. (That was a lot of money back then!) It was the largest deficit any U.S. state had ever experienced, but we got through it. Fast-forward to when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, we again thought we'd be staring into a painful deficit abyss, with the state projecting a $54.3 billion deficit.

Surprise! On Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the state has an astonishing $97.5 billion surplus, according to NBC News.  “It’s simply without precedent,” Newsom bragged at a press conference, per the Bay Area News Group. “No other state in American history has ever experienced a surplus as large as this.”

At the time, NBC News reported that Newsom would use some of this money on “additional spending to tackle the ongoing drought, to help more women get abortions in California and to offset rising costs of food, gas and other goods due to inflation.”

All fine goals, but the Bay Area News Group reports that Newsom will also put a bunch of the surplus into the state’s pandemic-battered school system. In classic Newsom-speak, the governor said “This is about education reform. This is about completely reimagining the education system.”

Per the news group, Newsom will propose putting “$8 billion in a ‘flexible block grant,’ or one-time discretionary fund, schools can use to address student mental health, professional development, pension costs or other needs.” That sounds like a pretty much no-strings-attached fund. Multiple billions will also go into battling declining enrollment, school meals, and upgrading aging facilities.

This has to be welcome news for San Francisco Unified, a school district drowning in red ink, struggling to pay teachers, and facing a state takeover. The proof will be in the implementation, not just Gavin’s grand pronouncements, but we can still savor the rare moment here when California schools actually get some good news.

Related: Yes, SFUSD is Running a Huge Deficit — But So Are Other Districts All Over the State [SFist]

Image: @GavinNewsom via Twitter