Gov. Jerry Brown is back in California after a week-long business jaunt to China and found a couple of very nice welcome home presents waiting for him.

First, there was Thursday’s announcement that the California High-Speed Rail Authority has settled its suit with Central Valley farmers over the route of the rail system.

The agreement, combined with the negotiated end to a number of other suits against the authority, clears the way for construction to begin this summer on the first 28-mile stretch of track, running between Madera and Fresno.

And while the governor was away, the low bid for the project came in at just under $1 billion, delightfully below the $1.2 billion to $1.8 billion estimates for the project.

Now 28 miles is a tiny start to the entire 520-mile system that will link San Francisco and Los Angeles at up to 220 mph. But Brown, who has often seemed like the only person in Sacramento waving the pompoms for the project, knows that every mile of track – and each dollar spent – makes it that much harder to kill the high-speed rail line.

But an even nicer present was the new Public Policy Institute of California poll released this week, which highlighted the public’s attitude toward education in the state.

The best news was that 71 percent of adults and 60 percent of likely voters back Brown’s plan to send a bigger chunk of state education money to districts with higher numbers of  English language learners and low-income students. The support was across all parties, races and income levels, with even Republicans backing the spending plan, 45 percent to 42 percent.

Now overwhelming public support doesn’t always translate to legislative action, as President Obama, senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and a host of other gun control supporters found out this week.

But it’s a start.

Just as important, from Brown’s point of view, is that school spending isn’t gun control, an issue where the partisan lines were drawn years ago.

Legislators, whether in Sacramento or Washington, D.C., like spending money on schools. They generally have little or no objection to providing more cash to districts with poor kids, just as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of the middle class or high-incomes schools in their districts.

Which is exactly where Brown’s plan has run into problems. The governor isn’t really providing much new education money, he’s just shifting around the dollars that already were slated to be there. And while that’s good news for some school districts, when the music stops, losing districts will outnumber the winners by about 2-to-1.

That also means there are likely to be more legislators whose districts lose the educational money race than win it, which is generally bad news for a governor interested in getting his funding measure passed.

That’s where the poll comes in. It gives Brown a way to suggest to balky legislators that a vote for his spending plan won’t hurt them in the November 2014 elections. Hey, if the voters think it’s a good idea, why not go along? If nothing else, the poll provides some cover.

Does that mean Brown’s holding the winning hand? Of course not, especially since every losing district in the state is going to be screaming to their legislators about the unfairness of Brown’s school spending plan.

But it does give the governor an important talking point. Add to that the fact that 75 percent of adults surveyed in that PPIC poll also believe schools in low-income areas don’t have the same amount of resources as those in wealthier areas and the governor and his supporters may find themselves on the right side of California’s collective conscience.

John Wildermuth is a longtime writer on California politics.