Some win, some lose in Calif. new school funding plan

Mar 10, 2013 by

School officials getting their first look at Gov. Jerry Brown’s pitch to push more money into public education are cautiously concerned that the proposal creates a wide chasm between potential haves and have-nots.

Upon full implantation in 2019-20, early California Department of Finance projections show that, in Riverside County, all but the smallest districts’ funding per student will range between $8,685 and $12,189.

In addition to fewer restrictions on spending the money, Brown’s proposal includes additional funding for the number of impoverished and English learning students. Local administrators say financial help for those populations is important, but add that it’s imperative to secure more funding across the board for districts that have been limping along since the state began cutting education budgets.

“I have mixed feelings on this,” said Jonathan Greenberg, superintendent of Perris Union High School District. “Districts that have a lot of students in those categories — English learners, poverty and in foster care — are certainly districts that have different and maybe greater needs than other districts. But we’re coming off one of the greatest recessions in history and all of the districts have lost about 22 percent of the funding they were receiving in 2007-08.

“It pains me that this creates districts that are winners and districts that are losers.”

Greenberg’s Perris Union could be considered one of the winners under Brown’s proposal for a local control funding formula, which still must be approved by Legislature.

After receiving $6,860 per student in 2011-12, Brown’s proposal would have Perris Union getting $11,712 by 2019-20 because of its enrollment of English learners (16 percent) and its students receiving free and reduced-priced lunches (66 percent).

The California Department of Finance released those projections last month, about after Brown’s January budget proposal called for a $19 billion boost in public education spending by 2016-17.

That was all well and good, but local officials wanted a closer look at how that plan would work.

Now, they have their answer.

With more than half of the state’s K-12 enrollment belonging to three special-needs categories — English learners, students eligible for free and reduced-priced meals and foster youths — Brown’s plan calls for additional funding to meet those students’ educational needs.

In addition to a per-pupil base grant that will match 2007-08 state averages when the plan is fully implemented, districts will receive a supplemental grant — 35 percent of the base grant — for each English learner, economically disadvantaged or foster youth enrolled. Also, districts with more than half of their enrollment falling in those special needs categories will get another supplemental grant.

Some district officials, however, wish the conversation started with restoring funding levels that have been cut dramatically since 2007-08.

Murrieta Valley Unified and Temecula Valley Unified, for instance, aren’t seeing significant windfalls from the governor’s proposal.

With 29 percent of its students receiving free and reduced-priced meals and 4 percent of its enrollment being English learners, Murrieta Valley Unified will see its per-student funding rise from $6,049 in 2011-12 to $9,035 by 2019-20. Likewise, Temecula Valley Unified’s funding will increase from $5,909 per student in 2011-12 to $8,732 in the next seven years, based on just 18 percent of its students needing free and reduced-price meals and 6 percent of its enrollment qualifying as English learners.

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