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Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula brings optimism and concerns

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, March 15th, 2013 at 6:27 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

The governor’s plan to give school boards more control over how they spend money — and give more funding to districts with a needy students — is creating both optimism and concern in the education community.

At a New America Media briefing about the proposal Wednesday, three panelists described the frenzied debate going on in Sacramento and districts throughout the state, which are trying to get as much money as possible for their students.

A California Budget Project policy analyst joined the executive director of Education Trust-West and an EdSource reporter to talk about how this proposal could revolutionize school funding in a way that the state hasn’t seen in decades.

Jonathan Kaplan from the California Budget Project said the formula would give schools with low-income students and English learners more money over seven years, which could end up flip-flopping current funding inequities. For example, the Dublin school district now gets about $1,000 more per student than Alameda City Unified, he said. But under the governor’s proposal, Dublin would get about $3,000 less per student after seven years.

“Some people say there are winners and losers after this,” he said. “But, are there winners and losers now?”

Arun Ramanathan, executive director of Education Trust-West, said the extra money for low-income and immigrant students could help the state overcome the persistent achievement gap. But, the proposal needs to be strengthened to ensure that extra money really goes to those students and not to other board priorities, he cautioned.

He said civil rights groups are struggling with the proposal because they agree that needy students deserve more money, but they think school districts should be required to show how they will use it to help struggling kids.

“Who’s going to hold districts accountable?” he said.

John Fensterwald, a longtime education editor and journalist, said local control will require school boards to be effective.

“The dynamic is changing,” he said, “so it requires much more intelligent, involved school board members than we’ve had before.”

He hinted that some may not be up to the task.

“There is debate over the wisdom of local school boards,” he said. “Those of us who have been around school boards have seen that they vary in quality.”

But he said everyone fundamentally agrees that more money should go to the neediest students.

“The dichotomy over winners and losers distracts from overall agreement that inequity needs to be addressed,” he said.

One issue of concern is that funds currently set aside for specific programs that help vulnerable students, such as those for foster youth, will be lumped together in a pot of money that districts could spend however they want.

“The language needs to say it will supplement dollars being spent on needy students,” he said, “not supplant it.”

Another twist is that money will not be designated for individual schools, it will go straight to the district. So, in districts such as Mt. Diablo — which includes poor communities as well as wealthy communities — the poor schools may not be assured of getting the extra money meant for their students.

“Parents are going to have to be very vigilant,” Fensterwald said, “and hold boards and districts accountable for spending money on needy students.”

Ramanathan agreed.

“For years, school boards have punted this to Sacramento, saying, ‘Our hands are tied,’” Ramanathan said. “Now, they will be accountable for how they spend money.”

Panelists also agreed that the estimates released by the state are not set in stone, since the Department of Finance hasn’t explained the assumptions it used to create them. For the next few months, superintendents and others are bringing their concerns to Sacramento, hoping to influence the final budget, which the Legislature should adopt by the end of June.

“The critical question,” Ramanathan said, “is: ‘What would districts do with more money?’”

What do you think districts should do with more money?

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  • Doctor J

    I wonder what the delay is in releasing the agenda.

  • Theresa Harrington

    It’s posted. Also, don’t forget, audit report tonight at the BOC: http://www.mdusd.org/Lists/UpcomingEvents/Attachments/318/cboc-agenda-032113.pdf

  • Hell Freezing Over

    Did Rolen ever deliver this (from 02/25/13 board mtg)?

    Summary:  General Counsel, Greg Rolen, will address and discuss procedures for informing the Board and the public about how his office handles and addresses legal issues and procedures including lawsuit filings and Public Records Act requests.

  • Doctor J

    Deb Cooksey, the former Oakland USD “General Counsel”, thought, against MDUSD Board By-laws she apparently hasnt’ read, she was the parlimentarian, now thinks the district owns the public sidewalks, and gets the district charged with violations of unfair labor practices — I think we need to compare her level of intelligence with a rock. So far, the rock is ahead.

  • g

    Theresa @85: There was more at stake than the Teamsters mentioned in their complaint.

    It’s called the First Amendment.

    They should include: “State regulation of labor unions, whether aimed at fraud or other abuses, must not infringe constitutional rights of free speech and free assembly.” P. 323 U. S. 530 and 532.

    The handing out of flyers hardly represented a “clear and present danger” to the public welfare. Also, school district property is public property.

    Poor Cooksey. Can’t seem to learn to keep her finger out of the light socket.

  • Anon

    Mondays meeting should be interesting. Can’t wait to see what the outcome is.

  • g

    Dr. J: Remember, Deb Cooksey was a counselor at OUHSD working as assistant to Lead District Counsel Roy Combs (yes that one) when Oakland bellied up and was taken over by the state. Part of them going broke was when the state determined that it had indeed been illegal for them to abscond with $17million in Bond funds to supplement their General Fund–and the General Fund had to pay it back. Oops.

  • Theresa Harrington
  • Anon

    G @107-Roy Combs is now a partner at FFF in Oakland-the same firm that advised the Board that the contract extensions did not violate the Brown Act.

  • Wait a Minute

    Anon @109,

    Good to know, WHAT A COINCIDENCE!

    Rolen has been busy currying favors amongst these many lawyers and firms by spending the public’s money on them.

  • Wait a Minute

    I was cut-off.

    Or by hiring people they are close to like Deb Cooksey is to Roy Combs.

    Oh what a tangled web Rolen has weaved in his stay here.

  • Wendy Lack

    Do bad people think they’re good?

    Food for thought: http://bit.ly/Y2HHdG

    Happy weekend, all!

  • Wendy Lack

    Compelling, meaty arguments for time-tested school reforms: http://bit.ly/102Wx1H

  • Theresa Harrington
  • Doctor J

    CDE published its policy direction for districts on AB 1575 — prohibition of fees. Looks like Deb Cooksey is going to have to come back to the board with corrections. Most of our schools are NOT in compliance, still requiring students to bring supplies and pay fees. http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/lr/fm/fma1201.asp