Although Gov. Jerry Brown added some extra money for schools in his revised budget released Tuesday, some are still questioning whether his education funding proposal goes far enough to provide adequate funding for all districts.
Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan said Thursday that she is concerned about Brown’s plan to eliminate “categorical” funding that now pays for textbooks and programs such as summer school and career technical education. The governor wants to take the money previously set aside for categorical programs and instead use it to provide additional funding to districts based on their percentages of English learners, foster youth and low-income students. This would make it difficult for districts that don’t have many of these students to continue to provide programs and materials previously paid for with categorical funding, Buchanan said.
H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the state Department of Finance, stressed that all districts would get more base grant funding under the governor’s plan than they currently receive, which should help those without large populations of disadvantaged students continue to provide programs now funded with categorical money.
The May revise includes an additional $240 million for K-12 education next year, which will mean a higher level of per student funding for all districts than projected in January. Palmer said his department hopes to get new district per student estimates posted online within the next week.
To help answer questions about how this new funding formula would affect local districts, both the Contra Costa and Alameda County offices of education are participating in public workshops.
Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Joe Ovick will team up with Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, to host an Education Finance Forum at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Pleasant Hill City Council Chamber at 100 Gregory Lane in Pleasant Hill. More information is at 925-521-151 or www.asmdc.org/members/a14.
A free workshop on recent developments in state education finance and other topics will also be presented at 2 p.m. May 28 at the Alameda County Office of Education, 313 W. Winton Avenue in Hayward. Budget perspectives will be provided by Capitol Advisors Group, a Sacramento-based education advocacy firm. The workshops is open to anyone who wants to learn about issues including the governor’s proposed Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF, Proposition 98, school accountability and school energy funding. More information is available by calling 916-847-9454.
According to the governor’s plan, districts with English language learners, low-income students and foster youth would receive supplemental grants for each student in one of those categories. Students in more than one category would only be counted once. Those school districts in which more than half of students are disadvantaged would receive additional “concentration grants,” which Brown said would amount to 4 cents for every dollar spent on education.
Senate Democrats recently unveiled their own proposal, which would eliminate the concentration grants and spread them to all districts to increase the base and supplemental grants. They want to wait a year before implementing it in 2014-15.
State lawmakers will almost certainly come back with another proposal in response to the governor’s May revise, said Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, who heads the budget subcommittee on education finance.
Still, she said Tuesday, “I believe it will be an alternative that will reflect the spirit and the principles the governor has put forward.”
Next week, lawmakers expect to hear from school officials from around the state about the governor’s plan and what it would mean to implement it in the coming school year, as he proposes.
“This is the critical week,” Bonilla said, “when we need to find out: Is the governor’s time line a possibility or not?”
Brown’s budget summary is available by visiting www.ebudget.ca.gov/FullBudgetSummary.pdf.
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