School districts gain flexibility in governor’s budget proposal
by Mariko Lamb
May 24, 2013 | 3157 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
State Sen. Marty Block
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Big changes may be afoot for school districts if Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed 2013-14 budget comes to fruition.

For the first time since fiscal year 2008-09, California students will see increases instead of decreases in school, college and university funding.

“We have more work ahead of us before California classrooms are made whole, but the governor’s budget plan offers a substantial down payment on what our students are owed and what the voters wanted to make right by approving Proposition 30,” said Sen. Marty Block during a town hall meeting at University City High School in April.

Of the governor’s nearly $100 billion allotted for general fund expenditures, the budget proposes more than $50 billion for K-12 education, a five percent increase over last year.

The most substantial change in the budget proposal for K-12 education is the shift in control of school finances from the state to the local level through a new local control funding formula.

“The local funding formula will do two things: it will give more money to districts that have a high percentage of low-income students and English-learner students, and San Diego Unified is one of those districts that will benefit,” said Block. “It will also then give each district more flexibility in terms of how to spend the money.”

Under the formula, each district will receive a base grant that varies by grade span. Supplemental grants will be generated for students who are English learners, eligible for free or reduced-price meals or in foster care, and concentration grants will be provided for districts with high concentrations of these special needs.

While San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) may benefit using the formula because of its high concentration of low-income and English language learner students, California school districts with fewer low-income or special needs will receive less funding.

“Our board passed a resolution very strongly in favor of this,” said SDUSD president John Lee Evans at the town hall.

In San Diego Unified, one-quarter of the district’s students are English-language learners and a whopping two-thirds live at or below the poverty level, he said.

“The governor made it very clear that the needs of the schools in Compton are not equal to the needs of the schools in Beverly Hills, so we really need to make these adjustments on the statewide level,” he said.

To hold the districts accountable, each California school district, direct-funded charter school and county office of education would be required to establish a local control and accountability plan that aligns with the entity’s annual budget and spending plan. The plans must identify how state funding received through the new formula will be used to improve student achievement, graduation rates, college and career readiness and other conditions.

To shed light on what San Diego Unified’s plan might look like, Evans highlighted the district’s “Vision 2020” plan, which outlines several long-term goals the district hopes to achieve.

“While we were facing the budget crisis starting in 2009, we said we’re still going to make a long-term plan. We really need to have a vision with this district in spite of these problems. Otherwise, we’re just going to be patching our way ahead from one year to the next without making any real changes,” he said.

The long-range goals include finding better ways to test student achievement that go beyond state test scores, establishing a bottom-up approach for decision-making in the district, making teaching more effective in the classroom, finding ways to better engage parents, and ensuring each neighborhood houses a quality school.

As Brown’s budget proposal moves forward, Evans said he will keep a keen eye on the intricacies of the proposal to ensure all students have the best opportunity for a bright future.

“The devil’s in the details, so we’ll watch very closely how that proceeds,” he said.

The deadline for final legislative action on the budget is June 15, and the budget will take effect on July 1.

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