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It’s All About the Benjamins

Jerry BrownAs reported in EdSource, state Democratic senators have proposed an alternative to Governor Jerry Brown’s local control funding formula. If you are not familiar with Governor Brown’s proposal, you are not alone. Last year, Governor Brown attempted a similar plan that did not gain any traction. Since the passing of Proposition 30 however, it seems that funding is looking like it is going to increase in the future. Now stay with me for a minute as I try to explain a few things.

Governor Brown’s proposal would essentially simplify and localize how districts receive and spend money. There will no longer be categorical programs in which funding is designated for specific uses. Brown is proposing a new financing system as money is freed up due to increased revenues from an improving state economy, and debts the state owes to public schools are paid off. His plan would also give additional funds to school districts that have the added challenges of teaching students who come from low socio-economic backgrounds and schools with a majority of students who are English Learners. In addition, districts can apply for a concentration grant to target those disadvantaged students. There would also be annual funding increases with full funding in 2019-20.

The state Democratic senators support the principles of Brown’s plan. However, they take issue with the extra funds that targets “disadvantaged” schools. They are leaning towards taking that money and raising base funding with it. The senators’ plan appeals towards suburban districts with fewer high-need students. They say that the base amount is too low and that the additional funds would go to too many school districts.

Currently, San Jose Unified is given $7,424 per student. After full implementation of Brown’s plan, San Jose Unified would receive $10,597 per student. Under the status quo, we would technically see more money — $11,458 per student. This, however, would come with the categorical funding, and SJUSD would not be able to apply for the supplementary grant that Brown proposes. Many inner-city districts fear that getting rid of the grant and keeping the status quo would not meet all of the needs of their target students.

The senate bill would also add “accountability measures” to the concentration grant application process and would allow the state to intervene and support districts that fail to achieve state goals. Districts would receive spending restrictions if they do not show academic progress for target subgroups of students.

In the end, it is important that the state is looking to fund schools in a fairer, more equitable, and simpler way. Never has attention been paid to districts and schools that face the tremendous challenges of having a large number of students that come low socio-economic backgrounds and students who are English Learners. As classroom teachers, we know it is vital to look out for those students and be an advocate for them. Let’s hope that our governor and senators get something right and we see the results in our classrooms.

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