The state Senate-Assembly Budget Conference Committee adopted a compromise proposal for the Local Control Funding Formula portion of the education budget Monday.
The compromise came after the California School Finance Reform Coalition took issue with the way that grants were distributed among school districts, particularly the fact that districts with a higher concentration of English language learners and low-income students would receive additional money.
The Coalition, of which the Newhall and William S. Hart Union High school districts are part, believed that money should be distributed per child and not based on percentage per district, said Newhall School District Superintendent Marc Winger.
“From the beginning we agreed with the concept of a weighted student formula that recognized the greater cost of educating English Language Learners and kids who come from poverty backgrounds,” he said.
But, the governor’s formula would allocate more money for schools in districts like the Los Angeles Unified and Santa Ana Unified school districts, but Santa Clarita Valley schools would not receive as much because they do not have a concentrated population of low-income and ELL students, Winger said.
Now a compromise has been reached. The concentration grant remains part of the funding formula, awarding additional funds to districts with 55 percent or higher English language learners and low income students. Several other increases have been added that would benefit suburban schools, like those in districts across the Santa Clarita Valley.
The base grant per student has been raised by $537, in addition to funding to help bring schools back to their “2007-2008” state funding levels.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson praised the budget and its efforts to restore education funding that was lost during the recession.
“This budget puts California where it belongs: leading the way in the drive to bring the Common Core State Standards to life in our classrooms and prepare students to contribute to our state’s future,” he said. “Dedicating more than $1 billion to training teachers, buying new materials, and investing in technology will help ensure that all children, no matter where they come from or what school they attend, receive the kind of world-class education they deserve… While it will take years to replace the resources our schools have lost, I’m grateful that this budget marks a substantial start in the recovery of our education system.”
Winger agreed with the efforts to restore pre-recession funding, but still expressed concerns.
“We appreciate the increase to our base income that starts to make up for the losses we experienced in the last six years. It’s not a huge amount, but it’s a down payment to recovery,” he said. “We still have concerns about the distribution formula for funds to address the needs of ELL and poor students. The special concentration amounts that large urban and rural districts will be getting, because they are more impacted than we are, takes funds away from our high-need students.”
The state Legislature is expected to pass the budget on June 15 if everything goes according to plan, said Hart District Spokeswoman Gail Pinsker.