School districts gain flexibility in governor’s budget proposal
by Mariko Lamb
May 29, 2013 | 3521 views | 0 0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Big changes may be afoot for school districts if Gov. 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 recently.

Of the governor’s nearly $100 billion allotted for general fund expenditures, the budget proposes more than $50 billion for K-12 education, a 5 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 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.

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 will be used to improve student achievement, graduation rates, college and career readiness and other conditions.

The long-range goals include finding better ways to test student achievement that go beyond state test scores, establishing a bottom-up approach for district decision-making, 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.

“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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