Democratic senators offer alternative to Brown's funding formula

Democratic leaders of the state Senate want to delay Gov. Brown’s sweeping plan for changing how schools are funded by a year and will recommend significant changes to it in a bill that they will reveal on Thursday.

In a news release Tuesday, Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg and chairs of the Senate Budget and Education Committees stated they agree with the “fundamental goals and concepts” behind Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula.

But the forthcoming Senate Bill 69 will include measures to make districts more accountable for the extra spending on low-income students and English learners that the proposal will provide. It will also eliminate a key feature of the formula: bonus dollars awarded to districts in which high-needs students constitute a majority, on the grounds that high concentrations of poverty present additional challenges.

Under Brown’s formula, all students would receive a base grant that restores most of the money that districts have lost since 2007-08. In addition, districts would receive an additional 35 percent – about $2,375  – for every English learner or low-income child. The concentration grant would be phased in on top of that. For districts with only high-needs students, it would provide an extra 18 percent: $1,120 per child – a significant boost for urban districts like Fresno, Santa Ana and Long Beach.

SB 69 would redirect the money for the concentration grant – about $2.5 billion, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office – to increase the base funding and the supplemental 35 percent grant, although specifics weren’t disclosed. Senators said they want to insure that all districts have spending restored to pre-recession levels.

That approach responds to critics in suburban districts with few high-needs students who say the base amount would be too low (see accompanying piece) and the concentration grant would apply to too many districts.

However, Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, an Oakland-based advocacy group that supports Brown’s plan, said that research on the struggles of children in high-poverty schools justifies a concentration grant. “The loss of a concentration factor would be a concern,” Lempert said. “There would have to be a strong rationale for that to go away.”

At the same time, Lempert said, he is encouraged that Senate Democrats are endorsing Brown’s overall plan. “It shows how far we have come; last year, it (Brown’s proposal) was not taken seriously.”

While “appreciating that the Senate is now engaged,” Lempert said he wants negotiations to continue and the plan to be adopted without a year’s delay.

Brown would give local districts more control over how state money would be spent; he would eliminate most state-directed programs called categoricals. However, districts would have to direct supplemental money to high-needs students and write a plan, subject to public hearings and a review by the county office of education, detailing how outcomes for those students would be improved.

SB 69 would add teeth to the accountability measures. It would give the state the authority “to intervene and support” districts failing to achieve state goals; districts could have spending restrictions reimposed if there’s no academic progress for subgroups of students, according to the news release.

Along with Steinberg, co-authors of SB 69 will be Carol Liu, chair of the Senate Education Committee; Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, chair of the Senate Budget Committee; Marty Block, D-San Diego, chair of Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education; Democratic Caucus chairman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo; Latino Legislative Caucus chairman Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach; Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; Bill Monning, D-San Luis Obispo; and Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles.

Filed under: Local Control Funding Formula, School Finance

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7 Responses to “Democratic senators offer alternative to Brown's funding formula”

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  1. Rob Manwaring on Apr 24, 2013 at 1:16 pm04/24/2013 1:16 pm

    • 000

    The suggestion of a school level concentration factor continues to come up. And it might be appealing if it did not create a horrible incentive to further segregate our schools and to end school choice programs like those in San Francisco that offer greater choice to low income students. Basically, under a school site concentration system, a district could make more money if it consolidates its low income students into some of its schools and keep all of the middle class students in other schools. This may not happen all at once, but next time a district is redrawing its attendance boundaries it is difficult to believe that this fiscal benefit of segregation would not play a role. This would clearly be a step in the wrong direction.


    • navigio on Apr 24, 2013 at 1:37 pm04/24/2013 1:37 pm

      • 000

      FWIW, this incentive already exists. Not only does title 1 kick in at a specific threshold, but the distinction between school-wide and targeted programs is also based on a threshold. Regardless, there are myriad other ‘incentives’ that are working to re-segragate our schools; school ‘choice’ and human nature among them. The idea of school concentrations is that a district level policy could impact a 95% f&r school in exactly the same way it impacts a 5% f&r school. That also makes little sense, unless of course the goal is to usurp those funds for general education uses…

    • Paul Muench on Apr 24, 2013 at 7:34 pm04/24/2013 7:34 pm

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      If this idea really works any impact of district action will ne negligible. Parents will do the segregating way before any beuaracracy can act.

  2. Jeannette Webber on Apr 24, 2013 at 12:52 pm04/24/2013 12:52 pm

    • 000

    I think it is imperative that the Governor and the legislators review accurate and current COMPLETE income for all districts before making these decisions. Many districts, including LAUSD, which hosts many, many ELL students and those receiving free/reduced meals, already receive, more money through categorical spending and programs than they do through base revenue limits. It is irresponsible to the educational system, to taxpayers and indeed all stakeholders, to allocate additional funds without adequately reviewing the efficacy of the funds. Why do low wealth districts, in some cases, have strong academic results? It is not only because the students have three squares and some parents can afford tutors, nor only because teachers choose to work here. Additionally, parents get connected to school and students, parents send their kids to school with high regularity and parents attend school events and teacher conferences. Parents believe, and tell their children, that formal education matters. Model some successful academic behaviors–and follow that up with money, not just feel good qualifications. Please look at TOTAL state and federal dollars!

  3. Paul on Apr 23, 2013 at 11:05 pm04/23/2013 11:05 pm

    • 000

    Another year’s delay for the new funding formula…sigh.

    Regarding the sidebar, “CSBA’s price of support: another $5 billion in funding”, perhaps the CSBA will discontinue its “how to lay off teachers” seminar series if it wins the extra money. The CSBA endorses temporary teachers, blanket non-reelection, and layoffs. It’s an organization that cares more about keeping teachers’ salaries low and consolidating management’s power over teachers than about increasing educational quality.

  4. navigio on Apr 23, 2013 at 9:17 pm04/23/2013 9:17 pm

    • 000

    districts could have spending restrictions re-imposed if there’s no academic progress for subgroups of students, according to the news release.

    eek. I wonder if the bill will define the targets, or whether it will be left to the districts to define success.

  5. Paul Muench on Apr 23, 2013 at 7:01 pm04/23/2013 7:01 pm

    • 000

    I’ve moaned enough about the concentration factor being district based that I have to speak up and say I’m glad to see an alternative plan. I think a school based concentration factor would be a compromise, but still glad to see this alternate approach.

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