Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill that would have created a task force to explore options for school finance reform, thus ensuring that his own weighted student formula won’t be drowned out in a marketplace of ideas when the Legislature convenes in January.

AB 18 veto message (click to enlarge).

AB 18 veto message (click to enlarge).

“I agree that California’s complex school finance laws need urgent attention. Creating a task force, however, may actually delay action on reforms,” Brown wrote in a terse message. “Rather than create a task force, let’s work together and craft a fair Weighted Student Formula.”

If, by that, Brown is signaling that he’s willing to involve the Legislature in designing a more equitable and simpler funding system, that message will be well received in the Capitol.

Last year, Brown irritated legislators by trying to pass finance reform as part of the state budget, bypassing the normal process of vetting plans through policy committees, with public hearings. School trustees in many districts didn’t understand the impact of Brown’s formula, which would have shifted thousands of dollars of per-student spending toward those districts with the highest proportions of English learners and low-income children by the time the new system was fully phased in.

Legislators balked at passing the formula, and AB 18 reflected the view that they wanted a bigger stake in the process. The bill, sponsored by Santa Monica Democrat and then-chair of the Assembly Education Committee Julia Brownley, would have created a 21-person task force to study ideas for finance reform, not just a weighted student formula, and make recommendations to the Legislature by April 1. To try to accommodate Brown, the governor would have named 10 of the 21 task force members.

As I wrote earlier this week, the final version of AB 18 was Brownley’s effort to salvage something from her ambitious attempt, as chair of the Assembly Education Committee, to do her own version of finance reform. Her proposal also would have directed more money to disadvantaged children, but she never got far enough along before Brown introduced his proposal in January. All attention then turned to Brown’s proposal.

Brown rarely gives any hint of whether he’ll sign or veto a bill before he does it. But in this case, State Board of Education President Michael Kirst and the executive director of the State Board, Sue Burr, both indicated in May that the governor viewed AB 18 as meddlesome.

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