The Assembly has produced its own version of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula, further complicating the governor’s goal of passing school finance reform as part of the new state budget by July 1.
Taking the form of a one-page set of principles that the Assembly Budget Committee’s subcommittee on education finance approved on Thursday, with one Republican not voting (Brian Nestande, R-Palm Desert), it endorses the basics of Brown’s LCFF while suggesting complex variations to key aspects of it. The full Budget Committee is expected to adopt it Tuesday, sending it to conference committee where it must be melded with the Senate’s alternative to LCFF and negotiated with Brown.
Brown’s aim is to create a more equitable and uniform school funding system by directing more money to high-needs students. The Assembly’s version agrees, but it also responds to complaints by suburban districts they they’ve been treated unfairly and by some districts with pockets of poverty that argue their high-needs students are being shortchanged.
“We’re taking the pragmatic view, with limited dollars, of wanting to meet needs of all students but recognize at same time, that the equity issue is important,” said Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, whose budget subcommittee on education finance held hearings on the LCFF and Brown’s education spending plan this week.
When fully implemented over seven years, Brown’s plan would have three basic elements: base funding, averaging about $6,800 for every student; a 35 percent supplement for every low-income student, foster youth and English learner; and a graduated concentration grant for those districts where high-need students comprise at least a majority of students.
The Senate version would eliminate the concentration grant and instead raise the base and supplemental amounts.
The Assembly would keep Brown’s three components, but percentages for the supplemental and concentration grants would be smaller. How much won’t be known for a week, as staff run through various scenarios, Bonilla said. Several factors are at play:
- The base would increase by adding back money for former categorical programs that are “fixed costs” that every district, rich or poor, face. The document of principles singles out instructional materials, staff training and building maintenance, but other programs viewed as essential might be added back, too. The plan doesn’t say whether the add-ons would be inflation-adjusted annually, as the base amount would be.
In determining a district’s extra money for disadvantaged children, Brown uses “unduplicated” counts of targeted children. Children who are English learners and also poor (most are) or who are foster youth and also poor (all are) would receive one grant of 35 percent extra. Under the Assembly plan, using “duplicated” counts, students would get extra for each category. Bonilla said this change could provide more money to those schools with large numbers of high-needs students within well-off districts that wouldn’t qualify for concentration grants. A switch to duplicated counts could have significant impacts on Brown’s formula.
- Districts without many high-needs students, not qualifying for extra money, would at least get back to where they were in 2007-08, inflated adjusted, including a 20 percent cut in categorical programs. This is called the “economic recovery target.” Specifics aren’t out yet, but this apparently is a parallel option to the LCFF for suburban districts.
Other features of the Assembly plan:
- The state would set an aspirational goal of achieving at least the national average in per student spending. Even with the passage of Proposition 30 and added revenue from a rebounding economy, California would fall about $10 billion short of this target after full implementation of the LCFF, according to Bonilla. Erasing would this deficit in base funding for all students would guide state policy in subsequent years.
- Like the Senate’s plan, the Assembly principles would preserve categorical funding, with spending requirements, for adult education, some career and technical education programs and county spending for foster youth.
- More money for child care and health care poor children outside of Proposition 98 would be restored – a priority of Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles. Funding for these programs through CalWORKS have been substantially cut over the past five years. “We need to address needs of whole child,” Bonilla said. “There needs to be consistency across the state budget.” The Assembly is using the Legislative Analyst’s estimates for 2013-14, which assume more revenue than Brown’s budget.
- Like Brown’s budget, the Assembly would preserve $1.3 billion in funding for two highly criticized categorical programs: former desegregation dollars known as the Targeted Instruction Improvement Grant and Home to School Transportation.
- The Assembly proposes a more collaborative approach to holding districts accountable for spending the extra dollars for high-needs children. Bonilla is proposing to spend $10 million annually to create a statewide plan for helping districts improve academic performance of disadvantaged students. Brown’s plan in the May revision would impose layers of sanctions for those districts whose students fail to meet state academic targets two out of three years.
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