Gov. Jerry Brown emphatically vowed Wednesday “to fight with everything I have and whatever we have to bring to bear” for passage this year of his school finance reform, as proposed.
Back from a trip to China and re-engaged on a priority issue, Brown spoke at a news conference a day after Senate Democrats announced they would propose a bill that would delay action on the governor’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) for a year and would eliminate one of its chief features, providing a “concentration grant” for districts with high percentages English learners and low-income children.
“We will go for the full program and fight any effort to dilute” the proposal, Brown said. “Kids cannot wait; superintendents and thousands of people will work to see passage of our bill.”
Standing with Brown were 20 superintendents whom the governor had summoned to Sacramento to voice their support. Some then testified at a hearing on Brown’s proposal before the Assembly Education Committee.
Brown’s plan would invest an extra 35 percent in per student funding for every low-income student and English learner, with a concentration bonus in districts where high-needs students comprise a majority.
Brown said the concentration grant would put “a relatively small amount of money into high concentrations of poverty,” where it will have powerful effect.
Brown characterized LCFF as a civil rights issue that deals with “the fact of life that there are deep inequities from Oregon to the Mexican border.” In California, he said, 60 percent of children are poor and 23 percent speak a language other than English at home. “People who know best,” he said referring to the superintendents, “are confronting the challenges of a two-tier society.”
“I fully support the new formula. I deeply believe this brings equity long overdue to the state,” said Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy, who added that failing to take action this year would be “intolerable.”
“Equity delayed is equity denied,” he said.
Sacramento City Unified Superintendent Jonathan Raymond praised Brown for having the courage to “change the status quo and change it now.” He said it would be “criminal” and “intolerable” to delay passage.
Without naming names, Brown castigated consultants and groups in Sacramento he said are trying to thwart change from the current system, with its dozens of earmarked programs that have spending restrictions and regulations that the LCFF would eliminate. They “make money scaring people to keep categorical complexities to keep their employees and profits,” Brown said.
Brown did not say that he wouldn’t agree to changes to the LCFF, and his adviser, Karen Staph Walters, who is also the executive director of the State Board of Education, promised “to sit down with colleagues in the Senate and work together” on the proposal.
Brown is expected to include amendments to the LCFF in the May budget revision; neither he nor his advisers would say what those might be.