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California School Fiscal Services

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Push underway to increase California school funding by billions

Posted on May 22, 2018 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (3743)

"Brown defined full funding as the point at which every district would be restored to the pre-recession funding level of 2007-08, plus inflation."

2007-08 levels restored by 2018-19....it's truly a sad state of affairs for public education funding.  If only this message was commonly understood in California

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By the time he leaves office early next year, Gov. Jerry Brown will have achieved his goal of “full funding” for his signature school financing law, the 2013 Local Control Funding Formula.

 

But rather than hang a banner and declare victory, legislators and education advocates who support Brown’s funding formula are ready to set the next target: an aspirational goal of committing more than $35 billion in new K-12 dollars to the funding formula — enough to raise California’s current per-student spending of $11,149 by about $6,500. That would potentially place California among the top 10 states in the nation.

 

Assembly Bill 2808, authored by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, avoids a hard choice: It does not include a funding source to accelerate education spending. Since future governors and Legislatures will ultimately decide the size of their state budgets, the bill cannot dictate how soon the state will reach the $35 billion target. It’s a recommendation: Give K-12 schools significantly more money and direct the bulk of it to the funding formula, which covers more than 80 percent of running a school district, from teacher salaries to roof repairs and pension costs.

 

The point of AB 2808 is to shift the conversation from the previous definition of a fully funded formula to the aspiration of “fair and full funding for all schools, regardless of where you live,” Muratsuchi said. The bill received unanimous approval in the Assembly Education Committee and is now awaiting action by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. It has the support of groups representing teachers, school boards, parents and school district administrators.

 

The Legislature passed the funding formula in 2013, when the state was emerging from the Great Recession with about a 15 percent cut in K-12 funding. Brown set an 8-year goal of shifting to the new financing system in which districts would receive the same base funding per student, with additional money, called concentration and supplemental grants, tied to the numbers of low-income students, English learners and foster and migrant children they enroll.

 

Brown defined full funding as the point at which every district would be restored to the pre-recession funding level of 2007-08, plus inflation. The California Department of Finance predicted it would take eight years, until 2020-21, to reach that point. But, due to surging revenue, particularly in the first years of the formula, Brown is budgeting to reach full funding in 2018-19, two years early. Districts with large proportions of students targeted under the formula already receive more than the full-funding minimum. Some are receiving $2,000 or more per student than districts with low percentages of “high-needs” students.

 

Support for AB 2808 reflects a consensus that the formula’s base funding, which is supposed to cover basic costs of doing business, isn’t enough. A year after they passed the funding formula, the Legislature passed a 30-year plan to cover a massive unfunded pension liability for public employees, including teachers and hourly school employees. That expense, plus rising costs of special education that legislators didn’t foresee in 2013, have consumed a large portion of school districts’ base costs.

 

The result has been, for many districts, deficit spending and encroaching on supplemental and concentration money that is supposed to be spent on extra programs and services for high-needs students.

 

“The base is anemic in terms of adequate school funding. Districts will find a rationale to keep doors open, and that is not good for poor children” who could get short-changed money intended for them, said Kevin Gordon, president of Capitol Advisors Group, an education consulting company based in Sacramento.

 

The funding law is silent as to what happens once the 2013 full-funding target is reached. Change the formula? Continue to freeze funding at the current level, plus inflation? Return to the old way, before the funding formula, and fund specific “categorical” programs that dictate how districts should use the money, whether for computer coding classes, mental health counselors, technology or whatever legislators decide is important?

 

Muratsuchi’s bill sends the message to stay the course, let school boards continue to determine their own spending decisions under local control and don’t change the funding formula itself — just increase the amount.

 

A top-10 funding state, in theory

Drafters of the bill set a target of raising base funding by $35 billion — 60 percent — which they calculated is needed to raise the base to the national average in per-student spending. That comes with caveats, however.

 

There are several methods to rank states’ student spending, as an EdSource explainer and an analysis of AB 2808 by Rick Pratt, chief consultant for the Assembly Education Committee, noted. Drafters of the bill chose Education Week’s index, which factors in regional costs of living. By that measure, California’s adjusted total per-student spending of $8,694 was $3,462 below the national average of $12,152; California ranked 45th among states and Washington, D.C.

State comparisons are several years old. The most recent EdWeek comparison, done in January 2017, was for the 2014-15 school year. Other states will probably increase their spending, too, raising the national average by the time California spends $35 billion more.

There is no target date for reaching the national average, and this Legislature couldn’t dictate what future governors and lawmakers will do anyway. Minimum K-12 and community college funding is determined by Proposition 98, a formula that factors in the annual growth in state revenue and per-capita income. School funding has increased an average of about 3 percent per year over the past 30 years, according to the Assembly Appropriations Committee analysis of the bill. Without new taxes, such as an initiative to raise taxes on commercial property — headed for the 2020 ballot — or reshuffling of state priorities, it could take more than a decade for the base funding under the funding formula to reach EdWeek’s 2014-15 national average.

But base spending for the funding formula makes up only 71 percent of total K-12 state funding. The rest includes supplemental and concentration grants under the formula, about 19 percent of the total. Supplemental and concentration grants are calculated as a percentage of base funding. So raising the base by 60 percent would require raising supplemental and concentration funding by the same proportion. Other programs, including the state contribution to special education, make up the final 10 percent.

Next year, under Brown’s budget for full funding, the base grant would average $8,300 per student, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

 

With a 60 percent increase, as called for in the bill, that amount would rise to $13,300 per student.

 

Raising the total funding formula, including supplemental and concentration grants, by 60 percent would increase spending to $15,900 per student.

 

Even if spending for the remaining K-12 programs not included in the funding formula, like the state contribution to special education, were frozen at current levels — a very unlikely scenario — total per-student spending would rise to a minimum $17,600 per student, according to the LAO. California would then be among the top 10 states in per-student spending, according to Pratt’s analysis.

 

Supporters aren’t citing these daunting numbers. Instead, they’re making the overall point that “full funding” under the current law is still inadequate funding.

 

“The educators who work with students day in and day out fully support AB 2808, a long-term funding mechanism to bring increased educational funding in California to a level our students need and deserve,” Claudia Briggs, a spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association, wrote in an email. Along with the CTA and the state PTA, associations representing school administrators, business officers and school boards also back the bill,

 

Based on conversations with the Department of Finance, Muratsuchi said he is “optimistic” that Brown would sign the bill. Doing so would ensure that Brown’s landmark law remains the top funding priority after he retires, he said.

John Fensterwald

EdSource

California schools: Painful cuts around the corner, despite windfall

Posted on January 20, 2018 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (3564)

By SHARON NOGUCHI | [email protected] 


Despite an unexpected $3 billion infusion in K-12 revenue for the coming year, schools throughout the state are honing their electronic blue pencils to slash budgets.


Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to boost school funding to $56.7 billion “is not likely to be enough to mitigate any of the other crises districts are facing,” said Mary Ann Dewan, interim superintendent of the Santa Clara County Office of Education.


In San Jose, the Oak Grove School District still plans to close three or four elementary schools in the fall. The East Side Union High School District board resolved to eliminate 66 jobs over two years. And Oakland Unified isn’t reversing the $9 million in painful cuts for this school year — although state funds could soften $11.2 million in trims laid out for next year.


As they cut spending, school officials will face a tough sell to constituents wondering what happened to the new “extra” cash — especially when the combination of federal, state and local funds for K-12 are expected to total a record $95.6 billion in the next fiscal year, a 2.5 percent increase. That comes to $16,085 per pupil.


Of the $3 billion excess designated for schools, half is for cost-of-living increases and the other half simply completes a 2013 promise two years early — to restore schools’ pre-recession purchasing power. For a decade, schools have been struggling to catch up to where they were in 2007-’08.


Meanwhile, costs of benefits, salaries and operations have escalated. Under a deal to help keep the state retirement systems afloat, school districts must devote a greater chunk to pensions — 16.3 percent of teacher payroll next year and likely a similar percentage for support-staff pensions.


In recent years, many districts granted employees generous raises to make up for recession-era frugality. Some like Oak Grove are being squeezed by declining enrollment, forcing state revenue to plummet faster than the districts can reduce costs.


Brown’s proposal “only takes care of the problem for one year,” wrote Rose Ramos, chief business officer of the Mount Diablo Unified School District in Concord.


As they take up next school year’s budgets, districts like East Side Union could choose not to lay off as many employees, Superintendent Chris Funk said, but “all that does is kick the can down the road a year or two.”


If the budget that emerges in June follows Brown’s proposal, “It will help us just a little bit now,” said Jeff Bowman of the Cupertino Union School District, which faces cutting $5 million in 2018-’19, after trimming $2.6 million last spring. “We’re still behind.”


Cupertino doesn’t receive nearly as much state aid as other districts. Under Brown’s 2013 reform — dubbed the Local Control Funding Formula — schools that have a higher number of harder-to-educate students receive more funds. Ravenswood in East Palo Alto and Alum Rock in San Jose are among the top recipients in the state in aid per student. At the bottom are those in wealthy enclaves with few poor and English-learner students: San Ramon Valley Unified, Walnut Creek Elementary, Belmont-Redwood Shores, Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda in Contra Costa County.


Under Brown’s plan, San Ramon would receive an additional $8 million in ongoing funds and $9 million in one-time funds, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Graswich.


While she welcomed the governor’s budget, she said it was too early for the district to provide any details of how the extra funds might be used.


School officials also will have to explain how the annual increases that schools enjoyed in recent years are about to disappear, now that Brown has achieved the goals of his Local Control Funding Formula.


That was his legacy, said Ron Bennett, CEO of School Services of California. “I think he wanted to make sure it was fully implemented before he left office.” Bennett’s firm offers fiscal advice to most of California’s 1,000 school districts.


But masked by the state’s $6.1 billion projected surplus and the fat boost in education funding in Brown’s last year in office, Bennett said, the governor failed to restore education spending to the premiere status it held in his youth.


“I’m disappointed that absolutely nothing has been done to move California back on par with higher-spending states,” Bennett said.


While high spending doesn’t guarantee high achievement, Bennett points out parallels between low spending and low achievement. California is about 45th among states in per-pupil education spending, he noted, and at a similar level in achievement on standardized tests.


Measured by ratios of students to teachers, administrators, librarians, counselors and psychologists, he said. “California is a high-tax state,” he said, “with a low commitment to public education.”


But pointing that out to the public is a hard sell, as is explaining that a school district is cash-poor because of its demographics. “Overall, it is very confusing for families,” Bowman said. “It’s confusing for the educators who live it every day.”



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