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California Democrats Offer Alternative to State Education Funding

by Michael Higham, published

Jerry Brown Education CaliforniaTalks about how California will fund its K-12 public schools in the near future have heated up fast. Governor Brown's local control funding formula (LCFF) has been covered extensively and public opinion has been continually polled. Now Senate Democrats are gearing up to propose an alternative funding option.

(Learn more about the local control funding formula (LCFF) here)

Senate Bill 69 would offer a similar, but different approach to education funding. Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) announced that the Budget and Education Committee agrees with the fundamental idea of the LCFF -- provide more funding for districts with low-income and english-learning students.

Extra funding for disadvantaged students would be provided through the supplemental grant. This amount would be determined by adding 35 percent of per-pupil funds given through the base grant for every disadvantaged student enrolled in the district.

However, the main change would be the elimination of concentration grants from the upcoming budget. Those funds would instead be used to increase amounts given to school districts in base grants.

Concentration grants are additional funds for districts that have over 50 percent of its student population as disadvantaged. The Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) projects that $2.5 billion is at stake with concentration grants.

The Senate bill would give the state more accountability. Districts must show that progress is being made for struggling demographics. If not, the state could intervene with the district and place funding sanctions.

Opponents of the LCFF may find the Senate Democrats' bill a solid middle ground. The main concern is too much emphasis in state funding is placed on underperforming districts, leaving well-off districts with less resources. Opponents have also called for higher base grants, which SB 69 provides.

With a Democratic majority in both state houses, some form of extra funding for districts with many disadvantaged students is expected.

On Wednesday, 20 superintendents from around California joined Gov. Brown in Sacramento to support LCFF and his current budget proposal. Superintendents John Deasy of Los Angeles Unified and Bill Kowba of San Diego Unified were among those alongside Gov. Brown.

Although party colleagues are hoping to modify the governor's proposals, Brown appears unwavering in advocating his current plan. He stated at Wednesday's press conference:

"This is not an ordinary legislative measure, this is a cause. It’s a cause for the children of California, and it’s a cause for our own future as Californians."

The Sacramento Bee reports Brown is willing to negotiate, but stated that he'll "fight any effort to dilute the bill." California has a history of budget delay and despite a governorship, senate, and assembly sharing the same party title, the way in which public schools are funded may complicate the current budget process.

The official bill is expected to be released Thursday. An update on Progress Report will follow.

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