Often overlooked in the debate about California’s new school funding plan is the discussion of local spending control. The state provides funding for specific K-12 programs, known as categorical grants. With the similar, but competing, proposals from Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Senate, categorical grants are to be eliminated.
Categorical grants can range from providing safety and mentoring to physical education and performing arts. The new funding proposals give local school districts the option to continue funding these programs. Districts will be able to spend their money as they see fit, and certain programs may not be in the picture.
To replace categorical grants, new school funding plans create a formula to allocate higher portions to districts with a higher population of English learning and low-income students.
California would operate on the principle that local districts know what’s best for its students. The governor also states, “there is broad consensus that the current system of school finance is inequitable.”
The current budget proposal argues that disadvantaged students will experience a better allocation of resources:
“Even before the substantial reductions to revenue limits and categorical programs that began in 2008-09, the distribution of resources between schools differed substantially. Generally, schools with relatively higher proportions of English learners and student from low-income families had lower revenue limits and relied more heavily on state aid, including categorical funds.”
The Sacramento Bee recently illustrated the predicament CalSAFE is in with regards to funding. The California School Age Families Education program aids teenage parents to get through high school or a GED program. While CalSAFE is currently state-mandated, its funding is still under flexible apportionment, and those with CalSAFE have said its already been impacted.
CalSAFE received $46.4 million in 2012-13 from the state. Total categorical funds from the current fiscal year was at $6 billion. Music and arts received $88 million, middle and high school counseling received $167 million, and school libraries received $370 million, all in categorical funds for the year.
The California budget is a hot topic, the state government has until June 15 to pass a plan. California Democrats may face harsh criticism if the deadline is not met since it has a supermajority in the Legislature.