Governor Brown has proposed a new funding system—known as a weighted pupil formula—that would direct more revenue to California school districts serving many economically disadvantaged students. This report examines the relationship between funding and student disadvantage and addresses questions about converting the current school finance system to a weighted pupil formula.
With a caustic critique of excessive testing and overregulation and a fervent call for respecting the “dignity and freedom of teachers and students,” Gov. Jerry Brown laid out the case for returning primary control of education to local hands and distributing state money equitably in his State of the State address.
Brown used the 20-minute speech on Thursday to call on the Legislature to adopt his Local Control Funding Formula, which would phase in substantially more money for low-income students and those struggling to speak English proficiently. This is needed, he said, in order to help districts “based on the real world problems they face.”
Gov. Jerry Brown uttered more than 3,000 words in just under 25 minutes Thursday, telling the Legislature – and 38 million other Californians – that the state is in good shape, getting better every day and can look forward to a bright future.
“Two years ago,” Brown concluded his State of the State speech, “they were writing our obituary. Well, it didn’t happen. California is back, its budget is balanced, and we are on the move. Let’s go out and get it done.”
And what would “it” be?
Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal is perplexing advocates of foster youth, who are worrying that these children could be left behind in the governor’s push to overhaul the state’s school finance system.
Under the governor’s proposed “local control funding formula,” districts would get at least 35 percent more dollars – more than $2,000 per child – for educating their share of the state’s English learners, low-income children, and the approximately 42,000 school-age foster students. Districts would have to account for their use of the funds to their local community.
Gov. Jerry Brown hasn’t yet presented the substance of his plan to reform K-12 school finance, but already he’s in a disagreement with the Legislature over its form.
Brown’s position that his Local Control Funding Formula will be included as part of the state budget is meeting resistance from legislative leaders, who see this as an end-run around a full public process that’s required for significant policy changes. They’re insisting that Brown submit a bill that would go through policy-making committees, likely the Assembly and Senate Education Committees.
Former Catholic seminarian Jerry Brown is prone to including obscure theological references in his political pronouncements, often embellishing them with Latin phrases.
So last week, when presenting a new state budget proposal, he used the word “subsidiarity” to describe his intention to continue shifting responsibilities for policymaking from Sacramento to locally elected officials.
By Peter Schrag
Reforming California’s convoluted school finance system – what former Sen. Joe Simitian called the Winchester Mystery House of school funding – has become one of the issues du jour in Sacramento. This spring we’ll find out how easy it is to pick at it (again) and how hard it is to really restructure it.
Part of the difficulty is that we don’t really know how much it costs to adequately educate each of the 6 million students in the great mix of kids in California’s schools.
Nor can we agree on what we want of our schools – can’t agree about testing, about homework, about teaching evolution, about social promotion, about bilingual education, about teacher evaluation, about standards or much of anything else.
Proposition 30, the sales and income tax hike that Gov. Jerry Brown persuaded voters to pass last year, raised state revenue by billions a year.
The 2013-14 budget Brown proposed Thursday would spend two-thirds of it on education and most of the remainder on reducing the “wall of debt,” expanding medical care under the federal health act and a small emergency reserve.
Brown also would reconfigure education spending to give local school officials more control and channel more money into educating poor and non-English speaking children.
Gov. Jerry Brown yesterday proposed an unfamiliar budget for public education in the state – one with actual increases. His 2013-14 spending plan for K-12 schools includes a revision of his plan to reform the state’s convoluted, inequitable school finance system that lawmakers and a coalition of education groups rejected last year. Passing it would be a priority, Brown said.
Brown wants to increase overall spending for K-12 and community colleges in the 2013-14 fiscal year by 5 percent: $2.7 billion, which translates to $337 per student. Total spending would rise to $56.2 billion next year.
By Vernon Billy, Peter Manzo and Ted Lempert
In California we talk a lot about money for schools. Unfortunately, that’s because there just isn’t enough of it, and school budgets have taken a real beating in recent years.
Perhaps a signal that the tide is shifting, voters passed Proposition 30 in November to stave off drastic cuts to California schools and the Legislative Analyst’s Office cautiously predicts moderate revenue growth in the next few years. While this is good news, those of us committed to improving student achievement and restoring excellence in all California schools will continue to fight for more resources because the need is so great.
However, there is another facet of this issue we must address as well: how funding is allocated to schools. For decades, layers of restrictions, requirements and new priorities have been added to the system, weighing it down and tying the hands of local educators and administrators. Today, it is a labyrinthine structure comprising dozens of separate categorical funding streams, each with different strings.
Gov. Jerry Brown won’t speak the words “weighted student funding formula” when he presents a new state budget next week, along with his plan to refashion the state’s complex and inequitable school finance system. The concept of funneling more education dollars to high-needs children is very much alive, and Brown will press the Legislature to act on it this year. But rebranding his plan to reform school finance is one of the changes that the governor will make to seek more support than he got last year when he introduced a similar plan.
Department of Finance officials and Brown’s advisers won’t disclose the new name. But they say the governor wants to clear up misperceptions associated with a “weighted student formula” and to stress key features of the plan: transferring accountability and responsibility for spending decisions from Sacramento to local school boards, freeing up dollars through flexibility and simplifying an inscrutably complex funding system.
Let’s assume, for sake of argument or column-writing, that the fundamental task of any public school system is to maximize the number of students who graduate from high school and are ready to either enter the workforce or further their educations.
Thanks to a new report from the U.S. Department of Education, which for the first time provides state-by-state comparisons of graduation rates on common criteria, we now know where California ranks – and it isn’t very high.
Any bill to change the way that California funds its public schools will have to go through Joan Buchanan, and that could present problems for Gov. Jerry Brown.
Buchanan is the new chair of the Assembly Education Committee, and, as she made clear in a lengthy interview with EdSource Today (see transcript), she’s skeptical of Brown’s weighted student formula, which he plans to reintroduce next year.
Intent on passing school finance reform this year but open to revising last year’s proposal, the Brown administration held the first of three Friday meetings with dozens of school district officials and advocates last week on plans for weighted student funding. The outreach contrasts with the tack that Gov. Jerry Brown and the Department of Finance took last year, when they dropped a weighted student formula into the state budget in January, only to meet a wall of resistance from groups in the Education Coalition with schools facing potentially massive budget cuts.
Less experienced, lower paid teachers tend to teach in schools with the poorest children, while veteran, higher paid teachers work predominantly in schools with fewer needy children, contributing to significant funding disparities among schools within most of the state’s largest school districts. That gap wouldn’t necessarily change under the education finance reform that Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed; it might even worsen under a new formula, says Oakland-based Education Trust-West in a new school spending analysis released on Thursday.
In Tipping the Scale Towards Equity, Ed Trust-West reaffirms its support in principle for Brown’s concept of a weighted student formula, allocating potentially thousands of dollars per student to districts with the heaviest concentrations of English learners and low-income students. But Ed Trust-West, which advocates for needy children, calls for the governor to include provisions that will assure that the extra money for disadvantaged students actually will be spent in the schools that those students attend – and isn’t diluted throughout a district. Brown’s weighted student formula did not include these requirements.
Assembly Bill 18 was one of the casualties as Gov. Jerry Brown waded through hundreds of bills from the hectic, final hours of the 2012 legislative session.
And therein lies a tale.
Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, carried the bill, a watered-down version of her proposal to overhaul how the $60-plus billion in state, local and federal funds are allocated to California’s K-12 school districts each year.
Brownley wanted to streamline state aid and shift more money to low-performing schools with large numbers of students who are poor or “English learners,” responding to criticism that the state was not focusing money on its most urgent needs.
Gov. Jerry Brown has vetoed a bill that would have created a task force to explore options for school finance reform, thus ensuring that his own weighted student formula won’t be drowned out in a marketplace of ideas when the Legislature convenes in January.
“I agree that California’s complex school finance laws need urgent attention. Creating a task force, however, may actually delay action on reforms,” Brown wrote in a terse message. “Rather than create a task force, let’s work together and craft a fair Weighted Student Formula.”
If, by that, Brown is signaling that he’s willing to involve the Legislature in designing a more equitable and simpler funding system, that message will be well received in the Capitol.
Introduced as a comprehensive plan for K-12 finance reform, Assembly Bill 18 is a shell of its former self. The bill that the Legislature ended up passing last month would merely create a 21-member task force to explore various options and formulas for fairer and simpler school funding and make recommendations to the Legislature by April 1.
But even this seemingly non-controversial rewrite of the bill, with amendments intended to mollify Gov. Brown, may not escape his veto. State Board of Education President Michael Kirst and the board’s executive director, Sue Burr, both of whom advise Brown on education, indicated that the governor wants no competition to his plan for a weighted student formula – or another group distracting the Legislature from dealing with it next year.
Assemblymember Joan Buchanan, a Democrat from Contra Costa County who served on the board of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District for nearly two decades, will run the Assembly Education Committee, as of tomorrow. Assuming she wins reelection to a third term in November, she’ll chair the committee when the Legislature returns in January.
Buchanan will replace Julia Brownley, a Santa Monica Democrat who’s in a tight race for Congress. Assembly Speaker John Pérez announced changes in Assemby leadership and committee chairs yesterday.
By Peter Schrag
Listening to even the best people in California’s school reform discussions doesn’t leave much clarity about the direction our money-starved education system school go or much confidence that things will get perceptibly better any time soon.
Many of those good people know what’s needed. It’s just that they don’t all know the same thing, or don’t know it at the same time. That much at least was apparent once again at last Wednesday’s Sacramento forum on school finance sponsored by PPIC, the Public Policy Institute of California.
What they agreed on was that the fixes of the last thirty or forty years – what state School Board Michael Kirst called “the historical accretion” of programs – wasn’t working. It’s become, someone said, “the Winchester Mystery House” of school finance, rooms added willy-nilly to solve one or another problem.
Neither the policy makers nor the reformers are entirely – or maybe even mostly – to blame. In a state that now ranks in the bottom ten nationwide in school spending, and among the lowest in the ratio of teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians per pupil there’s a long list of suspects. When a questioner at the PPIC forum asked what we mostly needed, someone stage-whispered, “more, more, more.”