California’s Governor Brown Considers New Ed Funding Formula

California Governor Jerry Brown's budget proposal will ask for additional money for state education, including more funding for low-income students learning English. In addition, school districts will be sharing up to $2 billion in additional funds thanks to the passage of the November tax measure and an unexpected rise in revenues brought on by the economic recovery.

Among the proposals scheduled to be unveiled will be a new education funding formula, championed by Brown, which some predict will be a slightly altered version of the proposal Brown attempted – and failed – to sell to education groups last year. The new formula aims to divert more money to schools serving at-risk students and return more control over funding to local districts.

Among the new wrinkles, Brown would shift responsibility for adult education to the California Community Colleges system, rather than K-12 districts, said the sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the proposal. He would provide more money for K-3 students with the idea that additional dollars be spent to reduce class sizes for the youngest pupils, whose classrooms have housed as many as 32 students in some districts. But because Brown wants to eliminate as many earmarks as possible, his budget would not require that districts spend the extra money on shrinking class sizes – something that the California Teachers Association had sought recently in private meetings.

The formula would take into account not just the total number of students when determining funding levels, but also the number of low-income and special education kids enrolling in district schools. For the first time, the formula will also take into account the number of foster children, as well as those who are learning English as a second language.

Brown will seek to end state control by ending the majority of state earmarks, but several – including those dealing with busing, nutrition and special education – will remain.

The new way of allocating funds is likely to benefit rural and low-population districts at the expense of suburban ones. This puts Brown and his plan in a difficult position. The opposition to the new formula is now likely to strengthen in the suburbs, while urban districts – whose final allocation is uncertain – are not so enthusiastic in their support as to offset it.

Eliminating earmarks means fewer protections for programs once deemed a statewide priority by past Sacramento leaders. Adult education advocates previously opposed Brown's plan since it would leave them without dedicated funds. The latest proposal offers some protection, but also shifts adult education out of the K-12 system, with which it had long been associated.

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