Our View: Brown plan has pluses, minuses
With that will also come Brown’s proposal to overhaul school financing, an idea he has broached before but that went nowhere because of a worsening budget situation from year to year.
Now, though, he’s ready to bring it back to be looked at, having fished out the idea at three public workshops last fall.
The main two points behind his overhaul is putting more money in the hands of the districts with poorer student populations and a greater number of English-language learners, and allowing greater flexibility in how the money the school districts do receive is spent.
Both ideas at their core are strong ideas that could do a lot for education. But both ideas also come with baggage.
In our own county we can see how the component to send more money to the impoverished as being a double-edged sword. Comparatively to other areas of the state and other counties, all of Imperial County is hurting. Yet the funding isn’t from county to county, but district to district, and we can easily see the rich-vs.-poor divide being played out if this plan ever gets implemented.
Calexico Unified for one, with well over 80 percent of its students being English-language learners, would stand to receive much more per student than, say, a McCabe Union or Imperial Unified, whose schools rank high on standardized tests and do pretty well on the socioeconomic scale.
Brown used an example highlighting the differences in the Sacramento region, although we would wager the district on the short end would say “disparity” rather than “difference.” One school in an affluent district would stand to get $7,757 per student, while another neighboring district where 90 percent of the students are on subsidized meals, would receive $10,554 per student.
The second part of the proposal would see the elimination of categorical funding, or earmarks to specific programs. Doing away with categorical funds would allow districts to put the dollars where they see fit. For the most part, we’ve seen some of that in action over the last few years as the state has eased the constraints of earmarks because of the budget crisis.
The latter could prove to be the more contentious in our minds because this will mean certain areas that ultimately received protection for the deepest cuts will now be in danger more than ever before. Already advocates for areas such as adult education, for one, are voicing concern about all-out elimination.
As for the increase in funding for poorer schools, that could also bring even greater stratification in a county where the most well-off struggle disproportionately to other areas of this state.
Brown’s proposals will get much tweaking in the road to reality, so none of us should be too concerned with what the end product will look like. But it is something to keep a wary eye on.
THE ISSUE: Governor is floating idea of a proposed overhaul to school funding.
WE SAY: Ideas should be closely watched.
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