How Will Gov. Jerry Brown's Plan To Overhaul Education Funding Impact San Diego?
May 7, 2013 1:19 p.m.
Marty Block, California state senator (D-San Diego), chair of Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education
Lora Duzyk, assistant superintendent of business services for the San Diego County Office of Education
CAVANAUGH: Our top story on Midday Edition, the debate is taking shape over governor Jerry Brown's plan to change the way education funding is distributed in California. The governor a man called the local control funding formula boosts funding to all districts and takes away many of the state mandates on how the money is to be used. A key element, the concentration grant, givens additional funds to districts in which 50% of the student population qualify as disadvantaged. The governor's plan has been called revolutionary and not you will legislators in Sacramento are ready to sign on. In fact, the state Senate has introduced its own funding bill which recommends changes to Governor Brown's plan. Monday, I spoke with California state Senator Marty Block of San Diego about the Senate's education bill called SB69. Here's that interview.
CAVANAUGH: How is the Senate education funding plan different from the education funding plan called for by the governor?
BLOCK: Well, it includes a lot of what the governor has in his plan. The change focus toward putting most of the money for English language learners and for low-income students, that remains. But some of the details are different, and there's a great difference in accountability measures. The Senate's position is that we really need to raise all boats. The governor's proposal gives a good deal more money to districts that have large numbers of disadvantaged students. The Senate's does the same, but it tries to give more money to all districts.
CAVANAUGH: Let's talk about the concentration grants in governor Jerry Brown's plan. They are aimed muscle at raising funding levels for those districts that have 50% or more of disadvantages student, below the poverty line. The idea is that kids in school districts like that face special challenges that even poor children in more affluent districts don't face. Do you disagree with that premise?
BLOCK: No, not at all. We all know those children face the greatest challenges. And the Senate bill tries to address those challenges through funding that is targeted directly to English learner students and low-income students without regard to the concentration of students in a particular district. The concentration grant is a good idea. We will put as much money as we can for both the most needy students but also not ignoring the students whose districts have been cut 10-20% and may not have students with as great a need but still have many needs that are going unmet because of the budget cuts. So we're trying in the Senate version to balance the two. So we still are trying to make sure that those low-income and English learner students are served. But at the same time spread the money out so is that all students have an opportunity to see their education improve.
CAVANAUGH: While the Senate version as I understand it does allocate more funds for poorer students in all districts, it does do away with those concentration grants that would be have boosted allocation funding to the poorest districts; is that right?
BLOCK: Yes, that's correct. But on the other hand, it does some other things that the governor's bill doesn't do. It has certain guarantees of accountability. And one of the weaknesses, frankly, in the governor's proposal, it's very well intentioned, but there isn't much in the way of accountability. The Senate bill makes sure that these dollars for low-income students and English learners don't just supplant existing resources but supplement existing resources. And the way we do that in the Senate bill, we grant authority to state and county offices of education to intervene in districts are underperforming, if they're not doing what the governor's plan hopes they'll do. The governor doesn't have the same accountability built in. And another thing we do with a Senate version is we like the governor, maintain -- we want to give districts flexibility to spend dollars where they're most needed. But if we find that the districts -- when I say we, it's the state and county offices of education find the districts aren't targeting the dollars where they're meant to be targeted, we will take away that flexibility. So there are mechanisms built into the Senate budget to really guarantee that the dollars go where they're supposed to go.
CAVANAUGH: Now, Marty Block, your district encompasses San Diego unified district, the largest in San Diego. I believe they would be one of those districts in line to receive the concentration grant funding in Governor Brown's formula. So I kind of wonder why you are promoting a Senate plan that would eliminate that concentration grant funding that would probably end up going to San Diego unified.
BLOCK: That's a great question. We think in the Senate, we think it's important to have multiple alternatives set before us when we get down to the budget negotiations. Ultimately in June, after the may revise, we'll have the governor and the two houses, legislator, going back and forth. I would be very happy as someone who represents San Diego unified, I would be very happy to see dollars equal to what's now in the concentration grant going to San Diego unified. But I'm hoping that by having this other option available, we'll be able to adopt certain aspects of the Senate bill, the accountability aspects. Going the dollars go to San Diego unified without having the robust data collection and the mechanisms to assure that the dollars are spent the way they're intended, that's not good enough. So I'm hoping with these two bills both in play, the governor's proposal and the Senate bill, we'll try to get the best of both worlds. And also we know there's going to be more dollars available in the may revise than the governor anticipated back in January. We'll have, we think, two or $3 billion more to spend. And we're hoping that with that, we can fully fund what the governor proposed for San Diego unified. And at the same time make sure other districts, like Poway, Solana beach, and Del Mar district, all will gain from this.
CAVANAUGH: Governor Brown has vowed that opponents of his plan are in -- this is "in for the battle of their lives. " Do you see yourself as an opponent of the governor's plan?
BLOCK: Absolutely not. I think if you read the two plans, and I'm sure you have, they're much more similar than different. What the Senate bill does is it tweaks the governor's plan. And I think in many respects makes it better. Not all respects. The other thing that's so important about having a bill, and one of the reasons why the Senate proposed this bill, folks from both sides will come forward and testify to a bill, they go through a significant process separate and apart and in addition to the budget process. They're certainly not in opposition to one another. By having both on the table, we'll come up with a collaborative bill that's better than either one alone.
CAVANAUGH: Thanks so much for your time.
BLOCK: Thank you.
CAVANAUGH: And joining me now is Lora Duzyk, assistant superintendent of business services for the San Diego County office of education. Thanks so much for coming in.
DUZYK: Thank you for having me, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: You heard along with me that interview that was conducted with Marty Block. What's your reaction to this Senate plan as opposed to the governor's plan to redistribute additional funding to districts?
DUZYK: I don't see them as opposed. I see that as the Senate's way to communicate their concerns on a lot of areas of the governor's plan that may be are not clear. Like in the area of accountability. Senator Block is very correct that we don't have a lot of detail on that. And obviously that concerns some members of our legislature. As far as the funding, they do differ on the concentration grant. I can't argue with more funding for everybody. And I don't know about the research behind the fact that districts with more or higher concentrations, over 50%, say, may have additional needs that need that additional money.
CAVANAUGH: Remind us of the cuts to funding that San Diego districts have had to absorb.
DUZYK: They've probably cut just under $1 billion over the course of this prolonged budget crisis, if you will. And you can see that almost all peripheral funds that are for music, science, a lot of the programs that are enhanced programs have pretty much diminished. They're pretty much cutting into and have been cutting into core program, and that's increasing class sizes, furloughing teachers and staff, reducing support staff so those support services are in a skeleton mode. And so a lot of the things that normally happen in a school district aren't because they're at least not to the level they were because they're really getting down to very base, base program. So this couldn't come soon enough.
CAVANAUGH: Now, I've read that there are some critics of particularly the governor's plan. They say that even though there is an increase to every district's budget, the increase is not enough, and it doesn't get school districts back to the budgets that they had in 2007. What's your reaction to that? Do you think that that's something that should be introduced now or do you think that may be something that the governor is working up to?
DUZYK: The governor's plan contemplates a 7-year phase-in, and he thinks that's how long it takes to fully fund his targeted revenue levels. Who knows what the future brings? Clearly there's a significant amount of funds available that needs to be infused into schools now. And because all school districts took the same proportion of cuts, most districts have been -- their funding have been reduced about 22.5% over what they should have at this point, if you're going back from 2007 to now. For every dollar they should be receiving, they're receiving $0.77. So there's a lot of program and things that need to happen that could be restored with this money that's coming. Not all districts fair well in the LCFF formula. So because it's a complete shift in the funding philosophy and how money is distributed at the state level, when it's all said and done, there are winners and losers because there are some that are going to, at the end of the day, their target is way up, they'll get a lot more money. There are some that may be don't get any or very little because they're either basic aid or they're a small rural. Small rural districts do not fair well under the local control funding formula in regards to and compared to other districts around the county.
CAVANAUGH: I think it might be difficult for some are our listeners to understand, considering the terminology weave using, that part of what Jerry Brown is introducing is trying to streamline funding for the schools, actually by taking some of the state mandates that are attached to funding for school district, taking those away and allowing the districts to use that money in ways that they see fit. Do you like that idea?
DUZYK: I do. When you just look at the calculations, he's talking about taking 40 categorical programs and rolling it into one formula. If you contemplate that each one of those 40 categoricals has their own funding program based on different criteria and a whole bureaucracy behind it, because when there's a categorical program with funding behind it, somebody at the state level, somebody at my office, auditors, there's lots of people looking to make sure that the requirements are being adhered to. So there's a whole bureaucracy behind that. And districts, when you get those money, you have to comply. And we do a lot to make sure they comply. When you take the governor's concept, it takes all those 40 programs, rolls them into a revenue, takes the streams away and says you at the local level are in control of this, and you decide how to spend this. I'm an advocate that nobody knows better what the students in my community need than me! So School Boards, they're elected by their community, the stakeholders, the staff and administration, the parents, the community, because everybody is responsible in the trustee of our students' future, right? So they better know other than the State of California necessarily what their students need. Because every community is unique.
CAVANAUGH: The San Diego County office of education, are you working to let legislators and the governor know about what you would like to see come down from Sacramento?
DUZYK: Yes. My boss, the county superintendent of school, Randy scholarship ward, has been in conversations with the governor and state legislators and other superintendents, and does support the local control funding formula. Again, are I do not believe that the Senate bill is in opposition to that. It expands on and changes or adds to things like the accountability. I do know that it delays implementation for a year to do all those things. But the money is here now. The concept behind what the governor wants -- no plan is going to be perfect when it comes out the shoot. So everybody will be examining whether it's the Senate plan or the governor's plan, or I suspect somewhere in the middle, and the whole point is to do better all the time. But school districts need the money, they'll put it where it belong, and that's with their students. And the governing board should have the discretion to decide what their students need.
CAVANAUGH: Thank you very much.
DUZYK: You're welcome.