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Brown’s Budget Brings Relief For San Diego Education Leaders

— Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget would start five years of increases to California’s K-12 funding. It would bring an increase of $2.7 billion next year and dramatically change the way that funding is delivered.

Aired 1/10/13 on KPBS News.

San Diego education leaders reacted positively to Governor Jerry Brown's proposed changes to school and higher education funding.

California Governor Jerry Brown speaks during a news conference at the Port of Oakland on July 9, 2012 in Oakland, California.
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Above: California Governor Jerry Brown speaks during a news conference at the Port of Oakland on July 9, 2012 in Oakland, California.

Much of the state’s school funding is now tied to specific programs, but under Brown’s proposal, districts would receive most money on a per-student basis. Districts would get additional per-pupil funds for students who are learning English as a second language, are in foster care, or live in low-income households.

Brown's budget would also repay school districts $1.8 billion in deferred funding.

"After five years of cuts to education, it is a relief to see that trend reversed, but as the governor stated, it will take time to return education funding to the adequate levels that we saw in 2008," Bill Kowba, San Diego Unified's superintendent, wrote in statement realsed after Brown's budget presentation.

Kowba said district representatives will work to add "enhancements" to the governor's proposal.

The change in funding structure would give districts flexibility in how they spend state funds. As an added measure of accountability, districts would have to develop academic plans in tandem with annual budgets and show how state money was being used to meet academic goals, provide adequate learning environments and serve students learning English or from low-income households.

San Diego Unified's chief of staff, Bernie Rhinerson, said flexibility is a step in the right direction.

“But it also makes our job a little more complex here right at this moment, because we’ve got a lot of work to do to go through the proposal and see what it really means for our budget next year,” he said.

Rhinerson said the repayment of deferred state funding will save districts like San Diego Unified money. To avoid cuts, the district issues short-term bonds and repays them when the delayed state funding arrives. But the district must pay interest on the short-term borrowing.

Brown's proposed budget also includes a funding increase for state universities and community colleges. The University of California and California State University systems will each see a $125 million dollar increase to their budgets for next year. Community colleges would get a $197 million boost.

That would translate to about $6.4 million for the San Diego Community College District, according to Constance Carroll, the district's chancellor.

"This was wonderful news, like waking up from a nightmare," Carroll said. The district is currently offering about 2,500 fewer courses than it was five years ago.

She said the district would be able to add 400 to 500 course sections under the proposal at a time when students will really benefit from a retooling of class offerings.

“We’ll be able to shift some things around and expand some areas of the curriculum aligned with the workforce that perhaps we might not have been able to do if all of our funds were committed,” she said.

The district would focus on areas like healthcare, technology and clean energy, Carroll said, where recent employment reports show a growing need. The governor's proposal would shift funding for GED, adult English as a second language and citizenship courses to community colleges and fund the creation of a centralized online course portal for the community college system.

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