San Diegans Weigh In On New School Funding System
California's new way of funding schools replaces a complicated system that tied much of school funding to specific programs. But now that the State Board of Education has to write all of the rules for the new system, it isn't looking all that simple.
Starting this year, school districts get a flat amount of money per student — between $6,845 and $8,289 depending on students' grade level.
They receive 20 percent more for each student who is learning English, from a low-income household or is in foster care. Districts where students who fall into these categories make up 55 percent or more of the student body will get another 50 percent of the base amount for each student over that threshold.
Instead of being tied to specific programs by state restrictions on funding, districts will be able to make local decisions about what programs or initiatives are before for their students.
But how districts will show they're spending in ways that benefit students is still up in the air.
San Diegans on Thursday got the chance to weigh in on what new accountability measures should include.
The San Diego County Office of Education hosted the remote portion of a regional input session, the first of three happening across the state. While many agreed the new funding system is a step in the right direction, there were lots of different ideas about how money should be distributed, who should have the final say in how it is spent and how districts should be held accountable.
Administrators like Emma Turner, who sits on the boards of the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District and the California School Boards Association, were concerned that the new system, called the Local Control Funding Formula, leave decision making power with district leaders.
"We don't want the County Office of Education to tell us how to spend the money that was supposedly given to us for local control and flexibility," Turner said.
Under partial guidelines put out last month, county superintendents will have new powers such as the ability to change budgets or rescind school board decisions in persistently failing districts.
Margaret Shelley works for the California School Employees Association. She said state requirements for parent involvement in spending decisions is good but workers need to be at the table, too.
"A lot of administrators make decisions that are difficult to implement or impossible to implement because they haven't consulted the people who are going to be doing the work," she said.
San Diego Unified mother Sara Guerling just doesn't want to wait a year for new rules to see spending on high needs students go up.
Public comment ends Aug 13. The State Board of Education has until January 1st to write many of the new system's guidelines.