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Education

San Diego Unified Unveils New Funding Formula

San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten is shown smiling on Jan. 13, 2015.
Matthew Bowler
San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten is shown smiling on Jan. 13, 2015.

San Diego Unified School District leaders today unveiled a formula that determined an additional $350 million in funding per year is needed to meet student needs and eliminate the achievement gap across the district.

The revelation comes from a funding model district officials have been working on for over a year, following a school board directive to create a model to calculate the minimum funding needs from Sacramento.

The district-led initiative is the first of its kind in the state and may be the first in the country, according to the SDUSD.

The goal for the long-term funding plan is to estimate the funds that would be needed to fully implement the district's Local Control Accountability Plan. Superintendent Cindy Marten, school board President Marne Foster and school board Vice President John Lee Evans have been leading the charge on the funding tool.

The investment model was developed when Marten, Foster and other district leaders went to Sacramento last year to advocate for a bigger budget. Marten said legislators — including Sen. Marty Block — wanted to know dollar amounts for what adequate funding would be at the local level.

Block — chairman of the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education — has been in talks with San Diego Unified over the past year to identify adequate funding needs.

"We want our public schools and our state decision-makers to know what is a realistic and necessary goal for funding," Block said in a statement to City News Service. "I appreciate San Diego Unified's hard work on this important research and have faith that we are headed in the right direction for our students."

Block said he has plans in the works to host a Senate committee hearing in San Diego on school funding.

Foster said SDUSD will share the investment tool with other districts across the state so they can determine their own local funding needs. The hope of SDUSD officials is that their efforts will result in legislative action to address funding gaps.

Marten said the district's new funding formula determined it would take $3,250 more in per-pupil spending to bring the district up to the national average for school funding. The superintendent said that number will be adjusted every year based on needs and rising costs.

Evans said the district isn't asking for California school funding to be among the top 10 states, but for the bare minimum needed to achieve district goals on graduation rates and preparing kids for college and career.

"What we were really saying is with an average amount of money, we will produce absolutely spectacular results," Evans said.

California ranks 46th in the nation for spending per student, according to the district.

Unlike most lobbying done by school districts to increase their budgets, SDUSD officials said the investment model is a long-term plan for bringing California up to adequate per-student spending compared to other states.

"We know this is going to take a long time," Marten said. "It's going to take the entire state of California. Everyone is looking for a quick fix, for a silver bullet, and we don't believe in that."

San Diego Unified will host a town hall discussion to reveal the investment model to the public on Nov. 4 in the auditorium at district headquarters in Normal Heights.

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