Lawmaker Pushes Funding Overhaul for California Schools

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – A California lawmaker on Tuesday introduced a bill to boosting spending on California schools by $35 billion in a bid to address chronic underfunding of the nation’s most populous state for the 2018-19 school year.

California made radical changes to education financing in 2013 with the creation of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The formula eliminated many categorical grants and gave K-12 school districts more flexibility to fund necessary programs through the establishment of base funding for all districts, with additional need-based grants.

“For too long, California has been below the national average in per-pupil spending,” Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, said in a telephone conference call announcing the bill. “AB 2808 will establish strong education funding targets to provide full and fair funding for all California Children regardless of where you live.”

Muratsuchi said his bill is backed by a strong and growing coalition of education leaders who bring unique perspectives to solve the vexing issue of how to fully fund schools, which has not happened since before the recession started in the late 2000s.

“What we are proposing is LCFF 2.0,” Muratsuchi said. “We are proposing funding targets to get California from 43rd in national per-pupil spending to at least the national average. Education financing should be the highest priority.”

Muratsuchi’s bill does not aim to change local funding formula, but rather to improve on the law that many school districts have found to be a boon. The $35 billion-dollar increase represents a 60 percent increase, and Muratsuchi acknowledges there is no funding mechanism in his bill. That needs to come through the Legislature’s budgeting process.

While the dollar figure is large – bigger than the state’s rainy-day fund – supporters told of the struggles many districts face to provide an education to students.

Lea Darrah, parent and director of legislation with the California PTA, said her four children attended public school and she’s seen first-hand how difficult the lack of funding can be.

“I have heard horror stories from across the state, students who don’t have desks to sit in and teachers who put out wish lists for basic supplies like Kleenex and pencils,” Darah said. “In our district, we literally had to fundraise for eyeballs and disposable gloves for the dissection lab.”

She added: “Is this really the best we can do for our children? Our children deserve that at least. I believe in public education. I am looking forward to seeing better times under AB 2808.”

Casey Carlson, a special education teacher with Santa Cruz City Schools, said that while some districts have seen improvement in funding, others like those in her region are often left behind by the plan because more money goes to low-income districts.

“We just can’t provide the services and attract and retain teachers,” Carlson said. “Increasing the base funding is critical and long overdue.”

By increasing the base funding for all districts, Carlson thinks her district will be able to make strides to improve student outcomes.

Dr. Sarah Noguchi, associate superintendent with Twin Rivers Unified School District in North Sacramento agrees.

“Establishment of new LCFF targets is critical to ensuring that all school districts can address increasing costs while at the same time implementing the actions and services we have worked in the last four years to improve student outcomes and lower the achievement gap,” Noguchi said.

Mike Walsh, president of the California School Board Association, said many facilities are aging and deteriorating with school buildings in some school districts that are more than 100 years old.

“When you consider that in per-pupil funding, we are 45th in taxable income spent in schools and last or nearly last in student-to-teacher ratio and practically every other measure, this is a critical step in the right direction,” Walsh said. “AB 2808 will help close the massive gap between California and much of the country.”

AB 2808 will be heard for the first time Wednesday in the Assembly Education Committee.

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