Valley News -

California's education funding model has fatal flaw

 

Last updated 6/25/2018 at 9:03am



California public schools, which educate more than 6 million children, face a serious, ongoing, fiscal crisis despite the recent increase in state funding. It doesn’t need to be this way. It’s time to demand a change in the funding inadequacy and to make public education in our state the top priority.

Staggering burdens in new costs and unfunded mandates with which the state continues to saddle local school districts, including Temecula Valley Unified School District. While money is not the only solution to raising academic achievement, the continual negative impact of California being ranked near the bottom of educational investments nationally cannot be discounted when our students are competing for the same spaces in college and the same jobs nationally as students whose education is much better funded in most other states. We are experiencing a thriving and globally competitive economy. Our state cannot afford to continue to shortchange our public education system and to handicap generations of young people. Because California is the sixth largest economy in the world, there is no excuse for the poor funding of our schools.

The consequences of insufficient funding for California schools are not difficult to spot. California ranks nationally 48th in student-to-teacher ratio; 48th in students-per-staff-member; 49th in the number of counselors we provide our students; 45th in percent of taxable income spent on education and 46th in the nation in per-pupil spending.

Schools across California are cutting programs and laying off employees in the midst of a booming economy. Last year, TVUSD experienced layoffs and cuts to programs, and we continue to deal with an unstable deficit spending model. Why? A fatal flaw in California’s 5-year old Local Control Funding Formula is pushing many school districts to the brink of financial insolvency.

The fatal flaw has nothing to do with the principles on which the LCFF is based. It is a good idea to fund school districts with base grant dollars to pay for basic operating expenses such as classroom instruction, maintenance, transportation, utilities, school safety and technology. It is a good idea to provide additional dollars, supplemental and concentration grants, to schools based on their number of at-risk students.

You see, the governor proposed the LCFF in 2013 as a way to restore school revenues after years of blistering cuts, to the level it was at in 2007, before the Great Recession. Since that time, however, basic costs have skyrocketed due to many newly imposed expenses, and the LCFF base grant is not generating enough funding for school districts to keep up. Just a few of the expensive new “must fund” costs include: purchasing and maintenance of technology to support newly required computerized tests and innovative instructional programs; providing necessary educational and health related services for our children with disabilities; implementing California’s new minimum wage increases; rising state-mandated pension costs; new curriculum for California’s new content standards and implementing campus safety and security measures.

The good news is there is a way to fix the fatal flaw before our students pay the price. Assembly Bill 2808, written by Muratsuchi and currently under consideration by the legislature, would direct future education dollars generated by Proposition 98 to the LCFF Base Grant.

Under the LCFF, communities have worked together at the local level to design and implement improved education services to students. The governor’s decision to give control to local school boards and communities was a great one, and we support seeing that this flexibility continues at the local level to ensure the unique needs of our students are met.

We strongly support Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to fully fund the LCFF in 2018-2019, and we support AB-2808 which will provide a roadmap to finally increase funding for public education to the national average, using dollars directed to schools as originally intended by the Proposition 98 constitutional guarantee.

AB-2808 is supported by the 47-member school districts of the California School Funding Coalition along with nearly every school district, statewide education organizations, employee associations and parent groups.

We are at a critical crossroad for the future of how school districts will be funded. AB-2808 ensures every public school in California will maintain local control while receiving the funds necessary to provide a high-quality education for all students.

Temecula Valley Unified School District, along with 46 other school districts in California, are banded together as the California School Funding Coalition to focus on ensuring smart funding of the state’s schools.

Timothy Ritter, superintendent of Temecula Valley Unified School District and Jeff Kingsberg, president of Temecula Valley Educators Association

 

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