By Barbara Jones, LA Daily News | http://bit.ly/1caky0o
7/27/2013 11:33:35 PM PDT Updated: 7/28/2013 9:19:03 AM :: As school districts statewide get their first revenue installment from Gov. Jerry Brown's new education funding model, Los Angeles Unified officials are debating the best way to boost the performance of disadvantaged students.
The debate looming in LAUSD is one taking place around California as educators await regulations from the state Board of Education on how to spend revenue from Brown's Local Control Funding Formula. The landmark reform gives districts more money to educate poor students, English learners and foster youth, along with control over how they can use it.
There are conflicting views, however, on whether that bonus money must be spent to serve only high-needs students or whether it can be used to benefit kids districtwide.
"You can have lots and lots of priorities, and the state has indicated what that money can be spent on, which are students in need," Superintendent John Deasy said. "We're looking forward to getting guidance from the state and determining the thresholds for investment."
Last week, a coalition of 20 education and civil rights groups sent a letter to the state's superintendents and charter school operators urging them to spend this year's allocation of LCFF money to improve services for disadvantaged students.
Los Angeles Unified, in fact, counted on lawmakers to approve LCFF when it was drafting its budget for 2013-14. It used that money and revenue from voter-approved Proposition 30 to reverse furloughs, avert layoffs and restore funding for summer school, adult education and similar programs.
Within the next few weeks, the state Department of Education is expected to issue some basic spending guidelines while districts wait for the state school board to finalize and release official regulations. Those rules are expected by Jan. 31, and will take effect in 2014-15.
Phased in over eight years, LCFF gives districts a base amount of about $6,800 per student, plus 20 percent more for every high-needs youngster. Los Angeles Unified and districts where the targeted students make up at least 55 percent of the enrollment get an additional 50 percent of the base grant.
The state hasn't yet provided a breakdown of the bonus money, but Los Angeles Unified CFO Megan Reilly estimated it equates to about $300 million for the first year. About 80 percent of the district's 600,000 students live in poverty and nearly 30 percent are learning English.
After Brown signed LCFF into law last month, a trio of Los Angeles Unified board members sponsored a resolution to use the money to reduce class size; hire more teachers, counselors librarians and support staff; and boost funding for preschool, adult education and an arts curriculum.
The board adopted that measure but postponed a rival resolution by member Tamar Galatzan mandating that every campus in the district receive enough money to "survive and thrive," but that the bonus revenue for high-needs kids "follow the child" to their school.
On Friday, Galatzan said she planned to bring her resolution back for consideration after the state releases its funding guidelines.
Deasy said his budget team is drafting various funding strategies to comply with the board directive, but he reiterated his own desire for how the bonus money should be spent.
"I want to locate resources as close to students as possible, to provide as much autonomy as possible for school sites to spend," he said. "Schools know their students better than anyone, and I will recommend guidelines to keep the money as close to the school as possible."
While the LCFF helped Los Angeles Unified avert financial calamity, Chief Strategy Officer Matt Hill dismissed any notion that the revenue is a windfall for the district. He noted that the revenue will ease -- but not erase -- a multimillon-dollar budget deficit anticipated for next year.
"California still hasn't invested enough in education, and we're still near the bottom in per-pupil funding," he said. "It's how we're allocating the crumbs versus the pieces of pie.
"We're doing better in what we slice up, but we still don't have enough to give the student."