By Tom Chorneau, SI&A Cabinet Report | http://bit.ly/15u9xlt
Tuesday, July 30, 2013 :: An overlooked but still key provision of Gov. Jerry Brown’s new funding formula for schools requires districts to maintain average class sizes at no more than 24 students – or risk losing some of their funding.
In a new report released Monday by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, (follows) researchers pointed out that the newly enacted Local Control Funding Formula provides a grade span differential generally intended to recognize the higher cost of services to older students.
But the LCFF also provides an adjustment that increases state support for kindergarten through grade three – additional money intended to cover the cost of limiting class sizes in those early years.
The adjustment increases the K-3 base rate by 10.4 percent (or initially $712 per average daily attendance)—for an adjusted initial K-3 base rate of $7,557, according to the LAO.
However, districts could lose all that additional funding if any particular school site exceeds the required class size, unless school officials have negotiated a collective bargaining agreement with their teachers’ union that sets class sizes at a different level, according to the analysis.
(The UTLA/LAUSD Contract does not – see REFERENCE SUMMARY OF CLASS SIZE STANDARDS 2012-2013/following)
If a district negotiates a different class size for those grades, the LAO said, it is not subject to this requirement and would continue to receive the adjustment.
The new funding system, pushed through by Gov. Brown after first proposing it last year, replaces a complex array of programs and formulas that the LAO – among others – has long criticized as inefficient and out of date.
Under the LCFF, more state funds will be directed to help schools serving educationally disadvantaged students – that is, children from low-income families, English learners and foster care youth.
But the state is also making an overall commitment to increase funding. The LAO noted that if the program were to be fully implemented in 2013-14, it would require the state to spend $18 billion more on K-12 services – assuming current levels of average daily attendance and subgroup enrollment.
Instead, the LCFF will roll out over eight years.
The amount of new funding districts receive will be based on the difference – or gap – between their prior year funding and their target amount or the amount of anticipated state funding by the end of the eight years. The LAO said that every district will see the same proportion of their gap closed but the dollar amount will be different based on the size of the gap.
This year, most districts will have 12 percent of their gap filled, according to the LAO. “For a district whose gap is $100 million, this corresponds to $12 million in additional funding,” the LAO said.
Because so much of a district’s funding will be tied to demographics, the LAO also noted the process for identifying educationally disadvantaged students.
For English learners, classification is based on a home language survey and results a student receives after taking the California English Language Development Test.
If a parent or guardian reports on the home language survey that a language other than English is the student’s initial language learned or the primary language used at home, the student is required to take the CELDT, the LAO noted. If the student is determined by the school district not to be English proficient based on CELDT results, then the student is classified as an English learner.
Each year thereafter, the student is retested and, depending on performance, he or she can be reclassified as Fluent English Proficient.
Low-income students are those who qualify for free and reduced price meals, which is determined through a variety of means. In most cases, eligibility is established through an application process sent home for parents to fill out. The income threshold is 185 percent of the federal poverty line or $43,568 for a family of four.