Wednesday, April 16, 2014

School officials optimistic about new state funding

The  California State Budget for fiscal year 2013-2014 was approved on June 14 and the inclusion of some increased funding for education will have some impact on El Dorado County schools. When the budget passed the Legislature, Vicki Barber was the El Dorado County superintendent of schools.

“We are very, very pleased,” said Barber, “but until the trailer bill language is finalized and signed, we won’t know the specifics of how it will work. There are brand new calculations for local control funding and we don’t have any history or perspectives yet.”

The California State Budget for 2013-2014 was signed into law on June 26, bringing a major shift in the way schools are financed. New El Dorado County Superintendent of Schools Jeremy Meyers was on vacation and the Mountain Democrat talked to Robbie Montalbano, associate superintendent of administrative services, about how the new budget might affect EDC schools.

Some key elements of the 2013-2014 California State Budget as it affects education are:

•  Local Control Funding formula
• $1.25 billion one-time money, spread over a two-year period allocated for implementation of Common Core standards
• Governor’s veto of $30 million in funding for special education program
• Energy efficiency funding.

Beginning in the 2013-2014 fiscal year and with an eight-year implementation timeline is Local Control Funding —  a shift from state mandated categorical funding to local school district control. A target base rate of $6,812 per student will be allocated to all school districts statewide. Districts, not the state, will choose how they fund student achievement. Funding adjustments of an additional 10.4 percent per student will be granted to schools with  K-3 students in order to achieve a reduction in class size to 24 and high schools will receive an additional 2.6 percent per student for Career Technical Education.

In addition, there is supplemental funding for students who are English learners, socio-economically disadvantaged or in foster care. Schools with 50 percent or more of their student population being English learners, socio-economically disadvantaged or in foster care will receive special “concentration grants” to boost funding.

How this will affect the school districts in El Dorado County isn’t yet known.

“This is a huge change in school finances — the biggest in more than 30 years,” said Montalbano. “It’s taking us some time to sort out all of the details. We’re doing the math now and it’s an intricate formula.”

Montalbano said that while it is likely that at least one school district in El Dorado County will qualify for a concentration grant, the California Department of Education and the Department of Finance are still finalizing the technical aspects of which school year will be used for the percentage count and how the information will be collected.

Not all districts will see an increase in revenue, said Montalbano. “Districts won’t get their funding all at once and how much increase they receive depends on how close they are to the funding target.”

The funding target is an eight-year implementation plan and districts that are already close to the funding target will see a very slow increase over time. Montalbano said there are also concerns that districts could grow in population but not in revenue, depending on where they are with regard to funding targets.

“This change in funding is great because it is more money for our students and the base is the same for all school districts,” said Montalbano. “But it’s implemented over eight years and a lot can happen, especially with regard to the temporary taxes that fund this, in eight years.”
“It’s a huge change and a shift in being accountable for how dollars get to students,” said Montalbano. “The school districts adopted their budgets (for 2013-2014) long before the state budget was signed and so we don’t know how this will affect the individual districts yet.”
There is $1.25 billion allocated for implementation of Common Core Standards in the state budget. “This one-time money is being allocated statewide on a per student basis and will be used for training and implementation over a two-year period,” said Montalbano.
The El Dorado County Office of Education provided Common Core training for 440 teachers in June, but Common Core training and implementation plans are adopted by each individual district after public hearing and the Common Core funds will be expended in accordance with the district plan.
The removal of $30 million from the state budget for Special Education funding will affect special education programs in the districts.
“We will see a reduction in special ed funding in the county,” said Montalbano, “but we don’t know how that will look just yet.”
Money to fund energy efficiency projects was also built into the state budget. The estimated funding for El Dorado County school districts is $1.6 million. All 15 school districts receive some energy efficiency funding, with Buckeye Union Elementary, El Dorado Union High School District, Lake Tahoe Unified and Rescue Union Elementary receiving the highest amounts.

Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.


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