Proposed budget promising for local school districts
High rate of local poverty means more money for local schools
Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget Thursday has local administrators relieved and cautious about the proposed overhaul of K-12 education financing that could possibly mean more money for local districts.
“It’s good news but we’ve seen this song and dance before,” said Dago Garcia, Woodville Elementary School District Superintendent. “Until I see it in the bank, I’m not going to get happy.”
Instead, Woodville will keep doing what it’s doing — continuing to live within its means and within its budget.
“The district had been overspending on top of reductions,” Garcia said. “If we get some extra money for next year, then we’ll plan accordingly but I’m not going to count on any of it.”
The budget plan allocates $2.7 billion more for elementary and secondary education and community colleges for the 2013-2014 school year. However, $1.8 billion of it will be used to pay school districts what the state already owes them in late payments for previous years.
In addition, besides awarding money based on school districts’ average daily attendance, Brown proposes adding up to 35 percent more based on how many English learners, foster children and low-income students are in each district.
“Those two areas — English language learners, and our free and reduced meal users, will definitely make a big difference,” Garcia said. “That’s about 99 percent of our student body.
It would make an impact for us and allow us to provide services to everyone in our school, not just a segment of them. We’re in a great situation to receive some funds we haven’t had in a long time and will allow us to replenish our general reserve.”
Porterville Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Business Services Ken Gibbs said he’s also skeptical.
“This is very initial information,” he said. “A lot can happen between now and when they implement the budget. But it’s a much better budget that we’ve seen in a decade.”
The proposal does suggest that adult schools shift away from K-12 and become part of the community college campus.
However, when it comes to K-12, there are significant dollars proposed for the district, Gibbs said, and can mean approximately 4.5 percent of funding — or an estimated $3 million — of additional funding for the district.
“That’s an early estimate since the governor is planning on rolling this out over seven years — each year a little more,” he said. “We’ll know more by Tuesday and certainly by the second week of May when they do the May revision to budget for the year.”
At Burton School District, Superintendent Gary Mekeel said the administration and consultants have been analyzing the proposition.
Mekeel said he is grateful for the passing of propositions 30 and 39 and for the potential of obtaining additional funds, up to a preliminary additional of 4.5 percent, for the Burton District for the coming year.
“We would benefit enormously by the end funding. It would help educate our children who are near or at poverty level and those where English is their second language,” Mekeel said.
The Burton School District has 72 percent of its students at or below poverty level.
“This will give us the chance to put more money behind classroom instruction and training,” Mekeel said. “If all is true, they won’t give us all our money back removed over the last five years, but it is a good starting point. It’s a nice gift and we’ll find great ways to utilize the funding, if everything holds.”
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.