Fresno Unified school board to vote on 2013-14 budget

The Fresno BeeJune 4, 2013 

More than $1 million in professional development and another $2.6 million to reduce class sizes are part of the proposed $646 million spending plan for fiscal year 2014 that the Fresno Unified School Board is expected to take up Wednesday.

The spending package is a 5.7% bump over last year's budget and puts the district on track to maintain $48.6 million in reserves next year.

The funding measure directs money to hire 45 new teachers with the goal of cutting class sizes by one student in grades 4 through 12.

It also offers almost $25 million aimed at boosting student achievement across the district's elementary, middle and high schools. Those funds will be used to hire new counselors in Fresno middle schools, fund magnet programs and add high school online learning resources.

In addition, schools across the district will get a slice of $1.3 million for teacher training in an effort to bring educators up to speed on federal Common Core State Standards -- standardized math and English curriculum adopted by more than 40 states in recent years.

The district could get an additional $10 million to implement Common Core if Gov. Jerry Brown gets a nod from lawmakers on a plan he's spearheading that offers $1 billion to help California public schools adopt the standards.

Brown's education overhaul would also shift funds to districts with low-income students and English-language learners, a plan that's faced resistance from some lawmakers who argue it pits more affluent schools against needy ones. If Brown's proposal passes, Fresno Unified could get a larger chunk of funds from the state than it has received in years past.

But Ruth Quinto, Fresno Unified deputy superintendent and chief financial officer, said the district isn't banking on it.

"Part of how we have maintained our financial stability is by not counting on revenues," she said.

Trustee Janet Ryan said continued debate over the governor's plan leaves "quite a bit of uncertainty" about how the district's final budget numbers will shake out. Even so, she's pleased with the current budget figures, which she said add much-needed dollars to the district's preschools and building-improvement projects.

"We're going into a better budget after all these years," she said, "and we're very excited we'll be able to fund many things we wanted to do."

But not everyone on the board is completely happy with the final spending plan.

More money for career technical education and programs for at-risk youths should have made it into the budget, said Trustee Michelle Asadoorian.

"There's some things about the budget I've proposed many times that Fresno Unified needs," Asadoorian said. "To me, the budget doesn't accurately reflect my priorities."

If you go

What: The Fresno Unified School District board will consider the 2013-14 budget when it meets Wednesday. The public meeting begins at 5:30 p.m.; the budget hearing is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

Where: Fresno Unified headquarters, 2309 Tulare St. in downtown Fresno

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.

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