State budget proposal would boost Fresno Unified funding

The Fresno BeeJune 10, 2013 

Lawmakers are poised to boost state funding for Fresno Unified School District under an education financing deal made public by Democratic legislators Monday.

Documents indicating a spending agreement is in the works were disseminated to school districts by legislative leaders Monday, The Sacramento Bee reported. It's one of several compromises reportedly reached in Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed 2013-14 budget.

The compromise funding formula brings most California schools up to their fiscal year 2007-08 state funding levels. It also offers a $537 higher per-pupil base grant than Gov. Jerry Brown's May education budget revision — a plan that's faced stiff opposition from several Democratic lawmakers.

The deal promises an additional $433 per student in Fresno Unified, bringing the district's base allocation from $6,544 to $6,977 next year. After eight years and full implementation of the plan, that number would jump to $12,264.

"It appears (Brown) has worked with the Legislature to deliver on the single biggest policy point I believe he was driving on which is … to drive more resources to those with concentrated poverty," Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson said. "He kept that as a principle and it is a significant win for the children of the state and particularly for the Valley floor."

Overall, the compromise includes tweaks to a handful of proposals found in Brown's original plan. For example, lawmakers have set an eight-year deadline to phase in the changes, one year longer than Brown's initial seven-year proposal.

Under the new formula, districts with low-income students and English-learners would also get "supplemental grants," or extra funds equal to 20% of their base grant.

That's compared to a 35% "supplemental grant" inked in Brown's proposal, which aimed at boosting funding levels for districts that serve traditionally low-income populations.

If the governor's plan as written had received lawmakers' stamp of approval, Fresno Unified officials have said the district would have received $13.8 million in state funds next year.

How the new plan will impact Fresno Unified's slice of state funds is less clear, Hanson said: "We know it will be an increase, and we know it will be in that vicinity, but we don't have an exact dollar value."

Neighboring districts with smaller percentages of low-income students will see more modest increases in state funds. Per student, Clovis Unified is slated to receive an extra $239 while Central Unified would get $352.

Assembly Member Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, said he's concerned the deal disenfranchises districts that might have fewer English-language learners, but excel at teaching students.

"What is missing in all of this is any assessment in how school districts are doing," Patterson said. "Clovis Unified does a very good job and they are not getting the recognition they deserve under this."

 

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

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