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San Francisco schools could have funding windfall

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The percentage of English-language learners and students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals plays into the governor’s proposed funding increases for schools. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • The percentage of English-language learners and students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals plays into the governor’s proposed funding increases for schools.

The San Francisco Unified School District stands to gain nearly $4,000 per student under Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed student-funding formula, which still faces an uphill fight to become reality.

The proposal, released this week by the California Department of Finance, would also give districts statewide more local control over how they spend the money.

“This is what many have been arguing for, for years,” said David Plank, a Stanford professor and executive director of Policy Analysis for California Education, a nonpartisan research center based at Stanford University. “As an educational matter it’s a really positive development, but as political matter going to be heavy.”

No districts would lose funding under Brown’s proposal, but the funding increases, which would be phased in over five years, would not be distributed evenly across the state. Districts with a higher percentage of low-income students and English-language learners stand to gain more.

In San Francisco, which has nearly 15,000 English-language learners and nearly 28,000 low-income students, according to state estimates, the proposal means per-student funding would climb from $7,250 per student to $11,171 per student. The estimates are based on the average daily attendance of 49,068 students.

Districts with fewer low-income students  or English-language learners would see increases, but they wouldn’t be as large.

For instance, on the Peninsula, the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District, which has less than 8 percent of students in the specified categories, would go from $7,071 to $8,059 per student.  The San Carlos School District, where roughly 7 percent of students are from the specified categories, would go from $7,414 to $7,780 per student.

Gentle Blythe, SFUSD spokeswoman, said that while they are grateful that funding would be focused on students in need, they are cautiously optimistic.

“It’s long overdue,” she said. “In proposing this budget, Gov. Brown has followed through on a promise to reverse the tide for California schools. This still needs to be approved by the legislature.”

The goal, according to the Department of Finance analysis, is to move districts back to their funding levels from the 2007-08 school year, a time before funding cuts made California the 47th state in the nation in terms of per-student funding.

How the additional funding would affect the SFUSD remains to be seen. Those discussions have not yet begun because the formula to disperse funds is still a proposal. Many districts throughout the state are also waiting for deferral money they are still owed.

“After decades of budget cuts, SFUSD has a structural deficit, meaning we have areas where costs keep rising yet the funding to meet these rising costs isn’t there,” Blythe said.

Plank agreed, saying it would be years before solid evidence of the benefits of the increased funds could be assessed.

The proposal also faces major political hurdles in Sacramento before it becomes law, Plank said.

“The Legislature has made it clear they are not prepared to do this through the budget process,” he said. “Which means the governor’s proposal will have to be put forward as a bill in the Legislature, where it will be subject to political pressures that are likely to bring fairly significant changes.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

The percentage of English-language learners and students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals plays into the governor’s proposed funding increases for schools.

School District Enrollment % getting free/reduced lunch price % English learners Proposed Funding Amount
San Francisco 49,069 56.84 30.25 $11,171
Oakland 36,375 62.29 29.34 10,951
San Jose 30,693 44.07 23.21 10,957
Los Angeles 560,732 70.91 28.24 11,993
Fresno 66,573 81.05 23.62 11,365

Source: California Department of Finance