California addresses school funding inequity

22 Aug

Moi wrote in The next great civil rights struggle: Disparity in education funding:
Plessy v. Ferguson established the principle of “separate but equal” in race issues. Brown v. Board of Education which overturned the principle of “separate but equal.” would not have been necessary, but for Plessy. See also, the history of Brown v. Board of Education
If one believes that all children, regardless of that child’s status have a right to a good basic education and that society must fund and implement policies, which support this principle. Then, one must discuss the issue of equity in education. Because of the segregation, which resulted after Plessy, most folks focus their analysis of Brown almost solely on race. The issue of equity was just as important. The equity issue was explained in terms of unequal resources and unequal access to education.
People tend to cluster in neighborhoods based upon class as much as race. Good teachers tend to gravitate toward neighborhoods where they are paid well and students come from families who mirror their personal backgrounds and values. Good teachers make a difference in a child’s life. One of the difficulties in busing to achieve equity in education is that neighborhoods tend to be segregated by class as well as race. People often make sacrifices to move into neighborhoods they perceive mirror their values. That is why there must be good schools in all segments of the city and there must be good schools in all parts of this state. A good education should not depend upon one’s class or status.
I know that the lawyers in Brown were told that lawsuits were futile and that the legislatures would address the issue of segregation eventually when the public was ready. Meanwhile, several generations of African Americans waited for people to come around and say the Constitution applied to us as well. Generations of African Americans suffered in inferior schools. This state cannot sacrifice the lives of children by not addressing the issue of equity in school funding in a timely manner.
The next huge case, like Brown, will be about equity in education funding. It may not come this year or the next year. It, like Brown, may come several years after a Plessy. It will come. Equity in education funding is the civil rights issue of this century.

Alan Greenblatt wrote in the NPR article, California Upends School Funding To Give Poor Kids A Boost:

As the school year begins, districts in cities such as Oakland, Fresno and Los Angeles have not gone on a hiring spree.
But they might soon.
California has revamped its school funding formula in ways that will send billions more dollars to districts that educate large numbers of children who are poor, disabled in some way or still learning to speak English.
It’s an approach that numerous other states, from New York to Hawaii, have looked into lately. But none has matched the scale of the change now underway in the nation’s largest state.
“The trend is toward more and more states providing additional assistance to students with special needs,” says Deborah Verstegen, a school finance expert at the University of Nevada, Reno. “California is moving into the forefront with this approach.”
It wasn’t an easy sell. There was a lot of debate in Sacramento about whether this was a Robin Hood approach, robbing from the rich to give more to the poor.
In the end, however, the old system was so convoluted that no one was willing to defend it.
“The former school finance system had not really been conceptually revised since the early 1970s, when President Reagan was governor of California,” says Michael Kirst, president of the California Board of Education. “It had no relationship to student needs.”
How It Got That Way
California spends more money on education than other states — not just because of its size, but because of the complex nature of state and local finances there.
Around the country, a significant share of education dollars still comes from local property taxes. In California, though, the state itself picks up a larger-than-average chunk — nearly 60 percent of the total K-12 tab.
Traditionally, Sacramento has not only provided the funds but dictated to districts how they spend big parts of their budget. The state sent out money through more than 40 categorical grant programs, which meant that schools had to spend a certain amount of dollars on a wide variety of specific mandates, from anti-tobacco lessons to reducing class sizes for younger kids.
In addition, the complex funding formula led to lots of neighboring districts with similar student populations somehow receiving vastly different amounts of money. The whole thing had become immensely convoluted over time and “could justifiably be called lunatic,” wrote the Los Angeles Times editorial board….
Brown was able to sell the idea by giving more money to all districts. Still, superintendents in plenty of wealthier districts complain that, with their funding severely cut by the state during the recession, they should be made whole before billions per year get redirected toward poorer quarters.
Even under the old system, districts with lots of disadvantaged kids got more money, but now their budgets will increase in a big way.
“Within most legislators’ districts, they had school districts that were both, quote unquote, winners and losers,” says Margaret Weston, a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California. “It didn’t cut along party lines. It had Republican support, as well.”
With the new formula, every district will get a certain amount of money per student. In addition, they all will get 20 percent more for each student who is disadvantaged in some way.
The big change comes with what are called concentration grants. Districts where 55 percent or more of the student populations are poor, disabled or English learners will get 50 percent more money than the simple per-student base amount.
What drove that decision? The thinking goes that many students from poor backgrounds face challenges, but schools where they make up the dominant share of the population can be especially challenging.
The law also brings the state’s thousand-plus charter schools, many of which serve disadvantaged kids, into the regular school finance formula.
“It aligns state law with the fact that it costs more to educate these students,” says Jonathan Kaplan, senior policy analyst with the California Budget Project.

One of the major contributors to poverty in third world nations is limited access to education opportunities. Without continued sustained investment in education in this country, we are the next third world country.


Courts are becoming the mechanism to force states to fund education

Education funding lawsuits against states on the rise

Baylor University study: Unresponsive state policymakers make the racial achievement gap worse v

Rutgers study: Underfunding of preschool threatens at-risk children

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