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L.A. Unified set for funding boost under new state formula

February 20, 2013 |  6:40 pm

After five years of crippling budget cuts, the Los Angeles Unified School District would receive an estimated $820 more per student over the next two years under Gov. Jerry  Brown’s proposed new funding formula.

And L.A. Unified's overall funding is estimated to grow from $7,509 per student last year to $11,993 per student in 2020, when the new formula is expected to be fully implemented.  

State estimates released Wednesday show that the vast majority of school districts and charter schools -– about 1,700 -- would benefit from more dollars under the new formula, the most significant change in how schools would be funded in four decades.  

Brown is proposing that all school districts receive a base grant, with an additional 35% for each student who is low-income, learning English or in foster care. If such students make up at least half of the district’s total pupil population, the state would add an additional 35% grant for each of them.

The proposal is grounded in a 2008 research paper co-written by state Board of Education President Michael Kirst that found that income and English language ability are two critical factors in academic achievement. A report last year by the advocacy group Education Trust-West found that the poorest California school districts received an average $602 less per student from state and federal sources than the most affluent districts.

Most educators have long criticized the state’s funding system as inequitable, burdensome and overly complex.

“I don’t hear anybody defending the current system, which we contend is indefensible,” Kirst said Wednesday. “We’ve got people accepting the need for change and now it’s just a debate on how exactly to design it.”

The long-awaited funding estimates from the Department of Finance are likely to intensify that debate as the public sees for the first time which school districts stand to gain the most and the least under the proposed new formula.  

In the Hermosa Beach Elementary School District, for example, only 2% of 1,256 students are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced price meals and virtually none of them are struggling with English. As a result, the district is estimated to receive the lowest per-pupil funding in Los Angeles County –- just $7,863 by 2020.

That compares with $11,656 for the Anaheim City School District, where 84% of students are low-income and 55% are English learners.

Long Beach Unified, San Bernardino City Unified and Santa Ana Unified are all estimated to receive funding boosts of $800 to $1,000 per student over the next two years. But the state predicts an increase of less than half of that for more affluent districts, such as San Marino Unified, Palos Verdes Unified and Manhattan Beach Unified.

Over the next five years, per-student funding is expected to grow by an average of about $2,700.

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-- Teresa Watanabe

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