Rachel Reeves

Muratsuchi opposes education funding proposal

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Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, who represents the 66th district, which includes Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach. Photo alforassembly.com

Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, who represents the 66th district, which includes Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach. Photo alforassembly.com

Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi opposes Governor Jerry Brown’s plan to redistribute education funding amongst all school districts in accordance with what the legislature is calling a Local Control Funding Formula.

Brown is proposing the first balanced budget in six years. Public education is the only area earmarked for increased funding, and the governor is aiming to establish base funding levels for all school districts and provide additional grants for districts with large populations of low-income students, English learners, and foster youth.

At the most basic level, it is a “weighted” formula, and the weight is being given to disadvantaged students.

The formula streamlines and localizes control over funding and represents an effort to smooth out the kinks in a system that Muratsuchi admits is currently “illogical and unequitable.”

But he worries about the state implementing redistribution measures at a time when public education is still hurting in the wake of massive cuts.

“On the positive side, the governor is trying to simplify the way schools are funded, but the way in which he’s trying to simplify it is basically by taking money away from suburban school districts and giving more to urban school districts,” Muratsuchi told Easy Reader Friday. “So the governor is saying that everyone is going to get more money, but if you actually look at the numbers it’s only more money relative to what they received in this school year, which is the lowest point after five years of devastating cuts. We want to get all of our school districts back to where they were before the great recession, when the 25 percent cuts kicked in in 2008-2009.”

Based on Department of Finance numbers, the governor’s proposal will afford each Redondo Beach student $1,896 less than he or she receives under the current funding system.

Muratsuchi believes the legislature must strike a balance between adequately funding all school districts and finding a way to provide necessary resources for disadvantaged students.

“I want to emphasize that as a former South Bay school board member, I recognize that disadvantaged student populations may require greater resources, but I’m concerned that the Local Control Funding Formula does not recognize that all school districts have been devastated by state budget cuts in the past five years,” Muratsuchi said. “And on top of that, we need to keep the big picture in mind – that California is 49th in the nation in per pupil spending. So I’m fighting to: number one, restore all the budget cuts that have been made… and two, to bring up the funding for all school districts so that we can at least get California up to the state average before we start talking about a significant redistribution of state education dollars.”

The assemblyman also worries localizing funding – in theory a good idea, he said – might engender a situation whereby districts are not being held accountable for how they spend their money. It could go to teacher salaries, for example, rather than disadvantaged students as intended.

Muratsuchi, who also sits on the assembly’s budget committee, last week asked the non-partisan California Legislative Analyst’s Office to draft alternative funding scenarios for the legislature to consider. He does not believe education funding has to be “either or,” but can be allocated according to “degrees.”

“I’m concerned that the governor’s Local Control Funding Formula is creating winners and losers amongst school districts, with South Bay districts being on the losing end,” he said.

Muratsuchi invites members of the public to visit his website, which contains a sample letter to the governor requesting an increase in base funding for all school districts.

Easy Reader will publish a more in-depth story on the Local Control Funding Formula before May 14, when the legislation convenes to consider a revised version of Brown’s budget.

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