Rachel Reeves

Revised California budget retains education finance reform, funds SoCal ROC

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Governor Jerry Brown is standing firmly behind his promise to re-vamp the way the state funds education, much to Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi’s chagrin.

Brown was unyielding in his commitment to reforming California’s education financing system during hearings of his revised budget this week.

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi speaks to the Redondo Beach Board of Education in April. Photo by Rachel Reeves

Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi speaks to the Redondo Beach Board of Education in April. Photo by Rachel Reeves

The governor views the proposed Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) – which would provide for additional grants to low-income students, foster youth, and English learners – as a fair proposal with “great moral force,” but Muratsuchi believes it will “create winners and losers among school districts, with South Bay school districts being losers.”

“There’s a lot that I support about the governor’s May revised budget,” Muratsuchi told Easy Reader. “[I support] his fiscally prudent approach of focusing on paying down the debt and…not increasing spending in any area except education.

“The problem for South Bay school districts is that the governor has not backed away from his Local Control Funding Formula.”

At Muratsuchi’s request, the Legislative Analyst Office prepared an alternative funding scenario that the assemblymember intends to present at a series of budget committee hearings scheduled to take place between now and June 15.

The alternative proposal relies not on concrete figures but on two key principles: that the budget should increase base grant funding for all school districts on the assumption that “a rising tide will lift all boats,” and that it should restore recession-related cuts made in 2007.

Muratsuchi believes the state should not “talk about redistribution” until all districts are adequately funded.

He concedes that this is a “zero-sum game,” as money for an increase in base grants would have to come from either the supplemental grant monies earmarked for disadvantaged students or from the concentration grants flagged for schools whose disadvantaged student populations exceed 50 percent.

“I support the general concept that disadvantaged students should receive greater resources to address their legitimate educational needs, but this is not an either/or issue but a question of degrees,” Muratsuchi said. “What I’m fighting for is to work for all school districts to benefit from the economic recovery by seeing increased funding for all schools.”

He intends to turn up the volume in his campaign to oppose the Local Control Funding Formula over the next month.

The good news, Muratsuchi said, is Brown has acknowledged grassroots pressure by changing his tack and agreeing provisionally to maintain a dedicated funding stream for the Southern California Regional Occupation Center (SoCal ROC), whose future looked dim in his initial budget proposal.

The budget unveiled in January eliminated funding for SoCal ROC, and as recently as last month SoCal ROC Superintendent Dr. Christine Hoffman was anticipating that the center would close in July.

But on Wednesday, during the presentation of his revised budget, Brown proposed funding SoCal ROC and other centers like it for at least two more years.

“It’s not a done deal but the community’s efforts to save [SoCal ROC] have clearly resulted in the governor acknowledging that programs like [SoCal ROC] and career technical education are important and worth supporting,” Muratsuchi said.

The assemblymember is proposing a new bill, AB 1214, which legislates an annual general fund appropriation for career technical education centers, based on a formula agreed upon by school districts affiliated with those centers. The bill is pending approval by the Appropriations Committee and has already been passed by the Education Committee.

Muratsuchi encourages those who feel strongly about either the future of SoCal ROC or the Local Control Funding Formula to visit his website, which features two sample letters addressed to Brown. (Click here for the SoCal ROC letter, and here for the letter about education financing.)

“This is the most critical time to continue to send a message to the governor that all school districts have been hit hard by state budget cuts in the past five years and that the governor promised, through Proposition 30, that funding would go to those schools,” Muratsuchi said. “The governor has to keep his promise.”

The legislature has until June 15 to vote on the revised budget, and the governor must sign it by June 30.

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