MODESTO — Significantly more money would come to area school districts under the proposed 2013-14 state budget announced Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown.
His budget includes a higher level of funding for all schools and payback of some money the state essentially borrowed from districts to manage its own cash problem. But beyond that, it includes additional funding for low-income students and English learners.
An even higher level of funding will be given to districts where more than half the students are in low-income families, learning English or in foster care. In Stanislaus County, only Oakdale Unified and a few one-school districts fall with certainty below that threshold.
"It may be very beneficial for Modesto City Schools. We'll have to watch and see," said California School Board Association President Cindy Marks, a Modesto City board member.
The governor's push toward a so-called weighted formula drew praise from nonprofit organizations active in education issues.
The Education Trust-West released a statement saying: "Gov. Brown's proposal would correct deep funding inequities between rich and poor districts that we have documented in our research. It would simplify our complex, opaque and antiquated system of funding our schools."
California PTA President Carol Kocivar said the proposal makes school funding "more rational, transparent, accountable, and provides additional resources for the students who need them most."
Funding proposed for community colleges, state universities and the University of California system also went up.
"The governor's budget looks promising for community colleges," said Joan Smith, chancellor of the Yosemite Community College District.
Speaking at the YCCD board meeting Wednesday, Smith said if the final numbers hold, savings set aside in case of midyear cuts would be returned to Modesto Junior College and Columbia College for the following year.
"After four years of having to make cuts, to get to a point where we're stable and don't have to make cuts is just a joy," Smith said.
Key points for schools in Brown's budget:
Fewer restrictions: With the exception of special education and school lunches, most money would be given to schools without the usual strings.
"I am pleased that the governor is looking at local control as being important," Marks said. Boards should be able to budget based on "what we see as our needs, not necessarily what Sacramento sees as every school district's needs," she said.
Bus money: Last year's budget proposed doing away with all funding for home-to-school transportation. In this year's plan, districts would get the same dollars for transportation but be able to use them however they wish.
Adult schools: Community colleges would take over the adult classes now given at neighborhood schools. The plan is for the colleges to work with school districts to provide classes at neighborhood schools when needed, a state Department of Finance spokesman said Thursday.
The proposed budget, which must be negotiated with the Legislature, would give school board members a whole new set of decisions to make, Marks said.
"I believe that is going to put a lot more responsibility on school board members to work with their communities and evaluate, 'What are the priorities we have?' " she said.
Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2339, and on Twitter, @NanAustin.