ON CAMPUS: Sacramento fingerpainting the future

Posted by Nan Austin on April 24, 2013 

Sweeping changes coming down from Sacramento will fundamentally change how schools are financed and what they teach. As the count races down to June 30, legislation less sweeping – more a Swiffer run – also rates some notice.

The financing issue: Basic school dollars are doled out based on historical numbers that make no sense today. For example, Empire’s per child basic rate is $6,078 per child while Roberts Ferry gets $7,211. Why? Because at some point in the 1980s Roberts Ferry spent more than Empire and lawmakers picked that year to lock in spending levels forevermore.

The proposed shift to a single rate per child, with extra for poor kids and English learners, makes a lot of sense.

Gov. Jerry Brown proposed such a plan for this coming budget. Today Democrats put forward their own plan with two key differences, delaying the change to 2014-15 and deleting the multiplier for high concentrations of disadvantaged kids.

Districts with lower percentages of poor kids (think rural, foothill and north Modesto) would fare better under the Democrats’ plan. Districts with lots of poor kids (think south Modesto, Ceres) would fare better under Brown's plan.

Either change would be fairer and simpler than the system used now.

Assembly Bill (AB) 375 (Buchanan, D-Alamo) addresses teacher dismissal rules. An analysis by School Services of California concludes it would make it harder to dismiss teachers, including those accused of crimes against children. It would, however, add murder and attempted murder to the list of offenses triggering mandatory leaves.

Are those not on the list now? That’s distressing.

A flurry of charter school bills would end requirements tying these independent schools to local oversight and county boundaries. But charters are already largely conducting business out of public view and it’s tough to see where adding distance to discretion would improve things.

AB 615 (Bocanegra) would allow large numbers of school workers who work only while school is in session (think bus drivers, cafeteria workers and classroom aides) to get unemployment over summer vacation.

AB 792 (Mullin) would require school districts to post their agendas on their websites but appears to have no teeth if they don’t. All but the smallest districts generally post the agenda. More meaningful reform would be to require them to post the attachments, the report or contract board members will be voting on.

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