Merced education officials await details on future funding

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comJanuary 9, 2014 

Despite reports that schools would be getting more state funding based on Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget, Merced Union High School trustees said they did not have a clear picture of how much money the district will receive.

During their 21/2-hour meeting Wednesday in the El Capitan High School theater, trustees were briefed on the new state education funding plan. They also heard about some of the mandates they will face under the Local Control Funding Formula and the accompanying Local Control Accountability Plan.

Superintendent Scott Scambray said that under those guidelines, the district will get more money from the state than it does now, but details remain sketchy.

“We are going to get more. The governor’s adjusted budget released today has $4 billion to $5 billion more,” Scambray said of the additional funds for California schools. “We just don’t know exactly how and where we can spend it yet. We are going to receive more money, absolutely, and will be in much better shape. We just don’t know what the restrictions are yet.”

Teachers and classified employee groups again pressed the board for raises, which haven’t been granted for about seven years.

Trustee Ida Johnson said a delegation of district representatives would be attending the state Board of Education’s meeting Thursday in Sacramento. She said she is hopeful the state funding program and spending guidelines will be clear soon.

“I want to be able to give teachers some money, but I don’t want to do anything and have to backtrack,” Johnson said. “I think it (funding picture) looks good, but it will take a while. I don’t think the state will leave us hanging.”

Johnson, fellow Trustees Will Snyder III and Dora Crane as well as Tammie Calzadillas, assistant superintendent for education services, called for the public to get involved with developing the accountability plan.

Leonard Kahn, assistant superintendent for business services, told trustees the new state plans address investment in students and restoration of jobs. He thinks some of the new requirements for getting students to achieve more may be deleted because these steps are hard to measure.

Crane saidthat hopefully the spending picture will become clearer in the days ahead. Crane and Kahn said salary negotiations with teachers and non-teaching employees are continuing.

“We will wait and see what happens and look to the state for further direction,” Crane said, “and see what the tasks will be.”

Snyder said he received information that has not been available before, but it is still unknown what restrictions come with the state money.

Calzadillas said eight priorities have been identified by the state in local control accountability plans. They include student achievement, student engagement or involvement, parental participation, course access, adequacy of basic services, other student services, implementation of Common Core instructional practices and the climate at school campuses.

The school district must collect data on each of these areas and show that certain student populations, such as English-learners, migrant students, limited-income students and foster children, are served, Calzadillas said.

Collaboration among all residents, parents, teachers and staff also will be required, she added.

Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, lauded Gov. Brown for making education a top priority in the 2014-2015 fiscal year state budget.

“This budget builds upon California’s recommitment to ensuring that every child graduates with the tools they need to succeed in the society and economy they will find outside their classrooms,” Torlakson said.

Per-pupil spending continues to climb with additional funding for the most vulnerable students. And schools face the prospect of starting the next school year with billions of dollars in deferrals finally repaid, Torlakson said.

Sun-Star staff writer Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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