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La Cañada Unified School District eyes budget plan

Governor's new funding proposal is 'encouraging,' officials say.

January 23, 2013|By Peter Day

Gov. Jerry Brown's recently announced school funding proposal appears friendlier to the La Cañada Unified School District than his previous proposal, district officials said this week.

“On the surface it's encouraging,” said Scott Tracy, president of the La Cañada school board, “but we've got a long way to go.”

Much of the optimism comes from a change in how the governor proposes to fund the state's education. Last year, Brown had proposed a funding formula that based school district funding on individual student need rather than a set, across-the-board amount. As a result, districts with students from lower-income families would likely receive more funding than affluent districts, such as La Cañada. The governor's current funding formula takes a softer stance that doesn't have “distinct winners and losers,” according to Supt. Wendy Sinnette.

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Change, while not always easy, will ultimately be a good thing for state schools, according to Tracy.

“Everyone acknowledges that the funding mechanism for public schools in California is outdated and needs to be reformed,” he said. “There's strong agreement on that. The question is what form does it ultimately take?”

However, the new formula would still allocate more money to school districts with larger percentages of low-income and English learners. Those districts could receive supplemental funding, according to the K-12 Education section of the governor's budget summary released on Jan. 10. With only 1% of its students qualifying for the free- or reduced-lunch program, La Cañada could miss out on the funding bonus. A number of the state's top-performing school districts — San Marino, Piedmont, Palos Verdes, Manhattan Beach, Coronado, for example — face the same issue due to the high-income demographics in their respective districts.

But Sinnette warns not to get too worried about the current state of the governor's budget proposal.

“It's important to remember that it is just a proposal,” Sinnette said. “There will be legislative hearings, the May Revision will be released, and we still have the month of June before the final budget is approved. The budget discussion is fluid and will change over the next several months.”

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