District budget hinging on Brown funding plan

By Corey Pride / Cpride@losbanosenterprise.comFebruary 7, 2013 

Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to change the formula for funding schools is causing the Los Banos Unified School District to guess at what its budget will look like next year.

In his State of the State address last month, Brown unveiled a plan to provide differing amounts of money for kindergarten through third grade than fourth through sixth grade and ninth through 12th. He also wants to fund districts based on how many students they have learning English as a second language and the number receiving free or reduced lunch.

Assistant Superintendent Dean Bubar said he thinks the new formula would mean more money for the Los Banos school district, but he cannot be certain.

"From what I can tell so far, it should be more money, but there's no new money," Bubar said. "It's like you have $2, and instead of giving two people each one dollar, one gets $1.25 and the other gets 75 cents."

Superintendent Steve Tietjen said 35 percent to 40 percent of the students in the district are English learners and about 30 percent receive free or reduced lunch. Tietjen said those numbers are low compared to other districts around the state, adding to a level of uncertainty about how much funding Brown's plan would provide.

Schools currently are funded based on average daily attendance.

Tietjen said Brown's goal is to get California's school's back to 2007-08 funding levels and end takeaways.

"You can't do it all at once. He's trying to eliminate the 22 percent (takeaway)," Tietjen said. "We don't know how much (money) we expect to see."

Bubar said even in the best scenario, he expects the district to have a deficit.

Brown's plan must be approved by the state Legislature. He made the same proposal last year but, Bubar said, he didn't have the super-majorities in the state Assembly and Senate that he now enjoys.

Tietjen said the Bay Area and Los Angeles will ultimately decide the fate of Brown's plan. He said if the proposal generates more money from those regions, approval is assured.

"If they are winners, their representatives will vote for it," he said.

The district held its first budget meeting late Thursday, after the Enterprise's deadline for publication.

On Tuesday, Bubar and Tietjen said there could be a scenario where two preliminary budgets are presented based on each possible outcome of Brown's proposal.

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