Lso Banos school district cautious on school funding

Brown plan favors LB, but no guarantee of money

By Corey Pride / Cpride@losbanosenterprise.comFebruary 15, 2013 

The Los Banos Unified School District released a preliminary budget last week with estimates based on Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to change the formula for funding schools.

If Brown's plan is approved and fully funded, the district will have an extra $35.7 million in revenue, totaling a budget of $90.3 million.

However, district officials do not believe the state can fully fund schools next year because of state finances. District projections for 2013-14 show $68.2 million in revenue and $72.3 million in expenditures. The district estimates it will have a beginning balance of $11.9 million.

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, seventh and eighth grade and ninth through 12th. He also wants to fund districts based on how many students are learning English as a second language and the number receiving free or reduced lunch.

Last year Brown floated a similar change, which was voted down.

School board Trustee John Mueller expressed frustration at the state's uncertainty about how to fund schools.

"Didn't we just do this last year? They're doing the same thing again, 'We're going to give you this, we're going to show you that and we're going to give you nothing,' " Mueller said.

According to school district documents, under Brown's plan, Los Banos Unified's funding by grade level would range from $6,342 per student for kindergarten through third grade to $7,680 per student for ninth through 12th.

Assistant Superintendent Dean Bubar said Brown's proposal would average $110 more per student.

District officials believe the governor's proposal will benefit Los Banos because 35 percent to 40 percent of the students in the district are English learners and 74 percent receive free or reduced lunch. There is a concern by lawmakers who want to make sure funding for those students is used wisely.

"Legislatively, that's the big concern, how can they ensure it's actually going to those kids," Bubar said.

Superintendent Steve Tietjen said the answer will likely be more checks and balances.

"We're going to have to have an educational plan each year. Our auditors will be coming in to review those to make sure the programs are in place ... to make sure we're doing what we're supposed to do with it," Tietjen said.

Bubar said the additional money for English learners would be issued per student for five years.

Mueller said Brown may be presenting his plan overly optimistically to garner support. He said he's wary of strings being attached after approval.

"They're telling us to go by these guidelines right now. It may look great right now, but once it's voted and they give us the real guidelines, what is it going to look like," he said. "Does anybody have an idea?"

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