The Los Banos Unified School District is doing better than expected financially due to Gov. Jerry Brown’s new method of school funding.
Brown and the state Legislature have instituted the Local Control Funding Formula, which eliminates money set aside for specific purposes and gives districts the freedom to move those monies to other areas of need. The formula also funds districts based on the number of students learning English as a second language and the number receiving free or reduced lunch.
In Los Banos, 30 percent of the student body is made up of English learners and 78.7 percent of the district’s children are on free or reduced lunch.
Superintendent Steve Tietjen said the new formula has provided the district with an additional $4.3 million. He said the state has borrowed money from school districts since 2007 and under the new formula the payback will occur sooner.
“We would be back to the 2007-08 (funding) level in 2021 under the old system. That’s going to change,” Tietjen said.
He said although the district will see its funding restored before the next decade arrives, this fiscal year the district is still using $1.5 million from its reserve fund to cover expenses.
However, there is good news. The district is no longer asking its unions to approve furlough days as in years past. The Los Banos Teachers Association and the district came to an agreement on a new three-year contract, as opposed to the one-year deals of recent times due to financial uncertainty.
There will be differences in the classroom as well.
“We’re going to be adding programs and reducing some class sizes,” Tietjen said, when asked what the extra funding will go toward.
He said classes at the kindergarten through third-grade level are at 31 students and fourth grade through sixth grade are set at 33 pupils. High school classes in the district have capacity issues also, with 35 to 40 students in some classrooms and advanced placement courses having an enrollment of as many as 42.
Tietjen said the district will concentrate on intervention programs designed to assist students who are falling behind in their studies.