State budget shift funnels more money to education

Governor Jerry Brown has announced a major shift in budgeting for the 2014-15 year with an increase of $6.3 billion in funding for K-14 education over the 2013 Budget Act level. This increase comes after nearly five years of school districts taking necessary steps to ensure major programs were not cut from schools.

“This reinvestment provides the opportunity to correct historical inequities in school district funding with continued implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula, which directs additional resources to students who need the most support,” the website reads.

The changes include eliminating all past deferments to the district so schools no longer need to take out small loans to ensure they stay on track. It has been a little over seven years since the Claremont Unified School District has seen the Proposition 98 funding they need to maintain their budget. Almost every amount they received had a small portion deferred to a later time.

“In exchange, what they did is they took restrictions and parameters off of categorical funds. Those are little buckets of money that have very specific parameters on how they are spent,” said Lisa Shoemaker, CUSD’s assistant superintendent of business services. “So they gave us less money, but more freedom.”

The biggest change focuses on per pupil funding for the district. California is 49th in per pupil spending, according to the California Teacher’s Association. With the budget increase, California school districts will now be seeing a  projected increase of more than $2,188 per student in 2014-15 over the 2011-12 levels.

According to Ms. Shoemaker, the board is optimistic and is looking to add programs and positions back to the district. 

CUSD did not suffer through declining enrollment on top of funding cuts like many other California schools, the superintendent recognized. Except for a one percent increase last year, she continued, the district has not implemented any pay raises since the recession began. The state funding increase has the board looking to bring positions like proctors back to the district and adding safety related positions, Ms. Shoemaker explained.

Once the funding was reduced, CUSD increased class sizes, offered early retirement to bring in new teachers and cut school transportation for class trips or sporting events, according to Ms. Shoemaker. Earlier this year, after moving some funds around, transportation was brought back to the Claremont schools.

“The board hasn’t made any decisions, but they will be looking at things like employee benefits, facilities and technology needs,” Ms. Shoemaker said.

The board will be meeting about the Local Control Accountability Plan on January 21. The next scheduled school board meeting is set for January 23 at 7 p.m. in the Richard S. Kirkendall Education Center boardroom.

—Christina Collins Burton


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