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At odds with Brown, lawmakers back state oversight of school funds

April 03, 2013|By Michael J. Mishak

As Gov. Jerry Brown pushes his proposal to give school districts more flexibility in how they use state education funding, he is finding himself at odds with members of his own party.

State Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge), chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, wants the state to retain some control over education money that is currently earmarked for specific programs.

On Wednesday, the committee backed her legislation to extend the existing system of so-called categorical funding, which is set to expire next year. The bill, SB 223, would require districts to apply for flexibility, receive approval from the state superintendent and demonstrate progress in student achievement. Liu described her proposal as an accountability measure.

Brown’s plan, on the other hand, would eliminate dozens of state requirements for many programs, such as remediation and new technology, and instead allocate more money to districts with no strings attached.

According to a legislative staff analysis of Liu’s legislation, Brown's approach “suffers from its lack of connection to the state’s programmatic priorities and may place protected subpopulations at risk.”

The governor has called the existing system “overly complex, bureaucratically driven and deeply inequitable.” His plan is part of his budget proposal, which will be updated in May.

In the past, Democrats and their allies in teachers unions have resisted upending the way schools are funded. Education advocates who support the governor’s overall goals worry about ensuring that school districts spend the funds on the students they are intended to benefit.


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