Gov. Jerry Brown has reportedly reached a compromise with legislators on his new funding formula for schools, and the news is good all around. For one thing, the details of the formula sound much more reasonable than his original plan to give 35% extra to every disadvantaged student -- a nice idea, but one that would have inordinately harmed other students and districts throughout the state. Though figures are sketchy, the new supplement for disadvantaged students appears to be about 20%, allowing a higher grant to all students.
But though the governor needed some people to stand up to his stubbornness on the actual numbers, make no mistake: The concept behind the formula is smarter, fairer and more transparent than the way the state has funded schools for the last few decades -- a system so arcane that only a handful of people in California even claimed to understand it. You know that any formula that depends on whether a particular school district was in a largely agrarian zone in the early 1970s has got to be a mess.
There will be a reason, a good reason, for why some students get extra. And it will eliminate a lot of restrictive categorical programs that keep districts from spending money as they most need it. It could well be one of Brown's most important and lasting legacies.