S.F. schools poised to net more state funding in new budget

The San Francisco Unified School District will see an increase in funding of roughly $4,000 per pupil over the next seven years now that the California budget has been approved.

The increase is a dramatic shift in the way schools have been funded, and it will give districts more control over the money.

Under the budget, which still needs to be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, school funding would increase by $1 billion to $2.6 billion, which means base funding for districts statewide would grow. Additionally, schools serving a high number of low-income and English-language learners would see more cash.

The SFUSD, with an estimated 64 percent of its roughly 51,000 students considered low income or English learners, would see base funding increase this fall by $300. But over the next seven years, funding would grow from $7,313 this coming school year to $11,233 by the 2020-21 school year, according to the state Department of Finance.

Last week, San Francisco school officials began discussing its $378 million budget, which included some increased state funding figures. But this extra money will be a “huge relief,” officials said.

“Once the state budget and the specific language is out in print we will be looking for any variances between the final budget and what we've assumed,” Myong Leigh, the SFUSD's deputy superintendent of policy and operations, said last week. “We can make adjustments, but I don't think we'll need to.”

Bruce Fuller, a professor of education at UC Berkeley, said the increase in funding is a “welcome reversal” and urban districts such as San Francisco stand to fare better than more affluent suburban counterparts. But the real test for all districts will be determined by how they spend the money since it will be under local control.

“It's going to take some smart people within local boards to comb through a lot of evidence to sort out what we know works and what doesn't to boost kids' learning,” Fuller said.

Several school districts on the Peninsula also will see funding increases. The 3,400-student Ravenswood School District, which comprises 97 percent low-income or English-learner kids, will have per-pupil funding nearly doubled by the 2020-21 school year — from $6,287 this past school year to $11,997.

Some of the more affluent student populations in San Mateo County won't see as dramatic an increase, but will still get more money.

Hillsborough City Elementary School District has a low percentage of low-income and English-learner students, 2 percent of its 1,500 total kids, and thus will see per-pupil funding rise from $5,236 to $8,793 in the fall. But it will not receive further funding by the 2020-21 school year.

The $146 billion budget was passed by the state Legislature over the weekend. In addition to more education funding, it also increases funding to Medi-Cal, state courts and child care. The increases are largely the result of the passage of the Proposition 30 tax increases last November.

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