New funding formula would help students thrive

You probably already know that public schools in California aren’t funded well enough to provide all students with the educational investments they deserve.

And I know you’re thinking, “Right, Richard, we could all use more money.”

But listen to this: California ranks 47th out of 50 states for the amount of funding it gets to educate each student. New York, which also has a high cost of living, gives its K-12 public school districts almost double what California gives us.

I’m hoping this is all about to change — if our state Legislature and governor can work together and commit to increasing funding for schools and distributing that money in a better way.

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed a new funding formula. He calls it the Local Control Funding Formula. It will not immediately eliminate the resource shortfalls and uncertainty faced by schools in the San Francisco Unified School District, but will go a long way toward doing so. The LCFF will provide funding for each pupil in a simpler, more equitable manner while also giving school districts more flexibility in how to spend that money based on what their students need.

Some California school communities are worried that this will create an unequal — and thus unfair — distribution of money around the state.

A closer look at how this new funding would be set up shows that’s just not true.

Under Brown’s proposal, no school district or charter school would receive less than it received in the 2012-13 school year. And once LCFF is in full swing, more than $15 billion would then be invested in schools, plus a full cost-of-living adjustment.

Here’s the important thing: In as few as five years from now, our statewide average of spending just $6,656 on each student could grow to as much as $10,450.

I do have to admit that San Francisco schools have fared better than most California public schools in navigating the fiscal crises over the past several years. This is all thanks to our ongoing efforts to work together as a city, and because we have the well-informed and generous support of our voters and business community.

The governor’s LCFF proposal would reset California’s educational system in a way that gives decision-making authority to local communities, reduces administrative burdens and directs money to students based on their academic needs.

Let’s face it, the future economic health of California depends on a well-educated workforce, and the state’s schools need more money to ensure that all of our children have the opportunity to participate fully in California’s future.

No matter what the final policies look like, we all have a stake in investing in our students, and it is well past time to start treating their educational needs as a “must have” priority, not just a “nice to have” possibility.

Richard A. Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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