Discussing education concerns with a group of Santa Clarita Valley leaders and politicians, Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, shared the political landscape for California classrooms Monday.
There are two major concerns on the forefront of the educational discussion: the local control funding formula and the Common Core Standards Initiative, Olsen said.
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And the area of concern for both of these issues have to do with the fact that the state’s education budget has only received about half of the money it was promised when voters passed Proposition 30 in November.
On the bright side, she said, under Gov. Jerry Brown’s new budget proposal, all schools receive more money than they have over the last five years due to a half-decade of cuts to education spending and deferrals.
However, one of the main problems with education is the new funding formula proposed by Brown’s office creates tiers, Olsen said, which she referred to as “winners” and “losers.”
Even within her own Assembly district in Central California, one district would receive a significantly higher dollar amount in per student funding compared to a neighboring district less than 30 miles away.
The new formula provides a higher funding levels for schools with higher populations of English as a Second Language students, Olsen said.
“I firmly believe that the formulas today are not working and they create inequities throughout the state,” Olsen said.
More time is essential for evaluating the situation and making a smart decision, she said. “I think a July implementation is ridiculously too soon.”
Officials close to the educational side of the budget process are working on a number of proposals to try to close the gap, she said, including increasing the base funding amount and re-evaluating how grants are made available to schools.
Locally, it’s been a constant concern, said Joan Lucid, superintendent for the Saugus Union School District.
“We are the lowest funded district in Los Angeles County, and one of the lowest funded areas in the state,” Lucid said. “We need a new funding formula.”
On top of formulaic concern, the state’s adoption of Common Core standards, which is a push to nationalize the education curriculum, which has been adopted by 46 states, has put two new “unfunded mandates” on local districts: training and technology.
“The state hasn’t put aside one dollar to pay for teacher training,” Olsen said.
Locally, several districts, such as Castaic Union, are expected to use bond revenue from local taxpayers to help pay for this new need, said Susan Christopher, president of the district’s local school board.
Shortly after this was brought up in discussion, Eric Harnish, COC’s director of external relations, asked about the funding gap between what schools have been promised in Proposition 30 and what’s been delivered.
Olsen said legislators were still “trying to find out” where the money went: the proposition created $6 billion in revenue, and only about $3.2 billion has made it to schools.About $2.7 billion has been allocated to K-12, and the remaining $500 million was allocated to CSUs and UCs.
“It would be nice if there were a way to simplify it to make sure we are getting more money to the classroom,” Olsen said.
Olsen , a mother of three school-aged children, has been an advocate for all levels of education, recently a primary sponsor of AB 138, which looks to set a cap for UC and CSU tuitions.
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