Portantino Pushes for More Base Grant Funding for Schools

Along with three of his Democratic colleagues, state Sen. Anthony Portantino introduced a bill last week seeking to add $1.2 billion to the Local Control Funding Formula, voter-mandated budget formula that since 2013 has determined annual revenue for K-12 schools and community colleges.
According to a news release from his office, Portantino’s proposal is aimed at increasing the base level for the current fiscal year and becoming a permanent part of the state’s funding formula thereafter.
As presented, the proposal calls for a $1 billion increase in the base grant that goes to every district and a $200 million increase in supplemental and concentration grant funding dedicated to districts with a qualifying percentage of students who are English language learners or who receive free or reduced cost lunch.
La Cañada Unified School District, which receives only base grant funding, has long advocated for an increase to that particular pool of money.
The budget proposal would provide an additional 2% increase on top of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2.5% cost-of-living increase, for a total increase of 4.5%.
That would create a higher base grant and result in more supplemental grant funding in future years, according to Portantino’s office.
“Since the beginning of LCFF, many districts across California have stressed that the original baseline funding formula was too low and needed to be increased,” said Portantino, who is chairman of the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education.
“This proposal is a fully fundable and reasonable attempt to accomplish this goal, which will make a positive difference for our children. … This is a concrete proposal that works within the current budget framework.”
Mark Evans, LCUSD’s chief business and operations officer, said that from his perspective, the discussions happening among state legislators are promising.
“Even though we heard talk before, it’s always been hopeful and wishful and not actionable,” Evans said. “Now it seems like it’s moving into the next phase. But I’m not going to hold my breath.”
While the state currently appears due for a good revenue report, Evans said it’s difficult to know whether that larger revenue stream is permanent, or how Brown will perceive the state’s long-term financial prospects.
“If it’s not permanent, we’ll have to figure out how to keep [additional base grant funding] going,” Evans said. “I would love that, but I don’t want to have to give it back next year, that would make budgeting and planning much harder.”
Another bill related to LCFF is making its way through the state Assembly. AB 1321, authored by San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, has the stated purpose of mandating that each local educational agency be responsible for collecting appropriate data and information to ensure funds are being spent on students as the law intends.
The proposal from Portantino, a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident, also contains accountability requirements.
It would require districts to disclose actual expenditure information, both budgeted and expended, according to the statement.
Evans said he won’t be holding his breath waiting for Brown to sign off on the proposal, but he said he’s happy legislative leaders are discussing the issue.
“If the core funding for all the students across the state is looking to be increased, that’s a good thing,” Evans said. “It ties into the conversation we’ve been having.”

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