This is an excerpt of On Assignment, education writer Theresa Harrington's blog on Contra Costa County schools. Read more and post comments at IBABuzz.com/onassignment. Follow her at Twitter.com/tunedtotheresa.

May 17

Although Gov. Jerry Brown added some extra money for schools in his revised budget released Tuesday, some are still questioning whether his education funding proposal goes far enough to provide adequate funding for all districts.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan said Thursday that she is concerned about Brown's plan to eliminate "categorical" funding that now pays for textbooks and programs such as summer school and career technical education.

Buchanan said the governor wants to take the money previously set aside for categorical programs and instead use it to provide additional funding to districts based on their percentages of English learners, foster youth and low-income students. This would make it difficult for districts that don't have many of these students to continue to provide programs and materials previously paid for with categorical funding, she said.

H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the state Department of Finance, said Buchanan is correct about how the categorical money would be redistributed. But he and other officials stressed that all districts would get more base grant funding than they currently receive, which should help districts without large populations of disadvantaged students continue to provide programs now funded with categorical money.


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Another bit of good news in the May revise is an additional $240 million for K-12 education next year, which will mean a higher level of per student funding for all districts than what was projected in January. Palmer said his department hopes to get new district per student estimates posted online within a week.

To help answer questions about how this new funding formula would affect local districts, both the Contra Costa and Alameda County offices of education are participating in public workshops.

Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Joe Ovick will team up with Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, to host an Education Finance Forum at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Pleasant Hill City Council Chamber at 100 Gregory Lane in Pleasant Hill. For more information call 925-521-151, or visitww w.asmdc.org/members/a14.

Another workshop will be held at 2 p.m. May 28 at the Alameda County Office of Education, 313 W. Winton Avenue in Hayward. Budget perspectives will be provided by Capitol Advisors Group, a Sacramento-based education advocacy firm. The workshop is open to anyone that wishes to learn about issues including the Governor's proposed Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF, Proposition 98, school accountability, school energy funding. More information is available by calling 916-847-9454.

According to the governor's plan, districts with English language learners, low-income students and foster youth would receive supplemental grants for each student. School districts in which more than half of the students fall into one of the three categories would receive additional "concentration grants," which Brown said would amount to 4 cents for every dollar spent on education.

Senate Democrats recently unveiled their own proposal, which would eliminate the concentration grants and spread the money to all districts to increase the base and supplemental grants.

State lawmakers will almost certainly come back with another proposal, said Bonilla, who heads the budget subcommittee on education finance.

Still, she said Tuesday, "I believe it will be an alternative that will reflect the spirit and the principles the governor has put forward."

Next week, lawmakers expect to hear from school officials from around the state about the governor's plan and what it would mean to implement it in the coming school year, as he proposes.

"This is the critical week," Bonilla said, "when we need to find out: Is the governor's time line a possibility or not?"

Staff writer Katy Murphy contributed to this report.

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