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.
The state's budget deal included some changes from the proposal that Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled in May, but it kept largely intact his overhaul of school funding.
The three main components are: base grants for every student; supplemental grants for English learners, low-income students and foster youths; and concentration grants for districts with more than 55 percent of students in those categories.
Those students in more than one category are only counted once for the additional grants. The compromise reached between the Legislature and the governor changed the proportion of money being spent in each area.
Brown initially proposed spending 80 cents of every dollar on base grants, 16 cents on supplemental grants and 4 cents on concentration grants, said Arun Ramanathan, executive director of the Education Trust-West advocacy group. The final compromise allocates 84 cents to base grants, 10 cents to supplemental grants and 6 cents to concentration grants, he said.
The base grant will average $7,643 per student, according to the Department of Finance. The amounts for students in grades K-3 and 9-12 will be slightly higher to help pay for smaller class sizes in primary grades and career technical education in high school.
On average, the base grant is about $2,000 more per student than districts have received in the past, said speakers during a budget briefing earlier this week, hosted by EdSource and New American Media. No district will receive less than it got this year.
Districts will also split $1.2 billion in extra money to help implement new Common Core Curriculum Standards and $250 million to bolster work-based learning programs to help students prepare for college and careers. A few districts that don't have many disadvantaged students may also receive "economic recovery payments" to help them get back to the same funding levels that they received before the recession, within eight years.
The new funding gives more control to districts to determine how they spend their money. But the state will hold districts accountable for using the supplemental and concentration grants to help disadvantaged students by requiring them to develop plans showing added programs or staff funded through the grants.
In about three years, if disadvantaged students fail to improve with the new expenditures, county offices of education and the state could step in. Details about the spending plans and expected student improvement still need to be worked out by the state Board of Education, Board President Michael Kirst said during the briefing.
In January, the state Board of Education plans to approve a template for district spending plans, which must be implemented in 2014-15.
Until then, many districts are starting to approve raises. But Ana Matosantos, director of the California Department of Finance, said money from supplemental and concentration grants cannot be used for across-the-board raises, since it must be used specifically to help disadvantaged students.
Ramanathan said after the briefing that he expects schools to have greater control over spending. School districts will be expected to consult parents and other groups as they come up with their spending plans.
Ramanathan said he hopes to see lots of innovation. Schools could decide they need more nurses, reading specialists, music teachers or other educators. They also could extend the school year for disadvantaged students.
Combined with the $1.25 billion for Common Core implementation, districts are going to see more money than they've had in years, Ramanathan said.
"This is an influx of money, which districts, quite frankly, aren't used to," he said. "I am very leery, because I know some districts are prepared and some districts clearly aren't."
For help, many will turn to consultants and to companies that produce instructional materials.
"What you do in those situations is you create open season for vendors," Ramanathan said. "It's going to be a big gold rush."
Is your district prepared to spend more money wisely?