ANTIOCH -- For the first time since the economic collapse, Antioch school trustees are talking about bringing back education services and programs rather than cutting them.
The district adopted a $142.1 million spending plan for this fiscal year recently that includes about $11.5 million in deficit spending.
However, it will soon have to redo that budget. But, with good reason.
Antioch Unified expects to receive significant funding through the state's new local control funding formula plan, which is aimed at helping those districts with sizable low-income and Spanish-speaking student populations. It's uncertain how much it will receive.
Roughly 60 to 70 percent of Antioch Unified's student body fit the criteria, associate superintendent of business services Tim Forrester said.
"We have a lot of work to do, but there's light at the end of the tunnel," board President Joy Motts said.
The state's new formula calls for giving school districts a base payment equivalent to the statewide average in the 2007 school year -- before the recession led to huge budget cuts. Additional funding would be doled out based on the number of English learners, students eligible for free and reduced meals and foster youth to help meet their unique learning needs, Forrester said.
"It just makes sense to me," Motts said. "If you look at Antioch compared to say, Lafayette, it's like comparing the moon and the sun. We need completely different things."
Adds Robert Strickler, president of the Antioch teachers union: "These are the students of greatest need. It will benefit Antioch and Antioch-specific issues for sure."
The rationale for the funding change is that disadvantaged students require more resources to bring them up to grade level. The change would also do away with dozens of "categorical" funds created to funnel money into specific programs, giving districts more spending flexibility.
Meanwhile, Antioch has to figure out how implement the local control funding formula program over the next 45 days.
"We'll have to take a look at what LCFF means, and how restrictive the funds are for specific sites," Forrester said.
Strickler points out the funding program sets a mandate that classes have a student-teacher ratio of 24-to-1 within seven years.
"I guess I'd say that my hope is that Antioch doesn't take all seven years to implement it," he said.
Included in its June 26 spending plan is five additional school counselor spots, bringing Antioch Unified's total to 16.4 positions, along with four roving elementary school vice principals, two special education psychologists, a pair of program improvement directors, a human resources director and a couple of other administrative positions.
"A lot of these tie perfectly to LCFF," Forrester said.
The district's spending gap could also be cut in the future by a solar project and energy efficiency projects under development, Motts said.
Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.