SAN RAMON -- Parents from PTA groups in the San Ramon Valley and Las Trampas areas pleaded with local legislators Friday for more school funding.
But their message that every school needs enough money to provide all students with a high-quality education¿ was met with measured responses from congressional representatives and state legislators meeting with the PTA groups in San Ramon during the 33rd annual Legislative Advocacy Day.
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, both decried the impact that sequestration -- automatically triggered federal budget cuts -- will have on schools and social services for children and families. Swalwell said schools in his district could lose $14 million in federal funding.
"Is there money in the future?" he said. "It's just hard to see right now how that happens."
Miller said sequestration means schools statewide will lose $250 million in special education funding, and those that serve disadvantaged students will lose $328 million in Title 1 funding.
In a panel discussion about the state budget, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, said they don't believe the Legislature will have time to implement Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed school funding formula this year. Many questions remain about the governor's plan to give more new money to districts that have a higher percentage of low-income and English learners, the legislators said.
"It's certainly a long way from being a done deal," Bonilla said.
Buchanan said the plan could take $1,000 or more per student away from some districts in the next seven years, which she said does not seem fair.
"Every time we cut, we've always cut evenly," she said. "And we've always brought back school (funding) evenly. We haven't left some behind and I don't think we want to leave some behind today. You have to think about adequacy."
This comment drew applause from the more than 150 PTA representatives who peppered the legislative representatives with tough questions about a variety of issues. But the biggest issue on their minds was money.
DeSaulnier said the legislature needs to look at cuts the governor has made to funding that affects children in other areas, such as early childhood education.
"You need to consider all the investment," he said.
Denise Jennison, president of the 32nd District PTA, was not placated.
"When I say we need to make education a priority," she said, "I mean that we need to fund it as if it is a priority."
The state is near the bottom nationwide in education funding, said Carol Kocivar, president of the state PTA. California spends about $8,000 per student, she said, while many other states pump $15,000 to $18,000 per student into their schools.