Brown signs school-funding changes into law

Brown signs education bills designed to funnel more money to lower-performing school districts

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Gov. Jerry Brown signed sweeping education legislation Monday that changes the state funding formula for K-12 schools in a way that he hopes will help boost the academic achievement of disadvantaged students.

Brown signed the main bill, AB97, and two related bills at Cahuenga Elementary School in Los Angeles and later held a ceremonial signing at California Middle School in Sacramento.

The Democratic governor had pushed for the change, known as the "Local Control Funding Formula," and called it a civil rights issue. It will send $2.1 billion more to school districts that have high numbers of students from lower-income families, who have limited English proficiency or are foster children.

Rather than having "50 or more mandates," Brown said the new system will be based on a simpler formula that will send money where it is most needed and will allow local officials to make decisions about the best way to spend it.

"Today, we did something more creative: We pulled back and increased the discretion and the accountability of the local authorities, and that's all to the good," Brown said from a podium in the school library at California Middle School.

During a pitch to lawmakers in February, he said students in Compton and Richmond don't share the same advantages as students in Los Gatos or Beverly Hills.

The formula gives school districts more control over state aid by eliminating earmarks for state-mandated programs. Democratic lawmakers say districts will be responsible for tracking students' success, but there are few guidelines on how the money will be spent during the first year, as the state Board of Education will not take up the regulations until well into the 2013-14 school year.

Samantha Tran, senior director of education policy at Education Now, said the first year of funding will be a transition year as schools figure out how to implement the changes.

"This is a massive, historic shift in how we fund schools," she said.

The state budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year takes effect Monday and provides about $55.3 billion in local and state revenue for K-12 education and two-year community colleges. That's an increase of more than $8 billion over the 2011-12 level under the state's school funding formula known as Proposition 98.

Brown had initially faced resistance to his proposal from advocates for suburban and wealthier districts but reached a compromise with Democratic leaders last month.

It provides extra money under a so-called concentration grant that will be given to districts in which 55 percent of the students are considered economically disadvantaged, English-learners or are foster children. All schools would receive a higher base grant from the state, a provision meant to placate school districts that do not have high proportions of those students.

California's spending package also calls for $1.2 billion in one-time money for districts to implement the "common core" standards in English and math, which are more academically rigorous and are intended to better prepare students for college and a career. The money can be spent as districts choose on areas such as teacher training, instructional materials and technology. SB91 and AB86 are the other two bills Brown signed Monday that are related to the education funding.

The governor also signed AB94, which provides college grants to middle-income families.

The so-called Middle Class Scholarship will begin in the 2014 academic year and will provide reduced tuition for students whose families earn less than $150,000 a year.

The scholarship would reduce student fees on a sliding scale based on income — up to 40 percent for families making less than $100,000 and up to 10 percent for families earning $150,000. The appropriation would be capped at $305 million annually once it is fully implemented.

According to the speaker's office, the scholarship would lower college fees from $12,192 to $7,315 at the University of California and from $5,472 to $3,283 at California State University campuses for families making less than $100,000.

The grant was championed by Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, after he failed to gain enough legislative support for it last year. Brown's signing of the legislation comes the same day interest rates on federal student loans doubled to 6.8 percent.


Associated Press writer Judy Lin contributed to this report.