Brown Soft-Sells School Formula in LA
Hillel Aron | May 17, 2013
Governor Jerry Brown continued to promote his Local Control Funding Formula proposal at a Friday morning press conference at East LA’s Humphreys Elementary.
Joining him was an All-Star cast that included LA Chamber of Commerce CEO Gary Toebben, United Way CEO Elise Buik, School Board member Bennett Kayser, former State Senator and City Council candidate Gil Cedillo, UTLA President Warren Fletcher, and LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, who (in what must be an extremely rare occurrence) introduced Fletcher to the podium as “my union president.”
The Governor presented his plan as a small but important change in how funds are allocated to districts like LA. Deasy described its passage as a make-or-break $188 million game changer. His chief intergovernmental relations staffer noted that there were some LA-area legislators who hadn’t yet gotten behind the plan.
The Brown proposal would divert more money to school districts like LAUSD with a higher concentration of low-income students and English Language Learners.
Brown’s sales pitch played down the new formula’s reach.
“We’re trying to compensate a little bit for the difference of living in this neighborhood, and living over there in Beverly HIlls, or out in Malibu,” he said.
“This is a small but very powerful way of giving to those who don’t have much.”
Deasy put a much sharper emphasis on the importance of the proposed formula, which he said would mean a $188 million difference for LAUSD in the next school year alone.
“Our entire budget is predicated on this passing,” Deasy told LA School Report after the presser. “We don’t have a second scenario. We’ve put our trust in the Governor.”
Perhaps most surprising, there are still some LA-based legislators who are not yet totally on board and might be influenced by the Governor’s appearance.
“They’re still some skepticism,” said Edgar Zazueta, Director of LAUSD’s Office of Governmental Relations. “You hear this a lot: ‘I’m supportive of the concept but…'”
Many legislators, he said, are concerned over “Issues like accountability, and how to make sure money is spent appropriately.”
Zazueta also said that policy staffers who’ve worked in the Capital for decades are especially suspicious of the plan, which would remove some 60-odd categorical funds (sometimes called “silos”) that can only be spent in specific ways.
“There’s a very influential policy staff who drive most of the big education conversations,” said Zazueta. “They’re the ones who are dissecting this more than everyone.”
The collapsing of the categorical funds into larger pots of money that local districts have more control over is “a hard pill to swallow for people that have spent their whole career developing the system.”
Brown, meanwhile, tried to stress that the redistributive portion of his plan was simply a small but in important part of the formula — 20 percent of all the education funding.
“People in Sacramento want to take that and spray it over everybody,” said Brown. “It will be pennies compared to the dollars that it means here.”
He added, later: “I can’t believe that any Democrat would go against this.”