By Jason KUROSU
The Glendale Unified School District discussed the increase in K-12 spending as dictated by Gov. Jerry Brown’s latest budget proposal, which will see school districts receive an influx of Proposition 98 funds. Though education spending has been down, members of the board wanted to temper their excitement over the new funds, which district officials say still does not bring GUSD up to its target funding levels.
Superintendent Dr. Richard Sheehan said that the budget is “for the most part, very positive to education,” but also said, “What we have to keep in mind is this is a restoration of funds. This is not new money. This is money that we had at one time and we lost. So as the governor fully restores our funding at the target date of 2020-21, we will be where we were at 2007-08.”
GUSD Chief Business and Financial Officer Robert McEntire led the report regarding the governor’s 2015-16 budget proposal. In it, McEntire said that there will be a 4.1% increase in education funding next year.
However, with the governor’s office focusing on reducing spending across the board, funds for K-12 education were often deferred, including over $900,000 to GUSD. McEntire said that the target amount the district would receive is $227 million at full implementation under the Local Control Funding Formula. The district actually received $181.9 million this year. McEntire said the governor has agreed to fund 32.19% or $14.5 million of the $45 million gap.
Among the district’s concerns with the budget are spending for certain programs such as Common Core while also trying to make up lost funds from years of deferrals.
The budget proposes over $1 billion in one-time Proposition 98 funds to go towards Common Core as well as paying back funds for other older, mandated programs.
“The Governor does want to pay some of it, but he wants to suggest that we put that money towards Common Core, so he’s double dipping,” said McEntire. “We have a lot of activities that have been foregone because we had to cover these mandated costs that now have to be covered with this money.”
The growth of CALPERS and CALSTRS, the state’s pension funds, will also require a significant portion of the new funding, according to district officials.
“As we know, the retirement system for the teachers and classified employees are both woefully underfunded at the state level and in order to solve that problem, the government has proposed the state, school districts and employees all pitch in to cover that,” said McEntire. “The school districts are going to bear, by far, the biggest proportion of that cost.”
McEntire said that the cost of the district’s retirement plan would “more than double over the next five years” and consequently “subtract from the district’s ability to implement all these new programs and eat up over 30% of every new dollar that comes into the district.”
“What the governor’s doing is putting the retirement on the backs of the districts in a lot of ways here. This is a very dysfunctional way of running an organization,” said GUSD Board of Education President Greg Krikorian. “They’re taking away dollars from us that we’re going to need to sustain certain programs.”
The Governor’s proposal for a rainy day fund, stemming from Proposition 2, creates a Rainy Day Fund for the state and could also have an effect on the district’s ability to fund programs.
According to the budget, deposits into the Rainy Day Fund would place temporary caps on local school district reserves. McEntire said the district could be required to spend down their reserves to 6%, which he called a “very precarious situation” which could “have a tremendous impact on the way we operate and would impact our bargaining units and our employees on a day-to-day basis.”
However, the Legislative Analyst’s Office has issued a report recommending a repeal of the Rainy Day cap on school districts.
“With all this new money, we have gone from 50th in the nation in spending per child to 46th,” said Sheehan. “I think it’s a sad point when we’re proud that we’re 46 out of 50 states in funding for education.”
The budget will be revised in May and adopted on June 16.
Not all was gloomy, however, as the GUSD board started off their regular meeting by honoring 35 students who participated in the Reflections program, which emphasizes the importance of arts in education. The students, participating in the fields of visual arts, film video, production and literature, were honored with the top three from primary, intermediate, middle, senior and special schools in each category receiving awards Tuesday night. Other students not present Tuesday night also participated in the fields of dance, music composition and photography.
Students created their projects with the theme “The world would be a better place if…” in mind.
Kevin Cordova-Brookey, Reflections chairperson for Glendale Council PTA, said that judges had to choose from amongst 291 entries from over 600 students throughout the district.
Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Kelly King also led a presentation on district math courses over a three-year period. King took data from the first semester grades from middle schools and high schools over that three year span, covering both classes before and during Common Core implementation.
King’s findings said that the variation between grades from year to year was minimal in almost all math courses throughout the district. King said that those courses either showed increases or maintaining of the amount of “A” and “B” grades in those courses over the years.
“At this stage of the implementation of Common Core, we’re not seeing large shifts in the grade distributions,” said King.
King did say that in Algebra 1A, Geometry concepts, Trigonometry and AP Calculus AB, there were slight increases in the amount of “F” grades.
“Those are courses that we’d like to look at to see what characteristics might be common amongst the students that are struggling at those levels and what type of intervention can we offer in the course or at the schools,” said King.
At other meetings, parents, including Board President Greg Krikorian, brought up concerns with Common Core math standards, which they said has resulted in poor grades since the implementation, even in generally successful students.