Monday, February 25, 2013

Democrat Gov. Jerry Brown to Funnel More Public Funding to Poor Schools


At the Los Angeles Times, "Brown's school funding plan draws mixed reactions":
In the Anaheim City School District, where most students are low-income and struggling to learn English, teachers need special training, extra tutoring time and lots of visual materials to help their pupils achieve at grade level.

In the well-heeled Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, poverty and limited English are not widespread problems. But officials there say their student needs include more expensive Advanced Placement classes to challenge them with college-level material in high school.

Who should get more state educational dollars? Last week, school districts got their first glimpse of how that question would be answered under Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed new funding formula: Anaheim would receive an estimated $11,656 per student annually; Palos Verdes would get $8,429 by the time the plan is fully implemented in seven years.

And that disparity draws distinctly different reactions.

"It's great news," said Darren Dang, Anaheim's assistant superintendent of administrative services. "Given our demographics, we'll be getting much-needed resources for our students."

But Lydia Cano, Palos Verdes' deputy superintendent of business services, said she believed the new scheme would shortchange her students. Disadvantaged students already receive a bigger share of state and federal dollars, she said.

"It's not fair," she said. "It will make the divide even bigger."

In the most significant change in four decades in how school dollars would be distributed, Brown is proposing to give all districts a base grant, then add an extra 35% of that for each student who is low-income, struggling with English or in foster care. If such students make up more than 50% of a district's population, another 35% supplement would be given.

The formula is part of Brown's proposed budget, which requires the Legislature's approval.
This program explicitly makes children from more affluent neighborhoods bear the costs of helping children from less affluent neighborhoods. Not all of the kids in the more affluent districts will be affluent, so the policy could have an exponentially negative affect on those less fortunate students in the more fortunate districts. But this is what happens when the state decides to redistribute resources to lift those who're more disadvantaged. In theory, this is exactly backward of what good public policy would promote. We should be boosting (relatively) the performance of the more advantaged students, because they'll be positioned as the next leaders of industry and society. They'll help lift the rest of their generation as they rise. In disproportionately assisting those least well off and those least advantaged, public policy is looking to achieve equality of result. It won't happen, not perfect equality of result, and indeed far from it most likely. But that's the progressive agenda in action.