Some cuts, cash in budget deal

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Legislative leaders protected most student financial aid in the Cal Grants program and preserved status quo funding for charter schools in the budget deal announced yesterday between Democrats and Gov. Jerry Brown.

The agreement comes less than a week after legislators approved a $92 billion spending plan that eliminated some of the governor’s biggest education proposals, including his plan to switch the entire school finance system to a weighted student funding formula.

Few details were revealed from the agreement announced yesterday; Senate staff members said the specific language of the budget trailer bills would be written over the weekend and taken up in the budget committee on Monday. A floor vote could come as soon as Tuesday.

Staff confirmed that the bills would not raise the eligibility for Cal Grants, the $1.5 billion student aid program. Brown recommended raising the grade point average (GPA) required for the Cal Grant A program from 3.0 to 3.25, and increasing the GPA for Cal Grant B awards from 2.0 to 2.75.

Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity and a board member on the California Student Aid Commission, said taking the GPA increases off the table is “absolutely a great thing for students,” because the proposal threatened to shift the core value of Cal Grants from a need-based scholarship into a merit-based program.

The Campaign for College Opportunity sent a letter to the governor last week opposing that and two other recommendations: reducing the Cal Grant award by 40 percent for new and continuing students attending independent nonprofit colleges in California, and linking Cal Grant eligibility to federal standards for the Pell Grant program. The budget deal reportedly contains neither of those proposals.

However, students attending private, for-profit colleges may want to check their schools’ graduation and loan default rates. The Legislature did accept Brown’s bid to crack down on so-called diploma mills, private for-profit institutions, by withholding Cal Grants from these schools for one year if their graduation rate falls below 30 percent or their student loan default rate is 15 percent or higher. That could affect more than 80 postsecondary institutions, according to an analysis conducted for the Student Aid Commission.

“It says to colleges, especially if they’re going to charge a lot of money, that students should be getting a lot of value for that money,” said Siqueiros, adding that means getting a job that pays enough to pay back the loan.

Brown has charter schools’ backs

Brown has persuaded legislative leaders to restore an unexpected $50 million cut to charter schools that they approved in passing the state budget last week. The cut would have been $100 to $112 per charter student and would have widened a funding gap between charters and district schools.

But charter leaders will be holding their breath until the agreement  is written into the language of a trailer bill and it becomes a done deal.

The money is for the block grant that charters get in lieu of small, restricted amounts of money for special purposes known as categorical programs. In his budget, Brown flat-funded the block program but included an additional $50 million to accommodate what the Department of Finance is projecting to be a 15.5 percent increase in charter school attendance next year, compared with less than 1 percent more in district schools.

The surge in enrollment reflects not only additional schools but also schools adding grades and more students per class to cope with budget cuts, said Jed Wallace, president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association. Over the last four years, the average charter school has grown from 360 to 400 students.

Earlier this year, the Legislative Analyst’s Office calculated that charter schools received 7 percent or $395 per student less than district schools, including $150 per student less in categorical funding. That difference would have increased to $260 per student without the $50 million growth factor.

“Our members were very vocal about this,” Wallace said. “It looks as though funding will be restored, and we appreciate this.”

Brown, who was a creator of two charter schools while mayor of Oakland, has become a protector of charters as governor.

This entry was posted in Charters, Community Colleges, Uncategorized on by .

About Kathryn Baron

Kathryn Baron, co-writer of TOP-Ed (Thoughts On Public Education in California), has been covering education in California for about 15 years; most of that time at KQED Public Radio where her reports aired on The California Report as well as various National Public Radio programs. She also wrote for magazines and newspapers before going virtual as producer and editor at The George Lucas Educational Foundation. Kathy grew up in New York in a family of teachers. She moved to California for graduate school and after spending one sunny New Year’s Day riding her bicycle in the foothills, decided to stay. She and her husband live in Belmont. They have two children, one in college and one in high school.

8 thoughts on “Some cuts, cash in budget deal

  1. Pingback: Some cuts, some cash in budget deal | Thoughts on Public Education | Student Financial Aid

  2. navigio

    Can someone explain why the supposedly independent LAO did not take into account how districts and charters actually spend their money? For example, special education encroachment means not all of that ‘revenue’ is actually available in the way that is implied, especially given the disparate rates of SWD kids in charters. The same applies to any unfunded mandate imposed upon traditional public schools but not charters.
    Also, did the mid-year cuts mentioned in that report that would have reduced the disparity end up happening?

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  3. Equity

    The much touted “disparity” in funding between charter  schools and the real public schools is ridiculously over blown. It has become more of a talking point for the obviously powerful State  Charter lobby rather than a fiscal reality.
    Our local charter relentlessly fund raises  and charges $3000 tuition per student using this unceasing refrain:  “We get less.”
    They also serve less. Less  SES, less special needs, less language learners.
    But the reality is district students are now funded at @ $5900 and charter students at  @$6000 per ADA. While serving EVERY student and reporting equal or better outcomes
    If Governor Brown would like to continue his long standing support for charters, the best thing he  could do for local  communities increasingly ripped apart by  charters  and district schools competing for the same pot of money is to create a separate funding stream to support charters.
    Oh and how did our local charter fare in this budget?
    They now have socked away a nearly 100% reserve

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  4. Bea

    @Equity is right on the money. This myth is perpetuated and repeated, but never analyzed. In our district, charter schools do not provide meal service, do not provide transportation and serve only a very few special needs students with very minimal disabilities. Typically, our charters receive $300 less per student from state & federal resources. The encroachment on our district for the services NOT provided by our charters is nearly $1600 per general ed student in our schools. Every year the charters cherry pick the easiest to serve and return to us students who are more challenging, increasing the burden on each and everyone of our general ed students.
    Add to that the heavy-handed pressure one school puts on their parents to sign a contract for 40 hours of service time (used to replace classified staff that district schools are required to maintain) and the average donation of $1800 PER STUDENT PER YEAR they extort from parents. This charter, too, has a massive cash reserve — information about which is only available through a public information request. The annual report distributed to parents shows that they break even, when, in fact, they accumulate nearly $1 million per year in excess revenue for a 500 student school.
    Cry me a river about that “gap”.

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  5. 4 Charters

    Navigio, Equity, and Bea, I have a question for you, is the way that one traditional district functions mean that all districts function the same way? Not all charters “cherry pick” there are some that serve ONLY those that are on the low end of the spectrum which require more resources for them to graduate. Funding is the funding, what each school district, charter, & county office of ed does with that funding is up to them; as long as it is being spent appropriately and effectively so that each and every student can succeed, that is the goal. To base your argument on what one charter does and lump all others into that is a very uneducated argument and the last time I checked, fundraising dollars aren’t considered part of the state funding dollars for education. The bottom line is funding dollars, CA schools are trying to provide a quality education off of funding amounts that are only a shade more than what they were back in 2005-06, that’s SEVEN YEARS AGO! Any further cuts for any school or district cannot happen and Californians should be embarrased and angry that CA funding for education is in bottom five in the country! Oh and by the way, they (CA) are in the bottom five in the country in test scores as well!

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  6. Sonja Luchini

    Name me those charters (assuming plural/many) in California serving  “the low end of the spectrum” (what does THAT mean – are your referring to moderate/severely disabled?)  You could probably count them on one hand – if that.

    I’ve collected data for over 10 years regarding “enrollment by disability type” and “services provided” in our LAUSD charters and have complained to LAUSD’s Board, the State and our legislators about the exclusive and discriminatory enrollment practices of charters for many, many years.  My data does not show “many” schools serving “the low end” of our student population (and what an unkind way to describe these students) in this district.  I doubt there are “many” schools in the state that do what you claim.
    All charters DO cherry pick.  Data proves it or we would not be having this report or these discussions.  See my comments on Diane Ravitch’s blog and download the GAO study showing  NATIONWIDE  that charters are NOT enrolling the moderate/severely disabled (nor are they taking English Language Learners or Foster Youth) in the same percentages as regular public schools.  link here:
    Charter backers are businessmen looking for easy money at the expense of our children and our once great educational system….and they cheat.  See my comment about Green Dot’s alternative “Special Education Handbook” on Diane Ravitch’s blog.  They wrote “policy” that violates the law because there is no accountability, no transparency and no oversight.   I wrote a request many months ago to LAUSD’s Charter Division requesting information on how many charters (LAUSD has 200+ now!) have teachers with a Level II Moderate/Severe Teaching Credential which is required to instruct students with autism – high functioning or otherwise.  No response at all.  Charters do not hire these teachers because they have no intention of enrolling these students.  Many charters use business-backed, “Teach for America” kids who have no special education training.
    It’s about making a fast buck, dismantling public education and destroying teacher’s unions.  How they’ve managed to fool the public for so long is a wonder to me.

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  7. Eric Premack

    @Equity asserts “The much touted “disparity” in funding between charter  schools and the real public schools is ridiculously over blown. It has become more of a talking point for the obviously powerful State  Charter lobby rather than a fiscal reality.”  @BEA asserts “This myth is perpetuated and repeated, but never analyzed”
    The reality is that the funding disparity is very well-documented and underblown.  The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (hardly a lobby for charter schools and generally regarded as one of the few objective sources of fiscal information in Sacramento) pegged the categorical funding gap at nearly $400 per student.  (see: )
    The huge gap identified by the Analyst actually understates the larger picture because it doesn’t include general-purpose funding disparities, didn’t address the fact that charter schools receive far less for special education funding, and massive facilities funding disparities.  It also ignores the fact that new charter schools are frozen-out of the lucrative K-3 Class Size reduction program ($1,070 per student) and the large QEIA program.
    If Sonja Luchini is so concerned about the capacity of Los Angeles-area charter schools to serve special needs students, perhaps she should ask why the district skims and retains 40 percent of the special education funding from charter schools.  The district does this even to those charter schools that serve disproportionately high proportions of special needs students.  She could also ask the state of California forces charter schools to wait over a year before they even start to receive federal special education funds in blatant violation of  explicit federal mandates to provide funding to charter schools in their first year and to growing charter schools based on current-year data.


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