Gov. Jerry Brown reiterated his resolve to remake how California finances public schools by giving districts with large numbers of poor and/or English-learner students more money when he presented a revised state budget this week.
"I think it's fair. I think it's just," Brown declared, adding, "I think it has great moral force."
Defending his plan, Brown stressed that overall, schools will see substantial increases in state aid and 80 percent of the money would still be distributed in "base grants" on a per-pupil basis, with the remaining 20 percent going to districts based on their numbers of poor and English-learner students, and just 4 percent going into "concentration grants to districts with especially large proportions.
But Brown's school plans are continuing to take heavy flak in the Legislature as education factions outside the Capitol ramp up pressure.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Wednesday that he continues to oppose the Brown plan's provision to give the additional money to districts with high concentrations of such students, rather than funneling the money more directly to the students, regardless of district concentrations.
"If a kid is in a school of concentrated poverty, why shouldn't that kid get the civil rights benefit that a kid in a concentrated poverty district gets?" Steinberg asked during a meeting with reporters.
Later Wednesday, the Assembly Education Committee staged a hearing on the plan and its chairwoman, Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-San Ramon, sparred with Brown's emissary, Nick Schweizer, a program manager for the Department of Finance, and she took much the same line as Steinberg.
Buchanan, a one-time San Ramon school trustee, reflected the criticism from suburban districts that their poor and non-English speaking students would be short-changed by Brown's plan, which tends to benefit inner city and rural districts with large numbers of the targeted students.
Schweizer insisted that Brown's plan is fair because districts with large concentrations tend to have particular difficulty.
Another point of friction is Brown's plan to eliminate most "categorical aid" programs that earmark money for specific educational services and fold that money into a large pot from which the general grants of state aid and the supplemental appropriations for poor and English-learner students would be made.
PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown, listens to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, before delivering his State of the State address on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua