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The California Teachers Association has chosen sides in the incipient conflict over Gov. Jerry Brown's school funding proposal, backing the governor's call to earmark additional money for disadvantaged and English language-learning students.

While emphasizing that many of the details still need to be hammered out, CTA President Dean Vogel for the most part lauded Brown's blueprint during a Wednesday morning press conference. He noted that California's student population includes big chunks of learners who are either poor enough to qualify for free or reduced price lunch or are still absorbing English. He said covering the higher cost of educating those students is a recurring problem.

Under Brown's proposal, districts with high concentrations of poor, English learning and foster students would be eligible for extra concentration grants on top of the base grants every district would receive.

"It's hard to say that you're in support of this local control funding formula the way it's presented by the governor and then say you don't like the concentration grants," Vogel said. "The concentration grant is the piece of the formula that basically says we're going to actually put our money where our mouth is. You can't say year in and year out that it costs more to educate kids in poverty without giving them the money."

The concentration grant provision has met with skepticism from Democratic lawmakers who worry that allocating the money on a district-by-district basis is too imprecise. Struggling schools or students in relatively prosperous districts could get left behind, critics argue.

"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?" Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg asked reporters last week.

The Democratic dissension underscores what is likely to be a key point of conflict as the Legislature takes up Brown's budget: the notion that the new school funding plan would produce winners and losers by diverting extra funds to some districts but not to others.

Local California Teachers Association chapter presidents from around the state are in Sacramento today for a lobby day.

PHOTO CREDIT: California Teachers Association President Dean Vogel speaks to reporters in Sacramento on May 22, 2013. By Jeremy B. White/The Sacramento Bee.


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