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.SCHOOLS_0154.JPGWith billions more dollars to spend, California's school districts are exhibiting fewer signs of financial stress, a new survey from EdSource, a California public education research organization, concludes.

EdSource surveyed officials in California's 30 largest districts, which together account for a third of California's 6 million students.

"Our 2013 survey shows that these school districts are experiencing fewer stresses this year compared to last," the report concluded. "Most notably, there has been a dramatic reduction in teacher layoffs. In addition, many districts have been able to restore some or all of their instructional days trimmed in the prior three years because of budget cuts.

"The foreclosure crisis has eased significantly, and unemployment is lower than it has been in five years, which means some students are likely to be experiencing less stress at home. That should relieve at least some of the pressures on schools to provide a range of support services to ensure that students succeed."

The 2013-14 budget enacted in June provided enough money to keep school spending roughly flat, in comparison to the cuts that had been enacted in previous years, when the state faced severe deficits. The new money came from a temporary sales and income tax increase approved by voters in 2012, along with revenues from a slowly improving economy.

The new school money, however, will also require adjustment because it comes with a new state aid formula, aimed at giving more money to districts with disproportionate numbers of poor and/or English learner students.

The new formula is now in effect, but the rules for spending the extra money for the targeted students are yet to be written. The state Board of Education is tasked with writing those rules, but there's also pending legislation, Senate Bill 344, that would set new parameters and it is the subject of intense political infighting in the final days of the legislative session.

Coincidentally, state schools Supt. Tom Torlakson announced that more than 8,300 additional children from low-income families will gain access to preschool this year due to $25 million in state "restoration funds" from the new budget



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