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lunch.jpgA brand-new overhaul of how state aid is distributed to California schools - focusing more money on districts with large numbers of poor and/or English learner students - is already generating controversy.

Big school districts that would be in line for much of the extra money are chafing at new requirements from the state Department of Education on counting eligible students. The law says that children who qualify for free or reduced meals are considered to be poor for purposes of calculating the extra money.

"Never has school lunch meant so much for California education," writer Jane Meredith Adams comments in her article on the dustup on the EdSource website devoted to California public education.

Adams says officials in Los Angeles Unified and Fresno Unified, which stand to benefit greatly from Gov. Jerry Brown's new distribution system, are angry "over a last-minute change in how children who receive free means are counted."

More than half of LA Unified's 650,000 students would be considered poor by qualifying for reduced price meals under federal guidelines. But the Department of Education now wants school systems to re-certify that eligibility.

Local and state education officials have been squabbling over the new requirement for several weeks with John Deasy, LA Unified's superintendent, beating the drums of protest the loudest.

"People will become unglued" if the new requirement makes a significant difference in the money flow, Adams quotes Deasy.

State officials say that recertification is necessary to avoid double- or even triple- counting of students as poor, English-learner or foster children, a third category of qualification for the extra aid.

PHOTO: Fourth-grader Isidro Vasquez, 10, eats a breakfast provided by the school district at Woodbine Elementary School in south Sacramento on Wednesday, June 19, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench



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