Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget calls for an increase of $744 million for California's K-12 schools, but six school districts in affluent Southern California neighborhoods say their share won't be sufficient.
They’re unhappy that a preexisting funding formula will direct more of those funds to schools in poorer areas, and they want the state to alter a requirement that all schools pay about 2 percent more next fiscal year for their employees’ pensions.
If nothing changes, said South Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent Geoff Yantz, he will be forced to cut costs.
"There are some positions where people have retired that we’re not going to fill, we’re going to have to reduce some hours of employees" and the district would spend less on textbooks, he said.
Besides having the state pick up more of the tab for employee pensions, Yantz would like to see a lowering of the threshold for voters to pass parcel tax increases from a two-thirds majority to 55 percent.
Yantz and leaders in other wealthy districts also have issues with the four-year-old Local Control Funding Formula, which gives extra funding increases to schools with high proportions of low-income and English-learner students.
“When this funding formula went in place, we received in a sense a permanent cut as a result of it,” he said.
The South Pasadena school district has been talking to public school leaders in La Cañada, Arcadia, San Marino, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach, said Yantz.
They’re talking to lobbyists about helping them make their case to legislators in the next few months as budget deliberations ramp up.
“The Local Control Funding Formula is a signature measure by this governor and is not likely to get changed much,” said Kevin Gordon, president of Capitol Advisors, a powerful Sacramento lobbying group for school districts. He’s advising South Pasadena and other school districts on how to try to convince lawmakers to help their districts.
“The thing that is really important that they need to underscore is that they may live in affluent neighborhoods but the school districts’ base funding is not competitive with what other districts are getting,” Gordon said.
Since the state's base funding doesn't cover the cost of lower class sizes and Advanced Placement classes that the community wants, South Pasadena leaders carry out aggressive fundraising that has provided 15 percent of the district's budget, said Yantz.
Some education researchers point out that California is on the low end nationally when it comes to per student funding.
"When you see wealthy districts that don’t have enough money and are frustrated, you can only imagine how difficult things are for poor districts," said Sacramento State University education researcher Su Jin Jez.
Yantz and the other school leaders are keeping an eye on Brown's revised budget expected to come out in May. If tax revenues are greater than expected, Yantz feels the educators can make a stronger case to get additional state funding.