In 2008, something happened to school funding in California. The state shifted from a complex system of categorical funding, to what’s called a Local Control Funding Formula.
Instead of earmarking funds for things like early childhood development or nutrition programs, the state shifted the decision-making to school districts.
Dan Burns, superintendent of Salinas Union High School District, says in theory the shift would allow communities to get in on the budget decision-making process. “But it didn’t work out that way,” says Burns.
That’s partly because of timing. The shift happened right as the 2008 recession hit, meaning taxpayer money promised to schools never came – until this year. “We are being funded at the rate we should’ve been ten years ago,” Burns says.
That current rate is $12,115 per SUHSD student, according the California Department of Education, which is $10,000 short of what’s needed to meet the needs of the district’s 15,000-plus students today.
The lack of funding also means they’re squeezed in other places. SUHSD alone has 73 percent “unduplicated students of need.” Those are students who are foster children, low-income, English-learners or in another category that requires extra support from schools.
“It’s needs like this that are really sparking the conversation around funding,” Burns says.
Since February, similar districts like North Monterey County Unified and Monterey Peninsula Unified have all unanimously adopted a resolution calling for full and fair funding, penned by the California School Board Association.