School Funding Favors High-Need Districts
The Forde Files No. 123
An audible gasp arose from the community leaders at the June 1, 2016 meeting of the Greater Tehachapi Economic Development Council when Tehachapi Unified School District (TUSD) Superintendent Susan Andreas-Bervel pointed out one of the harsh realities of the way California is now funding schools.
Under the formula, which began phasing in during the 2013-2014 school year, school districts with a greater percentage of high-need students receive more money than districts that do not have enough high-need students to qualify for grants above the attendance base grant. If TUSD, with 40.1 percent of its students qualifying, had proportionately the same number of high-need students as Arvin Union School District (96.67 percent), Tehachapi would receive $7.1 million more for the year, she said.
If TUSD had the same proportion of high-need students as Mojave Unified School District (81 percent), it would receive $4.7 million more.
"Tehachapi was not a big winner in this funding formula," she said.
With the new formula, the state has gone all-in to try to narrow the gap between the highest-and lowest-achieving students. Supplementary and concentration grants flow to districts with the threshold 55 percent of English learners, foster children and socio-economically disadvantaged students, the latter determined by enrollment in the free lunch program. Even if a student qualifies in more than one category, the student is counted just once. Students in this group are called "unduplicated." In the TUSD, Tompkins Elementary is inching toward 55 percent unduplicated, at 54 percent, but supplementary funding is based on the district, not on individual schools.