MERCED — While some administrators believe San Joaquin Valley school districts will fare well in Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed revision of state educational funding, others are nervously wondering what's in store.
Brown will unveil his new funding proposal today, which favors a weighted student formula for schools instead of the wide variety of categorical programs now funded.
RoseMary Parga Duran, Merced City School District superintendent, thinks her district will be OK with Brown's proposal. Because the district is within the economically disadvantaged valley and there are many students learning to speak English, it should be favored.
"We will fare fairly well," Duran said. "It will be fine and we will do OK," Duran said. "Just give me the money we need to run the district. It (the funding) needs to be fair to everyone."
Steve Gomes, Merced County superintendent of schools, said Brown's school funding proposal could have a tremendous impact on local educators and his office.
One of the categorical programs that the Merced County Office of Education operates is the Regional Occupational Program, which teaches skills to high school students in a number of vocational areas.
"There could be winners and losers," Gomes said. "Some categorical programs need to be redone, but he (Brown) needs to be thoughtful about it. We are operating right now with 20 percent less state revenue than we are entitled to."
Leonard Kahn, Merced Union High School District's assistant superintendent for business services, said Brown's initial proposal is just the opening whistle of the game.
"The devil is in the details," Kahn said. "It's too early to handicap if we will do better or worse. I like the simple and basic idea generally, to take it back to the base revenue limit."
Kahn's boss, Superintendent Scott Scambray, is waiting to see what is proposed and hasn't heard enough about local implications of Brown's budget proposals.
Greg Spicer, associate superintendent of administrative services for the city school district, said it's hard to know where his district stands, but it seems as if the San Joaquin Valley would do at least as well under Brown's proposal as it is currently faring.
"Significant changes make people nervous and uncomfortable," Spicer said. "We are all anxious to see what it (Brown's proposal) looks like and it will be interesting to see how it plays out."
Spicer believes Brown's funding changes will be phased in over several years. He said the governor proposed these controversial changes a year ago but withdrew them so they wouldn't detract from passage of the Proposition 30 sales tax measure at the polls last November.
With a super-majority in the Democrat-controlled state Legislature, Spicer said, the governor will be able to push through his reforms. Spicer, Duran and chief fiscal officer Katherine Weimer will attend a Sacramento workshop Tuesday led by School Services of California outlining the educational funding picture for the next school year.
"With high poverty and such a depressed economy, the weighted formula tends to benefit school districts with higher numbers," Spicer said.
Melinda Hennes, Atwater Elementary School District superintendent, said it is admirable that legislators seem willing to concede that a higher level of funding is necessary to educate students living in poverty and students struggling to learn English at the same time they are learning grade-level standards.
"The lack of equitable funding has been a challenge for many, many years," Hennes said. "Aside from the reality that schools have not been provided with cost-of-living adjustments for a number of years, the simple 'buy-down' and eventual elimination of cash deferrals would prove to be of great benefit to all public school districts."
Operating school systems with money that is "owed and not paid" prevents the full implementation of student programs as students advance through the grades, Hennes said.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.