Newsom vetoes bill focused on school funding for at-risk students

By Mackenzie Mays 09/30/2020 11:35 PM EDT

Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed legislation Wednesday that would have required California to better track its school funding process in an attempt to ensure that dollars intended for at-risk students actually reach them.

The governor said he instead wants to work through the budget process next year to have districts to reach the same goal sooner.

The bill: CA AB1835 (19R) by Assemblymembers Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) would have required school districts to annually identify and report any unspent supplemental and concentration grant funds they’ve received under the Local Control Funding Formula.

In addition to base funding, California schools receive additional funding based on the number of low- income youth, English learners and foster youth they enroll. The bill also would have required that any unspent funds earmarked for those purposes must be used to increase or improve services for those students in future years.

Veto reasoning: Newsom wrote that “there are some fundamental flaws with the bill, and I am concerned that it cannot be implemented in a manner that is smooth or timely.”

He said the bill would require the state Board of Education to initiate a long rulemaking process, which would likely delay the process for two school years. He also expressed concern with adding new requirements on schools already “managing unprecedented challenges related to COVID-19.”

He wrote that instead, he will direct the Department of Finance to propose language as part of the budget process that reaches the same objectives.

Background: The bill was introduced after a first-ever state audit of the Local Control Funding Formula this year showed that millions of dollars awarded to schools specifically for at-risk students have not actually been going to those students. The State Auditor’s report found that school districts in Oakland, San Diego and Clovis spent more than $320 million in such funds on the general population.

AB 1835 mirrored some of the recommendations that came out of the audit. Weber helped to approve the Local Control Funding Formula created by former Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013 and said she was assured district spending for at-risk groups would be monitored but “the promise of accountability never materialized.”

Opposition: While the bill was supported by a slew of civil rights organizations, the pandemic created new opposition as school districts grapple with less money and more expenses.

“We would not have opposed AB 1835 prior to the onset of the COVID-19 public health crisis. Our current position does not signify our lack of commitment to serving economically disadvantaged students, English learners, and foster youth as intended by the Local Control Funding Formula,” the California Association of School Business Officials said in its opposition statement.page1image50907776page1image50905472

What’s next: Newsom will work with Weber and Quirk-Silva on a budget trailer bill next year that would reach the same goals. That would require a new round of negotiations with school interests, however, which could reshape the proposal.

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