Weighted Student Formula Threatens District Funding

Sophia Bollag, Managing Editor

Proposed changes to state funding system would reduce per-student funding for district

A change to the way school districts in California are funded is looking more and more likely at the state level, the Acalanes Union High School District says.

In his 2012-13 budget proposal, Governor Jerry Brown included a policy proposal known as the weighted student formula intended to replace the current revenue limit and categorical funding system. Administrative Services Associate Superintendent Kevin French said when it was first proposed the district did not think it would gain any traction. Now, however, he says the proposal is looking more likely to pass.

“It’s a huge problem for Acalanes,” Budget Services Associate Superintendent Chris Learned said.

The current system funds schools based on the number of students they enroll. For each student there is a minimum amount of funding, the revenue limit, and then additional categorical funds assigned per student depending on the district. The new proposal would reduce the base level per-student funding in our district by more than $1000. The additional money allotted per student would be determined based on the number of English language learning students and low-income students in a district. Because fewer than 4 percent of AUHSD students fall into this category, the additional per-student funds granted to this district would be significantly less than those granted to surrounding districts. The governor’s budget proposed that this system be implemented in 2013 and carried out over six years.

“When it’s all done, we would actually end up with $13 less per student than we’re getting now,” Learned said. “We cannot survive on that kind of a cut.”

The district is already facing cuts in coming years. If the weighted formula is implemented, it would exacerbate the problem of funding in the district.

French said that with inflation even “staying flat [with funding] is a challenge because all your costs go up.”

Although the governor’s budget proposed to implement the change to the weighted student formula in 2013, French said he didn’t think it would take effect by next year.

Learned, however, seemed less skeptical.

“I think something’s going to pass,” he said.