California Upends School Funding To Give Poor Kids A Boost

As the school year begins, districts in cities such as Oakland, Fresno and Los Angeles have not gone on a hiring spree.

But they might soon.

California has revamped its school funding formula in ways that will send billions more dollars to districts that educate large numbers of children who are poor, disabled in some way or still learning to speak English.

It's an approach that numerous other states, from New York to Hawaii, have looked into lately. But none has matched the scale of the change now underway in the nation's largest state.

"The trend is toward more and more states providing additional assistance to students with special needs," says Deborah Verstegen, a school finance expert at the University of Nevada, Reno. "California is moving into the forefront with this approach."

It wasn't an easy sell. There was a lot of debate in Sacramento about whether this was a Robin Hood approach, robbing from the rich to give more to the poor.

In the end, however, the old system was so convoluted that no one was willing to defend it.

"The former school finance system had not really been conceptually revised since the early 1970s, when President Reagan was governor of California," says Michael Kirst, president of the California Board of Education. "It had no relationship to student needs."

The original article is posted on NPR - National Public Radio. Click here to read full article

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