Santa Monica-Malibu schools to receive more funding for low-income students

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Logo

Malibu and Santa Monica’s public schools will receive more money for low-income and English-learning students under a new state funding model, detailed in a report released this week by the Legislative Analyst’s Office in Sacramento.

The model, called the Local Control Funding Formula, was adopted in late June when Gov. Jerry Brown signed this year’s state budget into law.

In the past, some school districts regularly received more money from the state than others. But the new formula will standardize school funding from the state by giving every district the same dollar amount for each student, depending on the student’s grade.

All school districts will also receive 20 percent extra funds — anywhere from about $1,300 per student to $1,700 per student — for each low-income and English-learning student in the district.

Districts with higher numbers of low-income and English-learning students historically receive less funds and have lower student performance rates than other districts, said Edgar Cabral, with the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

“(There’s a) general understanding that students who are from low-income families do require additional services, and so the formula does that,” he said.

Santa Monica-Malibu Unified is expected to receive additional funding for about 31 percent of its total student enrollment, or 3,500 low-income and English-learning students in the district, said Jan Maez, chief business officer for SMMUSD.

Santa Monica-Malibu, however, will not benefit as much as other districts will from the new formula, since it has neither a large percentage of low-income and English-learning students nor as large a need for extra funding, she added.

Currently, SMMUSD receives neither much less nor much more funding than other districts, Maez said. Last year, the district’s total general fund revenue, which includes state and other funding sources, was at $10,570 per student, about 20 percent more than the average for unified school districts.

“This last recession was a difficult time, and so yes, the additional funding comes as a very welcome relief,” Maez said. “(The funding) will put us in a much better position.”

Maez said Santa Monica-Malibu has had to increase class sizes and make cuts in staffing and supplies in recent years.

“(It’s) not that we can really restore much of what we’ve had to cut, but at least we don’t have to cut further. That’s probably the best thing there,” she said.

Under the new funding model, school districts will also be required to have an average class size of 24 students for grades K-3, will have more flexibility in how they can spend their money, and will be required to make their funding decisions more visible to the public.

Districts will have to write specific plans outlining steps they will take to improve several areas of success, such as student engagement and student achievement, as well as how they plan to support low-income and English-learning students. These designated priorities will change how a school’s success is measured by the state, which has typically relied mostly on testing scores as a gauge of success, Cabral said.

Districts will be required to show their performance and spending plan to a parent advisory committee, then respond to the committee’s comments on the plan. Districts will also be required to hold public hearings about their plan and allow members of the public to submit their own comments.

If a school district fails to meet certain performance standards, the state superintendent now has the power to revise a district’s budget, suspend or revoke a school board’s action, or change the district’s plan to improve its performance.

“There is a sense of concern that there are many districts, particularly (districts) that have underserved populations, that have not been able to improve performance as much as people would hope,” Cabral said. “This is one way to sort of keep track of that and provide additional support to those districts.”

SMMUSD currently has comparatively successful performance rates. About 79 percent of its schools met the state’s performance target in terms of API, or academic performance index, last year. None of its schools were in the bottom three deciles.

The Local Control Funding Formula will cost the state an additional $18 billion to implement. The formula will be implemented over the course of the next several years.

This story originally appeared in the Santa Monica Daily Press.