Dan Walters

Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

When Gov. Jerry Brown’s landmark overhaul of school finance – aimed at shifting more money into educating poor and English-learner students – was making its way through the Legislature this year, a big issue was whether the extra funds should go to school districts or the schools with large concentrations of the targeted kids.

Advocates for the extra spending feared that if it went to the districts, it could be siphoned off into higher teacher salaries or other broad forms of spending rather than devoted to the students who needed extra academic attention to catch up with their more affluent classmates.

Ultimately, in a win for the education establishment, the billions of extra dollars were allocated to districts, but the State Board of Education was given rule-making authority to ensure that the funds would be properly concentrated and their results monitored transparently.

That had the effect of shifting the high-stakes battle for control of the money to the board, which is appointed by the governor, but advocates for the poor kids, including the American Civil Liberties Union and some Latino rights groups, concluded that the legislation itself contained too many potential loopholes.

Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, is carrying a new measure, Senate Bill 344, to tighten up the school finance law’s implementation, more precisely defining which students would be served and requiring more parental participation in spending the extra money. And its appearance this month has touched off a renewal of the political catfight that seemingly was resolved just a couple of months ago.

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