Dan Walters

Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 – 12:00 am

When Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature overhauled the distribution of state aid to California schools this year, their stated purpose was to improve the educations of poor and “English-learner” students.

Spending more on those kids to improve their subpar academic skills had wide support, not only in the educational establishment but also from civil rights groups and business leaders worried about having competent employees.

There was a substantial division, however, over how the outcomes would be monitored and evaluated.

Brown, espousing the principle of “subsidiarity,” wanted to give state and local school officials as much flexibility as possible, but that attitude didn’t sit very well with civil rights and corporate reformers.

Their concern, implied but rarely voiced openly, was that without tight state standards, the extra money would wind up in fatter paychecks for teachers and other school employees whose unions are major players in the election of local school trustees.

The reformers sponsored follow-up legislation to tighten up use of the money, but Brown vetoed Senate Bill 344, saying it “interferes with the work of the State Board of Education as it implements, through an open and transparent process, the Local Control Funding Formula.”

The president of the state school board, Michael Kirst, is the originator of what was originally called a “weighted formula.” With the veto of SB 344, Kirst and other members now will decide how tight – or how loose – the implementation standards will be, beginning at a board session this week.

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