Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A small step in the right direction for disadvantaged schools.


Today in our new California budget a long needed change has been brought into our school funding formula.  When running for office one of the ways you can lose the media’s attention is to discuss school funding formulas but it is the way-it-works when it comes to money for our Oakland Schools. 

Of course if you are not a member of either of the two official political advertising conglomerates, your message, not to mention your name, does not get into the official media at all. 

Our schools and schools like our schools suffer because of a thing called the “daily attendance formula” where our schools are allocated funds based on how many students actually attended each and every day of school.  In Oakland our high truancy rate does not merit extra funds to deal with it.  Instead our funding allotment is cut for each day a kid cuts school. 

What the new budget has added is extra funds for schools with extra needs.  The main focus in the press is the 55% low income and high percentage of English learning students’ needs that are cause for extra funding. 

This is great and long overdue. Of course the amount of money in the offering is still to little to undo the damage of the years of cutbacks (American English for “austerity measures”).  Of course the priorities of the state still spend way too much on the corrections industry with its failed parole system and its prisons devoid of any serious rehabilitations programs.  And of course our state does not raise taxes on the wealthy who had their federal taxes slashed so much that all of our states have lost big chunks of federal funding and are fighting over the scraps.  That and much more can be said and is being said by Laura Wells and other activists inside and outside the Green Party. 

But this much we can say:  finally there is at least some law that funds our schools based on NEED.  This should continue!  The attendance based funding should be switched to enrollment based funding putting an end to the expensive daily reporting obsession that is required by law.  Some more serious funding should be sent to all the school districts that have high truancy and high dropout rates. For districts like ours that do not graduate a high percentage of our 18 year olds every year, there should be more resources than a DA’s office with a high conviction rate.

Oakland probably graduates less than half of those who would be of the right age to be graduating from High School and you can rest assured that the youth most affected is of color. 

It is sad that the neglect of our public schools had to reach this kind of deep crisis before the state decided to act.   I attend a lot of political meetings and hear a lot of what our school board, city council and local members of state assembly have to say.  I never hear much about funding formulas, if anything and maybe that is why this has taken so long to get this little bit of progress. 

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