Underprivileged schools would get more per-student funding than other schools across the state under a proposed budget unveiled by Gov. Jerry Brown Thursday.
"Our future depends not on across-the-board funding, but disproportionately funding those schools that have disproportionate challenges," Brown said at a press conference.
He also said most categorical funding for schools should be eliminated and the money delivered more directly here in Santa Cruz County and the state.
"As you go up the line you lose control and build bureaucracy," the governor said. "We want to put the money into local schools, but create greater control."
Brown also said the state's deficit is gone for the first time in years, adding it could reduce its debt substantially by 2016.
"The deficit's gone; the wall of debt remains," Brown said, noting the state's $36 billion debt could be reduced to $4.3 billion by 2016.
The budget proposed by Brown also increases per-student funding for all levels of education; by the 2016-17 school year, K-12 schools would see a $2,681 increase in spending for each student. At the CSU and UC levels, spending would increase by about $2,000 and $2,500 by 2016-17, respectively.
Gary Bloom, Superintendent of Santa Cruz City Schools sees the budget proposal as good news, but there is still a long way to go.
"We're still digging into the details, but the good news is it looks like we have emerged from a period during which every year we were looking to make additional cuts," said Bloom. "It looks like there will be some limited new revenue which will be excellent, but we are certainly not out of the woods.
When all is said and done, California schools will still be among the most poorly funded in the country, but things are beginning to look more promising," said Bloom.
Michael Watkins, Superintendent of Santa Cruz County Schools, a self-described progressive, is opposed to the proposal at the moment, saying that although it would potentially benefit the Pajaro Valley Unified School District, and the Live Oak School District, which has a higher concentration of disadvantaged students and English Language learners, the funding is coming from the wrong places.
"I could support additional dollars for impovershed and ESL students, but not at the expense of programs that have been research-based and high quality programs. There's the Teenage Mother Program that would be stripped away, and about 30 categorical programs in the State that the legislatures have approved, to divert money to this population because of the inequities that exist in the California system," said Watkins.
Watkins also has a problem with the "they know best" attitude of the proposal, which leaves it up to each school to do whatever they want with the increased funding.
"Teachers have not had a raise for six years, that's also problematic, so much of the income will and should go to teachers salaries who haven't had a raise because of the economy," said Watkins.
And while the proposal has expected outcomes, there are no sanctions worked into the proposal for schools that don't meet these outcomes.
"It's simplistic, it sells well, but I oppose it now," said Watkins. "Id rather take the money from other areas, corrections, the Water Project, the Bullet Train, to support the English learners and the disadvantaged students, and not from the existing programs at work," he said.
But Watkins reminds that it's still a work in progress.
"Our conversation today will be different in three or four months after it goes through hearings and legislation," he said.
Check back for more on this story.