Brown plan sends more money to poor schools


West Contra Costa Unified School District knows hardship. It went through bankruptcy, got a $47 million state bailout and laid off teachers long before the state's budget crisis. Now that it has paid off the loan, it is getting a shot in the arm from the governor. In announcing $2.7 billion in increasing funding for public education next year, he singled out Richmond.

"Growing up in Compton or Richmond is not like it is to grow up in Los Gatos or Beverly Hills or Piedmont," Brown said.

The governor's plan is to give challenged districts a higher amount than better-off ones. Educators, such as sixth grade teacher Julie Asplund, see the proposal as critical to a district in which 70 percent of its 30,000 students are minority, some of them still learning English.

"We have to understand that education is the foundation for everything and without that money and without that foundation, we're going to see problems in the future, so fixing that now helps," Asplund said.

School district board member Charles Ramsey does see a downside when districts are treated unequally.

"We're not going to apologize if we're able to receive those resources, and we welcome those resources," he said.

But that means those resources will come from Los Gatos High School in a community where the median income is $94,000 and the median house price tops $900,000 and from high schools in the San Mateo Union High School District. The governor's plan could incur a $4 million loss.

"The problem is there's not enough extra money in the system to transfer it to districts have would receive that money without taking it from the districts that have already endured cuts," San Mateo Union High School District President Peter Hanley said.

And that pits districts against each other.

"Other communities in other areas are going to be able to stand up and say not us, not this way, and I don't blame them, they should fight," Ramsey said.

The governor's formula calls for school districts with high numbers of children learning English, foster children and low-income students to get greater state funding.

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