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State Budget Helps; Some Inequities Remain

The new California state budget contains more good news than bad news for public schools. The good news is that state revenues increased approximately 13 percent and that higher education received a 12.7 percent increase. The bad news is that K-12 funding fell 5 percent below that. The good news is that this year's budget represents the largest annual state budget increase for K-12 schools since 1991. That should help to reduce California's teacher shortage by making teacher salaries throughout the state more competitive nationally. The bad news is that there are still some serious equity issues in state funding that affect the Long Beach Unified School District. For example, LBUSD will receive $63 less per student than the statewide appropriation. That amounts to $5.8 million this year alone. Like many school districts, the LBUSD will continue to receive less than the actual cost of special education. In the area of adult education, the long-time cap on enrollment severely limits the ability of the district to serve this large and growing need while much smaller districts are funded to serve thousands more than can be enrolled here under the state's obsolete cap. Much of the state funding for new block grants for schools can be used only for certain limited purposes. Along with increased funding comes increased state prescription of how it may be used. Much of the additional funding will be tied to SAT9 scores, which may tend to favor more affluent school districts over those serving many lower socioeconomic status students. Details about how schools and teachers may qualify for incentive funds for high test scores will be available later this fall. One concern about the monetary rewards is that they may tempt some individuals to cheat on state tests.