Education Bill Could Give Schools More Spending Freedom

12:45pm | An important bill for education funding passed the Senate Education Committee yesterday, raising the hopes of some educational leaders that rules restricting schools from spending certain funds as they see fit will be removed.

SB 1396, authored by Long Beach representative Alan Lowenthal, was co-introduced by the Long Beach Unified School District in February in an attempt to give schools more flexibility in their spending. Massive cuts to public education from the state budget have crippled the effectiveness of many schools across California.

A passage of the bill would relax requirements that schools may spend “categorical” funds only on specific educational programs. Many schools would like to see those funds spent in other places and have argued that the inflexibility puts them at a disadvantage,

The LBUSD has also suggested that those funds may be able to keep teachers and employees from losing their jobs, as hundreds in Long Beach are currently awaiting their fate.

“We thank senators Romero, Lowenthal and their fellow legislators who, by supporting our bill, recognize that we can no longer defend the status quo,” said Chris Steinhauser, LBUSD superintendent, in a release.  “It’s time to give our schools the flexibility we need to make the best use of our increasingly limited resources.  This bill will create a pilot program with great accountability, and it will help us to accelerate the closing of achievement gaps.”

The bill would create a pilot program that includes three school districts, Senator Lowenthal said in a release. Those districts would have much greater flexibility in spending state education dollars, as long as they continue to meet academic benchmarks.

“Categorical program funding, coupled with budget cuts to education have jeopardized student programs as well as teacher jobs by tying the hands of how school districts may spend their money,” said Senator Lowenthal.

The pilot program would run from 2011 to 2014 and include three school districts chosen by the State Superintendent.

“I truly believe this program will demonstrate that state money for categorical programs can be managed more efficiently and responsibly at the local level while making progress in closing the achievement gap and saving teacher jobs,” Lowenthal said.

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