Californians believe that the taxes they pay are to ensure that every school-aged child is funded from Kindergarten through 12th grade and that they are entitled to a quality education. It is a constitutional right that there is funding for each student. This basic premise was derailed last month with the governor signing a bill that will fund schools based on the number of students in seats on February 29, 2020 – not on the number of students who will actually be in class in the coming months.
What does this mean? That all schools are disincentivized to accept more students. If a school had 1,000 students back in February, that’s what they will be paid. Whether they are serving 50 students or 1,500. So, the poor-performing schools will let enrollment drop and still be paid. And the crowded schools will either operate at a loss or be forced to turn away students.
Guess which schools will be most affected? Those serving the poor communities and minorities. More of our students of color and those with economic challenges will find themselves in overcrowded schools and will not receive proper funding from the state.
This legislation, which was tucked into a 300-page bill, penalizes schools that offer flexibility and personalized learning, which is essential for lower income students who must work to support their families or for teen parents who need to take care of their children. Students in these schools are not able to be in a classroom all day and often fall behind their classmates and drop out. The kind of flexibility and one-on-one learning these schools provide create an incentive to stay in school and graduate.
This component of the bill will force growing school districts schools to stop enrolling students and hiring new teachers. It punishes these schools by forcing them to cap enrollment when it is most important to engage students and reverse the learning losses they’ve suffered during the past few months.
The Coronavirus closures have shined a spotlight on the inequity in education, and poorly conceived legislation such as this make matters worse for the most underserved student population.