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July 30, 2003

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SACRAMENTO – Underfunded school districts got a surprise piece of good news yesterday. As part of a last minute budget compromise, the California State Assembly voted Tuesday to spend $50 million to equalize school funding for underfunded school districts throughout the State.

Senate Bill 1046, principally co-authored by Assemblymembers Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) and Lynn Daucher (R-Brea), passed in the final hours of Tuesday’s session on a vote of 74  0. “I’m pleased that Assemblymember Simitian and I could work together on a bi-partisan basis to make this happen,” said Assemblymember Daucher.

“Look, every kid deserves a fair shake,” said Simitian. “Underfunded school districts need these funds if they’re going to provide the same learning opportunities higher-funded school districts have.”

SB 1046 builds on Simitian’s Assembly Bill 441 (the Fairness in Education Funding Act) from his first term, which allocated $40 million for equalization funding in the 2001-2002 budget. The bill called for a total of $400 million to equalize schools to the 90th percentile by the 2006-07 school year.

Currently, revenue limit funding—the dollar amount allocated per pupil—varies widely from school district to school district, despite decades of court rulings to bring funding levels in line. In extreme cases, the difference in base revenue limit funding around the State can be almost $3,000 per student.

“These funding inequities have serious consequences,” said Simitian.  “Disparate levels of funding means disparate opportunities for student success. We need to bring these lower-funded school districts up to the funding level of their higher-funded counterparts. It’s an issue of fundamental fairness,” Simitian said.

“School districts in and around our area will benefit directly from these additional funds,” said Chris Bohl, board member of Redwood City School District, which has 16 schools poised to receive equalization funding. “This helps to level the playing field for a lot of children, and we hope the State can do more in the future.”

“We’re happy to see Assemblyman Simitian continue his efforts to ‘level up’ in school districts with fewer resources,” said Ben Liao, board president of the Cupertino Union School District. “It’s reassuring to know that when good legislators make an effort, the system works.”

The final hours of the 2003-2004 budget negotiations provided a unique opportunity for Simitian and Daucher to rally Assembly colleagues on school funding equalization. Both are former school board members, and both have championed such measures since their first days in the Assembly. In their respective roles on the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance, Simitian serves as Chair, and Daucher is the ranking minority member.

Revenue limit equalization has broad-based support from education advocacy organizations throughout the State including the California PTA, the California School Boards Association (CSBA), the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), the Association of Low Wealth Schools and numerous school districts.