Department of Finance qualifies new district funding chart as estimates’

A district-by-district funding analysis released last week by the Department of Finance has provoked consternation among some school fiscal managers after some found key assumptions that do not accurately reflect enrollment or other demographic data.

But administration officials said Wednesday the report is intended to serve as an estimate - not a final draft - of how districts would fare under Gov. Jerry Brown's weighted funding formula based on the best available numbers.

We used the most contemporaneous data available from the Department of Education," said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the department. "When we came across something that looked like an anomaly in the data, we attempted to double-check that."

Palmer noted that if the weighed formula is adopted, there would be opportunities to adjust the district data to ensure accuracy. The analysis released last week, he noted, was an estimation based on the best data available.

The governor's plan, which has emerged as one of the key issues facing legislative leaders in budget negotiations this summer, would replace the state's current school funding system - widely recognized as overly complex and imbalanced - with a system Brown argues is both simpler and fairer.

As currently proposed, districts would receive a base, per-pupil grant with additional money provided to support economically disadvantaged students and English learners.

After release of the district funding estimate last week, a number of school administrators raised issues with data that were used as the basis for calculating the payments.

One issue in particular revolved around the governor's intent to provide additional weighted funding to districts based on an unduplicated count of students enrolled in reduced meal programs and qualified as English learners.

Local officials have said ensuring that list does not double count any students is a labor-intensive process. Many also said the state numbers were not reflective of their local district data.

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