EIA entitlements up $9.5m this year

Economic Impact Aid, a key support for districts with large numbers of English learners and economically disadvantaged students, will have slightly more money in the coming year than last year.

The EIA budget has been calculated for the 2011-12 school year at $944.4 million.

Although the budget is just $2 million higher than last year, there is $7.5 million that was left unspent as carryover, giving schools a total of $9.5 million more than last year.

EIA is one of the largest state categorical programs that have not been granted spending flexibility by the Legislature - although the question continues to be a point of debate.

Officials at the California Department of Education said they are expecting in the coming week or so to promulgate the official EIA apportionment notice.

The dollars set aside for the program are based on a calculation drawn from three pupil reports from local educational agencies:

  • The number of economically disadvantaged students - which is roughly reflective of current Title I counts.

  • The number of English learners as reported by the LEAs in the prior year.

  • And the Weight Concentration Factor - a calculation that combines the economically disadvantage student count with the English learners total greater than 50 percent of the LEAs total pupil enrollment, as reported in the prior year.

While it might seem surprising that $7.5 million in EIA money would go unspent last year, given the rough economic times - state officials say it is difficult to estimate at the beginning of the budget year how much money might be needed to serve a diverse and sometimes mobile population.

Indeed, the governor's Department of Finance proposed in January funding EIA at $888.4 million based on analysis that suggested fewer students would qualify for the program in 2011-12.

Further review from the non-partisan Legislative Analyst and the CDE led to the governor changing the proposal to reflect a larger student pool.

As part of budget agreements reached in 2009, about 40 categorical programs have been granted spending flexibility. Several of the biggest programs - EIA, special education and K-3 class-size reduction were not included.

Legislation expected to be reintroduced in January by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, would reconstruct much of the school finance system.

The latest version of the bill, withdrawn with consideration in August, would have divided the categorical programs into three basic grants:

Two would be distributed based on average daily attendance, and one that would have provided funding using a weighted formula based on the number of English learners and economically disadvantaged students a district might have.

The bill would allow the weighted funding to follow English language learners and other needy students if they transferred from one district to another.