School Bus
School bus in San Diego County. Photo credit: Wiki Commons

With state spending per student set to rise $306, San Diego school officials Tuesday said they planned to use the money to reduce class sizes, help English-learning students and pay for other classroom needs.

Superintendent Cindy Marten and Board of Education President Marne Foster, speaking at a midday news conference at the Eugene Brucker Education Center, said the district is poised to see average per-pupil spending increase from $9,361 to $9,667 in the 2015-16 academic year. The governor’s budget proposal also includes $4 billion for implementing the Local Control Funding Formula and $1.1 billion in one-time discretionary grants designed to offset state debts owed to school districts.

“The good news that we’re hearing from the governor is setting us in the right direction, and we proceed with caution knowing these additional funds are prioritized to the classroom,” Marten said.

Marten and Foster said their budget priorities included lowering class sizes from 25:1 to 22:1 in the 29 most economically disadvantaged schools and from 25.5:1 to 24:1 at other campuses; ramping up counseling support, improving equity across schools citywide; improving services for English- learners and disabled students; and getting parents more involved.

Marten said San Diego Unified had been working on its funding priorities far before Friday, when Brown unveiled his budget and, although there are plans for more education funding, schools throughout the state were still “woefully underfunded,” she said.

“The strategies direct as much money as possible toward our classrooms and schools while living within our financial means and adhering to our district’s three-year budget plan to make sure we’re operating in the black,” Marten said.

Revised annual Education Week state rankings show California is 46th in the nation on average per-pupil state funding. Brown has urged fiscal restraint, calling his budget “precariously balanced.”

Representatives of San Diego Unified have been meeting with state legislators to get them to provide more funding. Foster said the efforts had “developed traction,” with several other big city school districts involved in the effort.

“Now San Diego Unified is taking a leadership role in defining adequacy in education funding,” Foster said.

The school board is scheduled to discuss the state’s education budget at its Jan. 20 meeting.

— City News Service