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Why School Lunch Matters in State’s New Education Funding Formula

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource

Never has school lunch meant so much for California education.

Delivering significantly more money to schools based on the number of low-income children they serve is at the heart of the sweeping new K-12 finance system approved by the state Legislature in June. The new system defines “low income” as those students eligible for the school’s free and reduced-price meals program.

If the demand for new paperwork jeopardizes funding for needy children in any way, after years of work to pass Proposition 30, “People will become unglued.”

But two months into the rollout of the reforms, which Gov. Jerry Brown praised as a victory for the neediest students, two of the largest districts –- Los Angeles Unified and Fresno Unified –- are in a dispute with the state over a last-minute change in how children who receive free meals are counted. Instead of moving into the school year confident of how much new funding they’ll receive for low-income students, the two districts, as well as scores of other districts in the state, are now being asked to submit new data from hundreds of thousands of low-income families before the funding will be released.

“We didn’t bargain for this and we were not told this,” said John Deasy, superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District, the state’s largest district with more than 650,000 students, more than half of whom –- 384,000 students –- attend 466 district schools that are being asked to certify low-income students again. If the demand for new paperwork jeopardizes funding for needy children in any way, after years of work to pass Proposition 30 to fund education and to pass the new education finance system, Deasy said, there will be an outcry from educators, advocates, students, parents and legislators. “People will become unglued,” he said. Continue reading