State restores small school funding for Maxwell Unified

Maxwell Unified School District officials are breathing a sigh of relief now that the State of California has proposed to extend a major source of funding for the high school.

The funding for necessary small schools, established under California Education Code Section 42285(b)(3), and allowed to sunset on July 1, 2017, has been restored in the $132 billion proposed state budget that Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled on Jan. 11.

Maxwell Unified Superintendent Zach Thurman said he believes the funding will still be included when the final bill is signed into law in June.

Six schools in the state, including Princeton High School, each receive a portion of the $2.3 million rural school allocation. Maxwell Unified receives between $300,000 and $400,000 annually.

While significant for the schools, the funding is only a small amount in terms of the overall state budget, Thurman said.

Although a big chunk of the state’s revenue (78.3 billion) will go toward education next year, about $11,614 per student, Thurman said at last week’s school board meeting that it still isn’t enough.

“We will be fully funded next year, but all that means is that we will be back to 2007-08 levels,” Thurman said.

On Jan. 8, the California School Boards Association called on the Legislature to raise school funding, and has asked all school boards in the state to adopt a resolution calling for the same.

The resolution states that despite California’s leadership in the global economy, the state falls in the nation’s bottom quintile on nearly every measure of public K-12 school funding and staffing.

The Maxwell School Board approved the resolution 4-0 on Jan. 10, with trustee Kelly Haywood abstaining.

According to the resolution, California funds schools at roughly $1,961 per student less than the national average, which translates to approximately $3,462 per student when adjusted for California being a high-cost state.

While California has the sixth largest economy in the world and the largest Gross Domestic Product of any state in the nation, School Board President Cristy Edwards cautioned the use of that argument in making school funding comparisons.

“I don’t know if you were to look at our state in terms of its poverty levels if you can classify us as the richest state, but we do have a big budget,” Edwards said.

According to the resolution, California, despite its wealth, has consistently underfunded public education while widening its scope, adding new requirements, and raising standards without providing appropriate resources.

“There was an era when California’s public education system was the envy of the nation and our schools were as well-funded as any in the country, but for decades now, California schools have been asked to do more with less,” said California School Boards Association President Mike Walsh, in a statement. “It’s time we reverse the trend of shortchanging public schools and provide full and fair funding for all students, so they have the resources needed for success in college, career and civic life.”

The CSBA, in a 2016 report, said an additional $40 billion annually would be required to provide all public schools in the state with access to a high-quality education.

Maxwell Unified officials, by adopting the resolution, joined the association is urging the State Legislature to fund California schools at the national average or higher by the year 2020, and at a level that is equal to or above the average of the top 10 states nationally by 2025. ■