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Brown's Proposal Might Prompt School Restructuring

The governor's budget for 2013-14 could leave Saddleback Valley Unified with tough decisions .

While waiting for the finer details from the governor’s education budget, Saddleback Valley Unified School District officials grappled with its potential effects on local schools last week.

SVUSD board members will have to re-evaluate programs and staff to decide which will survive if a proposal to fundamentally change the way education is funded stays within the 2013-14 budget.

A proposed formula -- which might hurt the district, officials said -- promises a baseline amount for all students, an additional amount for students who are lower income, English learners and foster children and even more funds for school districts with more than 50 percent of their enrollment in those populations.

Saddleback Valley is not in that final categroy.

However, with plenty of political tinkering to do, the governor’s budget update in May shed a brighter light on California’s financial future, especially in relation to school finance.

“This was the first time in a long time we didn’t hear cuts, cuts, cuts,” said Geri Partida, assistant superintendent of business. “The budget contains optimistic forecasts.”

As for the big picture, the governor is counting on growth based on a sunny forecast. He projects that the economy will continue to recover, and revenue will continue to increase, Partida said.

Investing in education was previously on the backburner but Gov. Brown has now made it a priority, he said at a January press conference.

“Two years ago, they were writing our obituary. Well it didn’t happen. California is back, its budget is balanced, and we are on the move. Let’s go out and get it done,” Brown said in January when he released his proposed state budget.

Brown introduced a spending plan meant to support school funding, with $2.7 billion additional money going to K-12 and community colleges.

Board members were given a detailed look into what this means for SVUSD Tuesday. The budget's local control funding formula is a revised version of something the governor used to call a weighted student formula, which, according to Partida, was on its way to drastically hurting SVUSD financially.

No matter what its called, both versions are designed to send more money to the neediest of students. Gov. Brown acknowledged in January that suburban districts -- like Saddleback -- would get less.

The biggest problem right now is the great unknown, Partida said.

"We currently do not know what our funding level will be under the LCFF. Until we have that information, there can be no recommendations of restoration," Partida said.

The district needs more information before officials can begin the process, she said.

“SVUSD is currently deficit spending, so balancing our budget would be a top priority consideration,” Partida said.

In other news:

Fewer Furlough Days: The board approved the Saddleback Valley Pupil Services Association agreement to restore two furlough days to the 2013-14 school year for the 57 school psychologists and speech and language pathologists in the district.

MVHS MUN Success: Mission Viejo High School’s 30th Annual MUN conference, held on Jan. 19 and 20, raised $1,500 toward the construction of wells to provide safe water for people in Africa. MVHS students hope to raise a total of $10,000 for their 20 Wells Charity, founded by their MVHS Virtual Enterprise program.

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