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CALIFORNIA'S EDUCATION SPENDING CONTINUES TO LAG BEHIND THE REST OF THE NATION “Educating our children is the most important job in the world.” Steve Betando, MHUSD Superintendent SOURCE: PUBLIC POLICY INSTITUTE OF CALIFORNIA Educational Achievement In case you haven’t been following local education, the Morgan Hill and Gilroy Unified School Districts are performing well. Teachers and staff at our twenty-plus schools serve more than 20,000 students on their journey from Pre-K to graduation. They’ve implemented Common Core standards while trans- forming classrooms and curricula to deliver a 21st century educational experience to our kids. Their achievements are being recognized with prestigious Gold Ribbon and Golden Bell Awards. Dual-immersion and Academy schools have become models of education for others to emulate. Graduation rates are solid. More graduates are meeting eligibility requirements for California State University and University of California systems, and well prepared for four-year colleges, community colleges, workforce opportunities, and military service. Our public schools deserve our praise, but even more so, our support and advocacy. Especially in their efforts to balance district budgets in the midst of declining enrollment, increasing pension costs, and the ever-changing landscape of state funding and accountability measures.  “Local tax measures are not strong enough so we are dependent on state funding,” said Steve Betando, Superintendent of the Morgan Hill Unified School District (MHUSD). “We’re doing more with less and we continue to seek revenue enhancements.” Betando applauded his administrative team for pursuing more than $10M in grants for everything from visual and performing arts and math literacy to kitchen equipment renovation. Gilroy Unified School District Superintendent Debbie Flores agreed, “The single biggest challenge we face is funding.” Funding Shortfall and the LCFF In 2013, former Governor Jerry Brown enacted the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), essentially the state’s financing system that provides additional money to public school districts based on enrollment of “high-need” students (low-income/eligible for free or reduced cost lunch, foster children, and English Learners). For the 2016-17 school year, both the Morgan Hill and Gilroy Unified School districts received less than $9,000 in per-student funding from the state. Gilroy receives slightly more than Morgan Hill per student because it has a higher percentage of high-need students. In comparison, San Jose Unified received $9,500 and Santa Clara Unified received over $13,000, and many education leaders say that’s not enough to meet our students’ needs. The nation’s top states fund their public schools at an average rate of $13,000-17,000 per student, far above California rates. The state recently completed implementation of the LCFF. Unfortunately, the initiative’s revenue increases have largely been offset by increased costs associated with pensions, healthcare, special education programming, transportation, and other expenses borne by public school districts. Education leaders are also understandably concerned about a possible flattening of LCFF funding in the event that the U.S. experiences another economic downturn. And of course, with LCFF funding comes a demand for “One thing that makes Gilroy so special is its generosity, including the Gilroy Foundation, the Christopher family and the Connell family, among others. Rotary Interact, Rock the Mock, and the Garlic Festival provide our students with what is often their first experience of community service and fundraising for their school projects and activities. For a community of 57,000, it’s amazing how people step up for our youth.” Debbie Flores, GUSD Superintendent 34 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN april/may 2019 gmhtoday.com