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By Collin Breaux

Officials and staff with the Capistrano Unified School District believe that CUSD is underfunded under the current education funding formula from the state, and are raising awareness of a campaign called Raise the Base that supports increasing the dollar amount given per student.

The CUSD Board of Trustees approved a resolution brought forth at a monthly meeting on Wednesday, April 20, directing Superintendent Kirsten Vital Brulte to communicate the Raise the Base message to the public—and encouraging parent and community support for California Assembly Bill 1614, which also supports more educational base funding.

AB 1614, introduced by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), was introduced in January of this year and intends to increase base grants from the state in “order to achieve specified educational goals,” according to the bill’s language.

The legislation was last rereferred to an educational committee on Tuesday, April 19, but otherwise it has not significantly moved forward.

The majority of educational funding for school districts in California comes from the state under a formula introduced in 2013 called the Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF, for short.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, a base amount of funding is provided based on a district’s average daily attendance, with extra funding then provided for high-need students such as the economically disadvantaged, English learners, or foster youth.

In a recent interview with San Clemente Times, CUSD spokesperson Ryan Burris said CUSD has been underfunded for years compared to neighboring districts—such as the Santa Ana Unified School District—because of CUSD’s comparatively lower number of Title I students.

Title I is an educational term for disadvantaged or low-performing students.

State funding per student in California is approximately $8,017 per K-12 student per year, according to the Education Data Initiative. Federal funding is $1,149 per student, while local funding contributes $5,158 per student.

Raise the Base supports raising base funding for all students in California, not just in CUSD.

“We’re excited tonight to present this resolution so that we’re able to use the district email to get the message out on the importance of this campaign,” Vital Brulte said. “When LCFF first came in, LCFF—although really great policy in terms of understanding the idea that some children cost more—the state of California wrestled and struggled to make sure that every child costs something.”

“Rather than really focusing on that base grant first and then adding supplemental in concentration funds, the state re-divided money and districts like Capistrano Unified School District lost out on funds,” she added.

The campaign supports rectifying the base grant so all children in California get “what they need—public education”—while continuing supplemental and concentration grants, Vital Brulte said.

“We do recognize and support that some children need extra support—English learners, foster youth—but we want to make sure that all children get what they need,” Vital Brulte said.

The district in its resolution noted that raising base funding would not raise taxes.

Michele Ploessel-Campbell, executive vice president for CUSD’s Parent Teacher Student Association Council, said raising base funding will “be a huge positive impact on all California public school students and, specifically, on the students of Capistrano Unified.”

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com.                         

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