"But the governor says he's not going to talk about that. He's going to talk about civil rights."
Under Brown's plan, the poor kids and English strugglers would get at least an extra 35% in funding. Some would receive up to 70% more if their district had a heavy concentration of disadvantaged students.
Critics contend this is a two-tiered system in itself. Disadvantaged is disadvantaged, they argue. Why should some disadvantaged students get more funding than others just because they're more concentrated?
The governor tried to answer that at his news conference.
"You can have a small pocket of poverty in the middle of an affluent district," he said. "That's very different than widespread despair and hopelessness that often shows up in these areas of … concentrated poverty."
Many legislators are skeptical.
"It's not clear that there's a need for a concentration grant," says Assembly Education Chairwoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), a former board member of a middle-class Bay Area district.
Senate Democrats last week offered a scaled-down version of Brown's plan, eliminating the concentration bonus. Their proposal also sought to guarantee that any extra funding targeted at disadvantaged students would actually be spent on educating those kids, not siphoned into some other kitty.
An agitated governor called his news conference the next day.
Was it in response to the senators' surprise counterproposal, engineered by leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento)? No, spokesman Evan Westrup insisted. It had been scheduled for over a week, even before Brown returned from a China trade trip.
Some theorized Brown was cranky because he was still suffering from jet lag.
Or that he had been inspired by China's militant leaders.
The governor also could have been reacting to legislative criticism that he hasn't been engaged in recent months.
"It's a minor dust-up," Steinberg told me. "I'm glad he reacted. It signals the beginning of the [negotiating] season."
I'm inclined to take the governor at face value; he's a one-time Jesuit seminarian deeply concerned about the disadvantaged and downtrodden. Now, he should also rethink his past cutting of Medi-Cal and welfare.
One thing Brown did was open the door to backroom dealing. Steinberg's education priority is career tech. The passion for Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) is middle-class college scholarships.
Everyone's raring to rumble. Suburbs be wary.