Glendale Unified may lose out on extra money for low-income students, English learners

The new state budget could push Glendale Unified out of contention for extra money earmarked for school districts with a majority of students who are poor or are learning English.

The budget draft originally proposed that districts would receive the extra money — called concentration grants — if the district’s population of students who are learning English, eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, or in foster care exceeded 50%.

At the time, Glendale Unified appeared poised to capitalize on the formula, with about 53% to 56% of its students meeting the criteria.

But the new budget deal announced this week increased that threshold to 55%, putting Glendale in danger of being pushed out of contention.

For cashed-starved school districts, the stakes are high. In the coming school year, Glendale Unified could be paid about $5,800 for every student it serves under a state formula for redistributing better-than-expected revenues back to schools. That figure would be up from the roughly $5,200-per-student allocation Glendale has received in recent years.

But concentration grants bring the promise of an extra 35% in funding for every English-language-learner or low-income student tallied beyond the first 55%.

From 2012 to 2013, 49.9% of the district’s students were eligible for free or reduced lunches, and approximately 6,000 students of about 26,000 students were English-language-learners.

Whether Glendale Unified will qualify for concentration grants will come down to when the state requests the calculation of qualifying students, according to Mike Lee, the district’s controller.

“It really depends when the state finally tells us what period we’re going to capture those numbers,” he said at a recent school board meeting. “This percentage is going to shift.”

School board President Nayiri Nahabedian was at least pleased to see that the budget increased per-student by $537 dollars.

“I’m happy to see that the base grant has increased for our district and all other districts,” she said.

“The bottom line is, education in California continues to be severely underfunded. Our district is in no way being fully financially restored.”

Once lawmakers finalize the budget, Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign it into law by the end of June.


Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.

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