In 2013, when then-Gov. Jerry Brown announced a bold effort to direct more resources to English-language learners and other disadvantaged students, The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board was among those cheering. We wrote, "If he can help millions of struggling kids master English, that would be a wonderful accomplishment - arguably the highlight of his third term as governor."
It was all downhill from there. Instead of having a tight focus on helping struggling students, the Local Control Funding Formula has long since been exposed as a way to help large, politically connected school districts - starting with Los Angeles Unified. In 2015, Brown and then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said the extra money going to these districts could be used for teacher raises. But the bad faith goes beyond that. Brown, Torlakson and Democratic lawmakers with ties to the California Teachers Association also resisted attempts to evaluate if LCFF funds are actually helping struggling students.
Now a new Public Policy Institute of California study is out with the most detailed look yet at LCFF implementation. It finds that while schools with more high-needs students are getting significantly more funding, much of the increase has gone to teachers. But paradoxically, as of 2018, these schools had more novice and lesser-qualified teachers than before LCFF's adoption. So much for the idea that English-language learners would get extra help.
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Teachers should have the right to work where they want. But when the laws that give them such rights have the effect of funneling struggling teachers to struggling schools, that hurts the students who are most in need of help. That this bothers only a relative handful of top state Democrats - starting with Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego - is a sad commentary on California's priorities.
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