Bay Area School Districts Say State’s Universal Preschool Grant Is Flawed – NBC Bay Area

Calculations for California’s new funding for universal early childhood education don’t add up for most school districts.

It turns out that charter schools benefit disproportionately from the large state grant due to what some say is a flaw in the process.

Superintendents do not blame local charter schools or any other entity. They say that’s how the funding formula was designed, and now lawmakers are scrambling to fix it.

Universal Preschool is designed to prepare children for kindergarten. The governor touted public funding for the program, with a $200 million grant.

But a superintendent has just discovered that the allocation of these funds is radically flawed.

“Incredible. I was just in shock,” said Dr. Hilaria Bauer.

The superintendent of the Alum Rock School Unified School District reviewed the funding spreadsheet and found that his district, with 16 schools, received nearly $262,000 in public funds for universal early education.

But across town, just one school, Rocketship Mateo Sheedy — a charter school — is receiving more than $114,000.

“I’ve seen the spreadsheet seven times, maybe I’m missing something,” Bauer said. “I was trying to make sense of it.”

Turns out she was right.

On Tuesday, Bauer testified before the state Senate Education Committee to express concern.

“The grant program that funds universal preschool education is flawed, drastically in one area, and that is charter schools,” said Sen. Dave Cortese.

He sits on the budget committee and says the grant wording lists each charter school in the same category as an entire school district, which means they will receive more funds.

Now he is working on changing the language.

“I’m sure that’s not what the governor intended,” Cortese said. “To create an uneven playing field like this with unintended consequences.”

The Franklin Mckinley School District superintendent said the formula means districts like his have to do more with less and he’s investigating to see if the wording of other state grants might be flawed as well.

“We are looking to see what other sources of funding could be allocated in the same way,” said Juan Cruz.

The formula affects every school district in the state, districts now scrambling to get an equal slice of the budget pie.

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