Bay Area School Districts Say State's Universal Preschool Grant is Flawed

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The math in California's new funding for universal preschool is not adding up for most school districts.

Turns out charter schools are disproportionately benefitting from the large state grant because of what some say is a flaw in the process.  

Superintendents are not blaming the local charter schools or any other entity. They say this is just the way the funding formula was designed, and now lawmakers are scrambling to fix it.

Universal preschool is designed to prepare children for kindergarten. The governor has touted the state funding of the program, with a $200 million grant.

But one superintendent has just discovered that the allocation of those funds is drastically flawed.

“Unbelievable. I was just shocked,” said Dr. Hilaria Bauer.

The Alum Rock School Unified School District superintendent looked at the funding spreadsheet and found that her district, with 16 schools, is getting almost $262,000 in state funds for universal preschool.

But across town, one single school, Rocketship Mateo Sheedy ---  a charter school --- is getting more than $114,000.

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

It turns out she was right.

On Tuesday, Bauer testified before the State Senate Education Committee to voice her concern.

“The grant program that funds universal preschool is flawed, drastically in one particular area, which is charter schools,” said Senator Dave Cortese.

He sits on the budget committee, and says the language in the grant lists each charter school in the same category as an entire school district,  meaning they’ll get more of the funds.   

Now he’s working to change the language.

“I’m sure it’s not what the governor intended,” said Cortese. “To create an unlevel playing field like that 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 language in other state grants might also be flawed.

“We’re looking to see what other sources of funding may be allocated in this same way,” said Juan Cruz.

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

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