February 23, 2024—Wild Rivers Outpost’s Jessica Cejnar Andrews speaks with Public Advocates’ Deputy Managing Attorney, Education Equity, Nicole Gon Ochi, and demand letter complainant Briannon (“Brie”) Fraley, on the state’s inequitable model for funding school facility modernization. The current system provides all districts with a 60% state match of local funds raised, regardless of need, thereby advantaging wealthier districts. The result is an unequal system in which students in low-wealth districts receive an education inferior to that of their peers in higher-wealth districts, in violation of California’s Equal Protection Clause. Brie speaks to her experience as a parent of children in Del Norte Unified School District, the northern most district in California, and a district where over 80% of the land is untaxable. As a result, her children and children within the Del Norte district attend school in “dilapidated facilities” with physical, emotional, and monetary tolls.

“We’re not saying there shouldn’t be local bonds, [we’re saying] the state shouldn’t give 60 percent to every district no matter what their local bonding capacity or ability to raise funds is,” Public Advocates deputy managing attorney Nicole Gon Ochi told the Outpost. “A district like Del Norte should get more and a district like Beverly Hills should get less.”

Public Advocates say the state’s “hardship funding solution” has been ineffective at making access to state facilities dollars easier for low-income school districts.

Public Advocates state that even Del Norte voters approved a bond measure in November, it would “only scratch the surface of the need for facilities modernization due to Del Norte’s extremely low bonding capacity per student.”

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