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The San Diego Unified school board narrowly voted Tuesday night against a move to stop and reexamine a hotly debated plan to pull federal money for disadvantaged students away from some schools to benefit the very poorest ones.

San Diego Unified now plans to gradually shift federal money for disadvantaged students away from schools with lower percentages of poor children and give it only to schools where at least 75 percent of students get free or reduced price lunches.

The change would take place over five years. Board member John Lee Evans proposed that San Diego Unified put its planning for the shift on hold, giving the school board a chance to reconsider the funding shift before December. He was joined by school board member Kevin Beiser, who was absent when the board originally voted to shift the funds and spoke passionately against moving the money.

“Are we going to rob Peter to pay Paul, when both Peter and Paul are children in poverty?” Beiser asked. He pointed out that there were schools in his northeastern section of San Diego Unified that had sizable numbers of poor children and would lose all their federal funding to help those kids under the plan.

Democratic activist Pat Washington urged the school board to stand by its decision to concentrate the money in the very poorest schools, saying it would reduce the incentive for poor children to be bused out of their neighborhoods. Washington argued the shift would help truly level the playing field.

Her words were echoed by school board member Shelia Jackson, who argued that the funding had been spread too thinly in the past. Evans and Beiser were the only board members to vote for the pause in planning; board members Scott Barnett, Richard Barrera and Jackson voted against it.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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