Mayor proposes removing District-program only restriction for use of funds
Published : Tuesday, March 12, 2019 | 5:19 AM
Local charter school advocates may have won a financial victory after Pasadena City’s Council approved a modified sales tax funding agreement with Pasadena Unified which – by removing one word – allows broader uses of the money beyond District-administered programs.
Charter school advocates had lobbied strenuously before the City Council in recent weeks that money derived through Measure J, a rider measure passed with the new city sales tax Measure I approved by voters last year, should also go to charter schools.
Measure J said the City should give one-third of the new ¾ cent municipal sales tax to “Pasadena public schools.” Mayor Terry Tornek – who wrote Measure J – has argued his intention was never to fund charter schools.
But last night as the Council debated approval for a Memorandum of Understanding with Pasadena Unified covering the use of the tax funds, Tornek proposed changing one requirement from “other District projects and programs that benefit public school students,” to strike the modifying word, “District.”
This change sets the stage for the School Board to allocate funds to charter schools if it wishes to do so in the future.
The Council unanimously agreed to the change and approved the Memorandum.
“We don’t want to tell PUSD what to do with their funding. They are the experts,” said Councilmember Margaret McAustin.
Continued McAustin, “Voters don’t want us to tell PUSD what to do.”
Former Pasadena Unified School Board member and current Councilmember Tyron Hampton, who has pushed for including charter school funding in the new revenue, admitted that when he voted for the tax revenue sharing measure, he mistakenly thought the term, “public schools,” included charter schools.
Any charter school funding, however, would not be up for consideration by the School Board until well into 2020, as the first fiscal year’s revenue has already been committed to shoring up District reserves and restoring special school programs.
According to the modified agreement, the City will parcel out the revenue to the District monthly, beginning on July 1, 2019. Payments will be made to the Los Angeles County Office of Education on behalf of the District, as opposed to paying the district directly.
In the agreement the City guarantees paying the School District at least $5 million the first year.
“This protects the District and the Council, in case the anticipated tax revenue turns out to be less than projected,” said City Manager Steve Mermell.