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Schools fear losing low-income funds
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — New state income-verification rules could cost California schools millions in funding for low-income students, some district officials say.

Hundreds of families have yet to turn in income verification forms in Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno and elsewhere, The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.

Many districts are urging the state to guarantee them all funding due this year, based on last year's count of low-income students. Under the new rules, districts are receiving extra money for students who are low-income, learning English or in foster care. The additional funding amounts to about $2,800 per pupil in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

State officials say the rules are necessary to ensure the extra dollars go to those who actually qualify for them. Districts argue verifying incomes every year is too time-consuming.

Los Angeles Unified School District faces losing $200 million, and San Diego could miss out on $6 million, the newspaper reported.

"We have to make sure that the (new system) is being driven by real students and their needs," said Erin Gabel, director of government affairs for the California Department of Education.

Districts already verify students' family income every four years for a federally subsidized meal program. Officials say the notifications about the new rules went out late and some parents balk at divulging personal information.

In the Fresno Unified School District, hundreds of families have refused to fill out the income forms — possibly because of fears the information will land in the hands of immigration authorities, according to Ruth Quinto, the district's chief financial officer. Others might be confusing the new state forms with the federal meals documents they've already completed, some community organizers said.

"The whole thing is outrageous," Los Angeles Unified schools Superintendent John Deasy told the newspaper. "Give our kids their fair share."

In his district, only about 40 percent of 138,000 verification forms distributed to 380 schools with high poverty rates had been returned as of Friday, the initial deadline. Deasy said the state should simply accept the federal data.

In San Diego, only three of 68 such schools had turned in their forms as of last week, said Martha Alvarez, the district's director of government relations.

To assist districts this year, the state has extended the deadline to March.