State Board must find balance between rules and flexibility

There was an abundance of thoughtful advice Monday at a public hearing in Sacramento on the state’s new school funding and accountability system. But that good advice also was rife with conflicting views, underscoring the challenge the State Board of Education will face in writing rules for the Local Control Funding Formula that took effect  in June.

The new system shifts control over spending and budgeting from the state to districts, and it steers substantially more money to high-needs students: low-income children, foster youth and English learners. Those two goals are not inherently at odds, but there are tensions between children’s advocates who want to ensure all dollars targeted for children are spent on them and districts that worry about prescriptive regulations hampering their efforts to recover from five years of crippling budget cuts. There may also be tensions with parent groups that want the State Board not just to foster their participation in the districts’ budgeting process but to guarantee them an active role at both the district level and in their local schools.

briefing-lcffParents should be deeply involved, said Roberta Furger, associate director for policy at PICO California, a faith-based community organizing group, “not just to comment on an already developed plan but to help develop it.” There should be a rubric to measure that engagement in order to hold districts accountable, she said during her two-minute testimony. Added Peggy Parker, a state PTA district president, the State Board must decide how parents will be selected for a new district advisory committee and how outreach to parents should be handled.

The hearing, which also was webcast, was the second of three that the nonprofit public research and development agency WestEd organized on behalf of the State Board. Three dozen people testified on Monday; 60 spoke last week in Los Angeles, and the final hearing is today in Bakersfield.

Timeline for State Board action

In passing the Local Control Funding Formula, legislators wrestled with the same issues raised at the hearings. But with little agreement and running out of time to pass the state budget, they handed the job of spelling out specifics to the State Board, which is about to enter an intensive regulation-writing process.

By Jan. 31, it must determine how much latitude districts will have in using the extra money and to what extent they must involve parents. Then, by March 31, the State Board will detail what should be in every district’s Local Control Accountability Plan, setting district goals for academic achievement and the metrics to measure progress, such as dropout rates and access to college-qualifying courses. Spending in the district’s accountability plan should match those priorities.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who pushed the new finance system through the Legislature, has stressed the principle of “subsidiarity” – solving problems closest to where they exist. But that principle assumes that newly empowered school boards will listen to parents, teachers and the community. Districts will be judged on how subgroups of students, particularly English learners and low-income children, perform on a range of measures beyond standardized tests. But children’s advocates also want the money, which will bring districts with only high-needs children as much as two-thirds more dollars per student, to be tied to the students – and not simply trust districts to do right by them.

Must dollars follow the students?

At the hearing, Steve Ward, an associate superintendent of Clovis Unified recommended regulations that provide “local control for every need of every student without excessive bureaucracy and oversight.” He represents a coalition of districts that will receive less than average in extra money, because high-needs students comprise less than half of their enrollment. He urged the State Board to allow districts to use some of the money generated by targeted students for school or districtwide purposes, like equipping classrooms with technology to benefit all students.

But Liz Guillen, director of legislative and community affairs at Public Advocates, countered that the State Board should not allow districtwide uses for the targeted money “to create a loophole for unintended purposes.” Otherwise, that’s “gaming” the system. “Flexibility is not absolute.”

Michele Huntoon, the chief business officer of Stockton Unified, and Debbie Bettencourt, superintendent of  Folsom Cordova Unified, urged wiggle room with the new class size reduction requirement, which sets a maximum of 24 students in a K-3 classroom by the time the formula is fully funded. If one school is a fraction of a student over, the district loses all of the money. Since there is no extra state money for facilities, there should be relief in the future, so that districts don’t have to cut staff or programs, Huntoon said.

Even though her district will do well under the formula, Sheri Gamba, associate superintendent of business for West Contra Costa Unified, called for “maximum flexibility” on spending. The district survived  the recession through employee concessions and school closures, she said. How quickly it and other districts  can restore employee pay may depend on how the State Board restricts spending on high-needs students.

But others called for added protections for high-needs students.

Randal Seriguchi, legislative analyst for Sacramento-based StudentsFirst, urged tight monitoring of how districts spend money for English learners and low-income students. Cynthia Rice, an attorney with California Rural Legal, called for quicker state response to formal parent and student complaints, which she and another speaker sharply criticized as ineffective. And Martha Zaragoza-Diaz, an advocate for English learners, said the state should set minimum standards, based on research, for spending on programs and services for English learners.

WestEd will forward comments from the hearings to the State Board. Additional comments can be emailed to



Filed under: Local Control Funding Formula, Policy & Finance, State Board



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6 Responses to “State Board must find balance between rules and flexibility”

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  1. Manuel on Aug 13, 2013 at 3:03 pm08/13/2013 3:03 pm

    • 000

    The unfortunate thing is that the elephant in the room was not addressed: the money available right now (or at least according to the CDE budgets one can find in their website; hint; they are under “Finance and Grants”) does not cover the costs of 2012-13, let alone the new supplemental and concentration grants that go along with the base grant.

    I believe that efforts are being squandered chasing money that isn’t there. Why don’t we instead ask what happened to the funds earmarked for education last year? The first speaker in Los Angeles stated that her district was short $8 million. The CDE budget for LAUSD alone shows an $888 million deficit. So what happened to the “hold harmless” promise?

    One more thing: many state funds received by districts are not included in the 2013-14 budgets worked up by the CDE together with DoF. Does anybody even know where all the state funds actually come from? EdData does not even list them all but instead lumps them into one huge “other state revenue (8590)” category! Maybe that is where that huge shortfall is but I doubt that agencies are going to step and offer money to close the gaps. Besides, we can’t have much local control and transparency if those of us who dabble in watchdogging do not know how much is in the official kitty.

  2. Katherine Welch on Aug 13, 2013 at 10:12 am08/13/2013 10:12 am

    • 000

    We are a parent-led statewide organization and we also have concerns with design and implementation. We sent the letter below and many of our supporters have also sent emails and attended the local meetings. I agree with navigio…many ideas, and concerns with decisions this year and in the future. We appreciate sharing of best practices out of the gate. Thank you for welcoming and training parents to be part of the design and decision making.

    TO: State Board of Education
    FROM: The Leadership Team of Educate Our State
    DATE: August 11, 2013
    RE: LCFF Concerns Regarding Engagement and Accountability

    We are writing on behalf of Educate Our State, a grassroots parent-led organization educating and uniting Californians to advocate for systemic change that will provide all students with a high-quality public education. Our 50,000 supporters are active advocates for public education and are concerned with how the LCFF will be implemented. For more on who we are please visit our website here.

    The LCFF offers an opportunity for local communities to develop programs that serve the unique needs of the students in their communities. We are concerned about the real possibility for abuse and failure if there is not true stakeholder involvement as well as measures to ensure transparency and accountability. Parents and local communities must be able to easily understand where the money is going and how it is serving their students.

    Students are the true—and largest—stakeholders in K-12 education and need representation.
    Students are the true stakeholders in California’s K-12 public education system and — at 6.2 million in number — students are by far the largest stakeholders in California’s K-12 public education system.
    Students currently have little to no representation in the decisions that impact them.
    Regulations and guidelines written for the LCFF should address this omission.

    Ensure true stakeholder involvement through defined committee structures, roles, responsibilities, and timelines.
    “Parental Involvement” under the Local Control and Accountability Plan should include reporting of actual numbers/percentages of parents actively engaged at school sites–and school site and district advisory and regulatory committees–not just the district’s “efforts” and “promotion” of parental input and participation.
    Parents and students—the true stakeholders in education—need to have defined structures and roles stipulated in the regulations to ensure that they have a voice to exert true “Local Control” of the LCFF.
    Parents should have defined roles on a regulatory and/or development committee at the school district level, not just secondary, advisory roles. This is critical because district decisions—particularly those involving the LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan), collective bargaining, and budget—will have massive, direct and indirect, impacts on student programs and services as well as school site funding. And the true stakeholders, students, currently have no voice in these decisions.
    Require true parent/student stakeholder involvement in early brainstorming and decision-making, such as producing the LCAP. Rather than require the district merely to solicit and reply to parent feedback on the LCAP–and then proceed as the district sees fit– there must be concrete requirements that the districts redress the issues under contention.
    Committees should be inclusionary, allowing maximum numbers of interested parents to participate or at least the opportunity to become involved, not just “executive” committees, allowing merely a select few to participate. We suggest that you include guidelines or regulations making committee stakeholder representation proportional to the relative representations of the stakeholders in the district and schools.

    Extend “local control” to school sites.
    Recognizing that different schools within a district have different “local” needs, expand the role of School Site Committees (SSCs) at schools to retain a site Single Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA).
    Ideally incorporate any new responsibilities under the LCFF into the SSC rather than establishing yet another school site committee that taxes actively-involved parents’ abilities to participate.
    In the event SSCs are phased out, parents/students should be considered true stakeholders and have formal representation in school site committees.

    Provide training for effective stakeholder involvement. To have effective stakeholder involvement and committee function, the state should offer online training for all stakeholders—especially parents and students—on the roles, responsibilities, and rights of members on these committees as well as the roles and legal responsibilities of these committees.

    Ensure transparency and accountability through collecting and reporting of best practices and a reporting structure for violations.
    The California Collaborative for Education Excellence should collect and report best practices to all districts, not just those that are clearly struggling.
    To have effective transparency and accountability, state regulations should stipulate a reporting structure, preferably anonymous, for alleged violations of rules and consequences for repeat violations. To be effective, this reporting structure would need to extend beyond the school sites and school districts to an agency with authority over these entities.

    Require transparency of all decision-making and spending. Require transparency of school site and district budgets and decision-making processes. This would include—but not be limited to—timely online access to all relevant committee meeting dates, agendas and minutes, as well as online budget information in a version that can be understood by a layperson but is sufficiently detailed to allow for interpretation and analysis.

    Thank you for your consideration of our concerns. We would appreciate the opportunity to stay involved as your agency considers how to best implement the LCFF, and we would welcome the opportunity to comment further on any draft documents before your agency issues a final policy or any regulations. We believe it is important that parents and students be involved at all stages of implementation of what will constitute big changes in the way educational programs are funded and tracked in our state. Thank you.

    The Leadership Team of Educate Our State

    Aaron Anderson
    Cushon Bell
    Crystal Brown
    Nick Driver
    Vali Frank
    Megan Kerr
    Tamara Hurley
    Annie Bauccio Moore
    Suzy Pak
    Cinnamon O’Neill Paula
    Hope Wedemeyer Salzer
    Fran Kaufer Shimp
    Katherine Welch


    • navigio on Aug 13, 2013 at 12:58 pm08/13/2013 12:58 pm

      • 000

      Hi Katherine. Great points. I would like to add a few comments from my own perspective in response to some of your group’s points.

      Parental involvement is notoriously difficult to quantify. Not only is it possible to be involved at multiple levels (policy, state, district, school), but even at the school level, involvement entails time at home, or on the road or doing activities that are difficult to measure (or are too time consuming to bother measuring). In our own school, we put a signature sheet in the office to try to get some idea of how this works, but there is so much variation in who remembers or bothers to sign it–and even then, only if they happen to be doing something on campus–that I dont think it was anywhere near reliable as a measure, even though it was explicitly placed there with that intention. If you have specific ideas how to improve on that, I’m sure school leaders would be interested in hearing about them.

      Regarding defined parent roles at the district level.. currently the final say rests with the BoE. The law currently requires the BoE to respond to the input/suggestions of parent advocacy groups in writting (I love that). Unfortunately, it does not make that relationship anything but an advisory one, so the written response could be, ‘thanks, but no thanks.’ I do think to some extent this desire would be a tradeoff for your later suggestion at better defining roles at the school level. I think it would be preferable to have the school-level control than a district-level one (simply because the district-level one might not be able to distinguish priorities well enough for different schools. In addition, district level activity–even if parent-based–can occur largely without the knowledge of site people. Trying to facilitate communication from the district level to all the true stakeholders (parents on behalf of their kids) would be logistically problematic, to the extent it would depress involvement. (the alternative of having a multi-layer process is possible, but would probably be difficult to maintain). This may not hold true for smaller or more closely-knit districts, but for most large ones I think would. In general, however, I agree that the LCAP roles need a LOT of additional specificity. :-)

      I do fully agree with trying to get parents more involved in the design process than just the implementation process.

      Although I would tend to agree with your local (school site) control point the most, I would point out that this is the closest to what we have today (eg categorical money flows to school, school site makes decisions). The idea of LCFF was specifically to give districts more flexibility (which can be both a good and bad thing depending on one’s perspective. :-) ). I dont think that should trump the idea of having the SSC play a more defined role (exactly how I think it should be implemented), but its worth mentioning anyway because not everyone will agree.

      Your training idea is an interesting one. Personally, I think a district should be transparent enough that anyone can gain this understanding if they desired from existing district resources. But I tend to err on the side of expecting transparency. One of the other points of LCFF was to simplify the funding process. In theory, that should make all of this even more easily shared and understood! 😉 (admittedly I tend to devalue training because I like figuring things out myself, so this opinion may be too myopic of me).

      I agree with violations. Personally, I think the burden should be put on the district to not only publish the timeline, but update it with milestone status. It obviously does this now for things like staffing, calendars, etc. Applying that to this process should become just as second-nature. Not doing that alone should be considered a violation.

      Lastly, a point you did not touch on: since the idea of LCFF was to remove the ‘burden’ associated with categorical fund and program management. I think it should be required that every district specify how they are re-directing all those human resources now that LCFF will free them up. I think this is an extremely important point, but I’ve mentioned it a few times and no one seems to want to take it on. If the arguments were valid, then getting additional money is only half the appeal of LCFF. The other half is all these people who can now be re-directed to better supporting eduction directly. That is as good as, or sometimes even better than, additional money. Right? :-)

    • el on Aug 13, 2013 at 5:12 pm08/13/2013 5:12 pm

      • 000

      We all look at our own piece of the element. My district is small and rural, and getting parents involved in school governance (especially when things are perceived to be going well) is often very difficult. How can a school show good faith? The logistics and issues faced by all 1,000 or so districts are not all the same, and it’s really important in the rulemaking process to keep as much awareness of this as possible.

      For example:
      To have effective stakeholder involvement and committee function, the state should offer online training for all stakeholders—especially parents and students—on the roles, responsibilities, and rights of members on these committees as well as the roles and legal responsibilities of these committees.

      Few adults in our community have online access and if they do, it’s at the level of maybe they check email once a week, or they use facebook via their phone. So while it might be worth doing, it would be far from adequate if the goal is to actually have trained parents in our community.

  3. navigio on Aug 13, 2013 at 7:25 am08/13/2013 7:25 am

    • 000

    As important as the spirit of the law is, the reality is most districts are still not only facing deficits but are also still redirecting unrestricted funds to cover unfunded restricted programs. It doesn’t matter how you name the dollars, the reality is that deficit and those programs still need to be serviced and in the first year there is not a lot, if any, ‘new’ money anyway. Given that the template for LPAC is not even available until spring, and human resource decisions were already determined last spring according to negotiated (or state mandated) labor rules, I expect the 13-14 school year to be largely a free-for-all at the expense of these unduplicated kids. Perhaps the best thing the community can do is document everything that happens this year and use that as a basis for deciding what is right and what is wrong in your own district.

    Also, the CSR component of the law poorly designed. If I were king, I’d suggest to every district that the first thing they do is negotiate k-3 class sizes now, so they dont risk losing that funding. Negotiated ratios seem to do a fairly good job of keeping sizes near where they should be. Unfortunately there are ways of gaming even that system, so I would also modify the law to mandate publishing individual class sizes for every school (not just an average, which can be based on teachers who are not even in a classroom, or on special ed classes that have only a handful of students). I would also allow sunshine access to the class size negotiation process (which does not appear to exist for other aspects of contract negotiation). Not having the community be able to weigh in on the negotiation BEFORE the decision is made runs counter to the spirit of local control.

    I might have two or three hundred more suggestions but I’ll abstain.. for the moment…

  4. Paul Muench on Aug 13, 2013 at 5:12 am08/13/2013 5:12 am

    • 000

    Expanding on summer school may be a good way to target children with more needs and address summer learning loss at the same time.

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