The draft regulations that districts have been waiting for to guide their decisions under the Local Control Funding Formula are now out. On Jan. 16, the State Board of Education will vote to adopt them, setting in motion six months of planning leading to districts’ first budgets subject to new accountability requirements under the state’s new K-12 finance system.

The proposed new regs would technically be emergency regulations subject to revision later this year. They, along with a revised template for the Local Control and Accountability Plan or LCAP – a document aligning a district’s improvement goals with its spending priorities –  were posted Friday as part of the State Board’s agenda for its next meeting (see items 20 and 21).

The proposed regulations are the State Board staff’s effort to strike a balance between the LCFF’s twin goals of providing districts, charter schools and county offices of education with flexibility to budget based on their own priorities and requiring that they spend extra money they receive for low-income children, foster youths and English learners on those students.

The latest revisions differ significantly from what the State Board presented two months ago and reflect changes in response to sharp criticisms from advocates for high-needs students. They charged that the original version had big loopholes letting districts spend dollars for those children however they wanted as long as they promised to take measures leading to higher achievement. Districts no longer have that option. Instead they must explain in their LCAP the actions they would take and expenditures needed to accomplish them to provide services for the student subgroups.

The latest draft answers two of the biggest questions that districts and advocates raised:

  • How do districts, charter schools and county offices of education calculate how much additional services they must provide each year for the extra dollars they get for high-needs children?
  • How restricted must that extra money be: Must the money and services be limited solely to those children?

Formula for spending on high-needs students

The proposed regs detail the formula that districts must use, and include an accompanying document that illustrates how it would work for a district in which 68 percent of students are foster youth, low-income or English learners (Long Beach and Pasadena Unified are close to that).

At full implementation in a projected eight years, the district would receive 20 percent more revenue because of those students and would have to demonstrate how it provided a proportional amount of additional or improved services for them. But in the transition years, as the dollars gradually build up, the district’s obligation to provide those services would be prorated based on LCFF dollars funded that year. So next year, that district theoretically would have to provide only 6.9 percent more in services. Services are defined broadly to include technology, facilities, student support services and “other general infrastructure necessary to operate and deliver educational instruction and related services.”

Now, the State Board recognizes that there is no credible way for a district to demonstrate down to a tenth of a percent what it has done for those students, said Brooks Allen, a former ALCU attorney who is now the State Board’s new deputy policy director and assistant legal counsel. What the State Board expects, he said, is evidence in the LCAP of “steady progress during the phase-in, building toward full implementation.”

Schoolwide and distictwide expenditures

On the other big issue — whether money for high-needs students had to be spent only on them, the draft regs creates a distinction that may not satisfy advocates of those children, who have wanted extra dollars to follow and be spent specifically on those kids. The regs say that districts with at least 55 percent high-needs students can use the supplemental dollars for districtwide purposes, say for an extended year or training math teachers in Common Core. But in their LCAPs, districts would have to specify how that use of the money would raise achievement for the targeted students.

Districts in which high-needs students comprise less than 55 percent of enrollment also could use supplemental dollars for districtwide purposes, but they would face an additional burden of proof. They would have to show that the supplemental dollars were “the most effective use of the funds” to meet the achievement goals for those students. During the LCAP process, school board and superintendents would be required to ask parents and community members for their views on spending priorities.

Like districts, supplemental dollars could be spent for schoolwide purposes when high-needs students comprise at least 40 percent of enrollment. Schools with high-needs students making up less than 40 percent of enrollment could, like districts, also spend targeted dollars for schoolwide purposes — but only after making the case that it’s the best way to accomplish achievement for high-needs students.

Two advocates for low-income children who have followed the LCFF regulations and suggested changes credited the staff of the State Board for incorporating some of their ideas.

“This is worlds better than the version in November. We suggested how to do the formula, and what they came up with was pretty close,” said John Affeldt, managing attorney for the San Francisco-based nonprofit Public Advocates.

Samantha Tran, senior director of education policy for Oakland-based Children Now, also praised the inclusion of the formula calculating how much districts must spend for high-needs students; it nearly mirrors what her organization proposed, she said.

But both she and Affeldt also criticized the proposed threshold levels enabling dollars allotted to high-needs students to be used for schoolwide and districtwide purposes as too low. In two-thirds of school districts, 55 percent of the students are low-income, foster youth and English learners; in three-quarters of schools in the state, high-needs students make up at least 40 percent of enrollment. The concept of schoolwide or districtwide expenditures is not the issue, Tran said;  districts may have effective strategies when deployed systemwide. Supplemental money for high-needs students shouldn’t be restricted to pullout programs, like tutoring, in schools, she said. “But without tightening the language, the extra money for these students could be used for anything, watering down the impact and the intent of the law,” she said.

Affeldt suggested raising the threshold for using money for high-needs students for districtwide purposes to at least 65 percent.

The package of materials in the State Board agenda includes:

 

(This article has been updated to include reactions to the draft regulations. I’ll be writing a second piece on the revised template for the  Local Control and Accountability Plan.)

John Fensterwald covers state education policy. Contact him and follow him on Twitter @jfenster. Sign up here for a no-cost online subscription to EdSource Today for reports from the largest education reporting team in California.


Filed under: Local Control Funding Formula, Reporting & Analysis, School Finance · Tags:

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  1. Paul Muench says:

    How about funding magnet schools that attempt to attract a mix of students from different economic backgrounds? I’m curoius if that would be deemed an effective ise of funds.

  2. navigio says:

    John, isn’t that essentially the same process we now use for school site and LEA plans?

    1. John Fensterwald says:

      Much more money’s at play now under LCFF, navigio; LCAP encompasses all aspects of learning; the outreach is designed to be more extensive, and the county offices of education, under the law, will serve as a check to see that the process is followed.

  3. Doctor J says:

    All of the decisions on allocation of funding will be made behind closed doors by school district administrators without “real” public and parental input, and will be packaged by the district like a large Christmas present in a marshmallow PowerPoint that no average college graduate can understand — and Board will rubber stamp after 72 hours of review. How will this help the students ?

    1. John Fensterwald says:

      Doctor J: You have written a number of comments doubting that school boards intend to seek suggestions from the public, but the LCAP, a public document, does require thorough documentation of outreach, and the county offices of ed will review — and potentially not approve — LCAPS that ignore public participation. You have no faith in the process before it’s been tried? How would you strengthen the regs then?

      1. Doctor J says:

        John, my lack of faith is based on a long history of “rubber stamp” Boards firehosed with information 72 hours before the Board meeting required to be approved at the last minute before the expiration of some deadline. navigo is right — its just the same “process” and John, you are right: there is more money involved. The “public meetings” need to be more than just “asking questions with no answers”, more than just one minute per speaker, more than here is a 372 page document and you have 72 hours over the weekend to figure it out, more than SPSA statements that the “school site approved”, more than LEA plans approved with a statement that parents were invited, and the list goes on and on. In my district, Budget Plans are presented at the last minute, the internet posted Agenda 72 hours in advance doesn’t attach the budget, nor the fluffy PowerPoint used to “sell” the budget document, and there is no districtwide Budget Advisory Committee that was wiped out by the last Superintendent and not objected to by the last Board. And we are never given any input into how funds are allocated between schools. How would I strengthen the regulations ? 1. Budget documents posted on the internet at least 7 days before being placed on the Agenda, and copies required to be attached to the internet agenda posting; 2. At least 2 districtwide workshops held over 30 days, and at least 15 days apart, to allow the public to ask questions and GET answers. 3. Allow Q & A over the internet, and post all questions and answers on the internet, both made at the workshops and over the internet and leave them posted until the final audit is for that year is approved by the Board.; 4. Each district have a Budget Advisory Committee subject to the Brown Act, open to the public, and each school PTC or PTA elects two parent or public members to attend those meetings, held at least quarterly. John, I am sure there are more great ideas out there — but I don’t trust the County office of education to have some staffer with a checklist to see if the district “said” the right language; I want to know the district “did” the process correctly. One last example of why I don’t trust the administrative staff of my district to do the “right thing”. At the last Board meeting, suddenly on the agenda appears a request to approve a “waiver” to the SBE for failure of staff to monitor QEIA class sizes [its not the first waiver for this school for this issue]. The waiver form was not attached to the agenda, just a generalized statement. Waivers require a Public Hearing, and Public Hearings in my district require 10 days notice “published” in a newspaper notice and posted. Neither happened, but it was discovered that the published noticed occurred on the SAME DAY as the Board meeting. Staff failed to point that out. Staff did point out that this ‘HAD TO BE APPROVED’ that night or else ‘funding would be lost’. The Board was given vague answers and had no choice but to approve the waiver application. This is not the first time. This is habitual.

      2. Doctor J says:

        John, I am attaching a link to the Dec 11, 2013 Board adopted “Budget Development Calendar” 2014/15. The Budget and LCAP will be developed behind closed doors with virtually no public input. If the districts really want public input, it should start this month before the budget issues are dealt with by staff and continue throughout the development. With no public input into the LCAP and Budget until after its creation, and for the first time on June 11 for its public hearing and then on June 25 for another public hearing and adoption, do you feel that would substantiate a “thorough documentation of outreach” ? Also notice that Site Councils, PTA’s. PFC’s only have limited input on site budget issues limited to Feb 2014. No public or general parental input will be allowed. http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/dd9150d9-bd47-4a71-8e5f-85abf6578861.pdf

        1. John Fensterwald says:

          Thanks, Doc. At first glance, it would appear that the district will make recommendations, then hand them down for approval, maybe with minor changes in June. We are hoping readers will share what other districts are doing to be more inclusive. We’ll see if Mount Diablo’s approach is typical. I like your suggestions about a Q&A over the internet and budget workshops for parents.

          1. Doctor J says:

            Pondering this issue of parental involvement in local decision making, I recalled that Federal law requires Title I schools to have a written parental involvement policy and “conduct, with the involvement of parents, an annual evaluation of the content and effectiveness of the parental involvement policy….” 20 USC 6318 (e). How often does that “really” and “effectively” happen ? Maybe never. So unless California issues some regs with some “teeth” and “violation penalties” I doubt we will really see true and honest parent participation. I believe the recommended policy from CSBA is BP/AR 6020

          2. Doctor J says:

            MDUSD held its first “feeder pattern” parents meeting to present LCAP last night on Jan 28. Each feeder pattern only gets one meeting — IMHO that is really inadequate to equate to “meaningful participation”, not allowing for teaching, studying, and forming meaningful opinions on the budget development. The room was nearly empty due to a lack of publicity. The local BANG reporter videotaped it. YouTube.com/tunedtotheresa. Supt Nellie Meyer was open to criticism from the scant audience — Dr. Meyer told the reporter “she received feedback last night from parents complaining that they were forced to choose between one of three small groups to give opinions about specific areas, which prevented them from commenting on other areas. Meyer said this was a good point and she vowed to change the small group structure at future meetings.” The other significant point raised by this is the parents were only allowed to comment on limited areas of the budget dictated by the district — no general public comment was permitted. No agenda was published and the Brown Act was not followed. Here is the list of meetings scheduled. http://www.mdusd.org/lcap/Pages/CommunityMeetingSchedule.aspx
            In the meantime, there are labor negotiations going on without any parent/community representation on the bargaining team — an across the Board raise [every union has a "me too" clause and so does the Diablo Managers Association for certificated administrators]. Our greatest fear is that all of the new money will be spent on across the board raises and do nothing to impact directly the classroom.

  4. Richard Asadoorian says:

    This is very lucid article and points out that well intentioned school districts, while wanting to close the achievement gap could water down programs for the most needy.
    I hope that this doesn’t become the case.
    Please keep this type of information flowing.

  5. Fred Jones says:

    Thanks, John, for keeping us up-to-speed on these break-neck reforms happening in Sacramento … phew!

    I do fear that LCFF will simply add to the curricular narrowing phenomenon, since the primary policy drivers remain the same: English/Math and college-prep (I note that the word “career” is used only once in all of the DRAFT Reg’s the SBE just posted … shame!).

    What incentive will schools have to continue to provide what meager CTE programs that still exist, especially in 2015-16 when all the ROCP $ goes into their General Fund (via LCFF) with no CTE strings attached?

    And what incentives do schools have to ensure their students are civically literate, given History/Social Science won’t be tested any more (with no promises they will ever come back)?

    The questions are numerous … I suppose time will tell.