Reforms

Los Angeles Unified’s draft accountability plan shows promise of new funding law



The potential of the state’s new education funding system was on full display this week when Los Angeles Unified School Superintendent John Deasy presented a draft accountability plan that included a dizzying array of new and expanded programs.

With 84 percent of its student body of 640,000 students falling into one or more of the three “high-needs” categories that will bring additional dollars to the district – low-income students, English learners, and foster children – Los Angeles Unified is by far the biggest winner when it comes to the extra funding it will get under the new Local Control Funding Formula.

This school year the district received an additional $700 million in state funding based on its enrollment of high-needs children. Next year, that additional funding will total $837 million. As Deasy noted, for the first time in years, the district is projecting a balanced budget.

That kind of money is allowing the school district to move in notable new directions. One example is the district’s plan to spend nearly $10 million on new services for foster children, which will require hiring nearly 100 additional employees.  All elementary foster children will receive a comprehensive academic assessment, and all secondary school foster youth will have an individualized “culmination” or graduation plan. To help ensure that they don’t fall through the cracks, there will be one  counselor or psychiatric social worker for every 100 foster youth.

“We have never done anything like this in Los Angeles Unified before, and we are proud to be able to do something like this now,” Deasy said.

Among its myriad new programs, the draft plan also calls for building 50 new middle school libraries, along with adding nearly 200 librarian aides, expanding arts programs, and reducing class sizes in the 8th and 9th grades by two students.  Custodial staff will be added, along with a huge increase in maintenance employees – about 273 over the next three years.

Deasy also wants to allocate over $111 million during the coming year directly to elementary and middle schools, which will get autonomy in decision-making over their budgets. Within another two years, Deasy is promising that high schools will also have the same budget autonomy.

When Deasy presented his draft “Local Control and Accountability Plan” to the board, his past battles with the board seemed distant.  Board members were largely positive, including members who were involved in Deasy’s near-ouster last fall. Deasy, often at odds with teachers over hot-button issues such as his support for tying teacher performance to student test scores, seemed to go out of his way to engage teachers in the reforms contained in the draft plan. He suggested that many of the teachers laid off as a result of the budget wars triggered by the Great Recession could be rehired to fill new positions that the accountability plan will create.

While no pay raises are included in the draft proposal, he said teachers deserved raises after not getting any salary increases in a half-dozen years or more.  “I look forward to negotiations where we can provide an increase in compensation for our employees across the district,” Deasy said.

He praised teachers for their dedication to integrating the Common Core State Standards into their classrooms. “I have not seen a  group of professional teachers like those at Los Angeles Unified that have done such an amazing job in implementing the Common Core,” he said,

Before its final adoption in June, the plan is likely to undergo revision, as it is subject to review by the district’s Parent Advisory Committee and English Language Advisory Committee. It will also be discussed at a public hearing on May 13.

In the meantime, there will be pressures from a range of organizations to spend the funds differently. For example, the Advancement Project, an L.A.-based civil rights and advocacy organization, is urging the board to target its funds more directly to 242 schools it argues have the greatest needs, as determined by the “student needs index” it has devised.  

But Deasy cautioned that despite all the cash flowing into the district there are still limits on what can be accomplished. He noted that California still ranks 47th in the nation in per capita spending on education. “Do we wish we could do more?” he said. “Heck. I’d like to spend another $90 million” on top of the funds the district will receive, he said.

Those caveats aside, he also noted at the end of his presentation, “We are proposing a set of very good new and large investments.”   These investments would have been unimaginable until recently – and they send a powerful message about the dramatic shift in the momentum that is occurring in California schools.

Filed under: Reforms

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6 Responses to “Los Angeles Unified’s draft accountability plan shows promise of new funding law”

  1. Jessica Sawko said

    on April 11, 2014 at 9:47 am

    My question is: where is the science education in this plan? LCFF state priority #2 is inclusive of all adopted standards, not just Common Core. All students need access to a full curriculum, not only ELA and math. Quality science education is a critical component in achieving the goal of preparing students for college and career. I hope they find room in the final version to make room for science.

    • Manuel replied

      on April 11, 2014 at 8:05 pm

      Schools ran by Superintendents who believe they must increase scores only pay attention to ELA and math.

      The rest is frills to them regardless of the lip service they pay to “college and career ready” and how much they genuflect at the Altar to the Common Core State Standards.

  2. navigio said

    on April 10, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    Everyone should take a few minutes and read the plan linked to near the beginning of the story.

    And the Venn diagram on slide 12 is a great idea (too bad it is not to scale). Eddata could use a (to-scale) version of this to display the LCFF-related traits for districts (and schools).

    • Manuel replied

      on April 11, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      navigio, I’ve read the plan. Now what?

      More important is the misdirection on slides 10 and 11. See those “increases” in bold? The Superintendent stated in his presentation that this is the funding that drives the creation of the LCAP. And as the years go by, this funding is for increased growth because you maintain the investments built in the first year, see? Thus, eventually the LCAP won’t be needed. Isn’t that amazing?

      Never mind that the Ed Code is clear: the LCAP is required every year to oversee how the various grants are spent to ensure that outcomes improve. I guess the SBoE did not write the memo clearly enough.

      As for the Venn diagram, if it had been to scale, it would not fit on the page. ;-)

      (BTW, I bet you did not know that affiliated charters have to have their LCAPs because, in the Superintendent’s words, “the affiliated charters get a uniquely individual generated funding, total funding package, like they are considered LCFF all by itself.” Why haven’t they told us that before? The big question is whether or not the affiliated charters contribute towards all the services LAUSD provides them because 2% of the charter categorical block ain’t gonna cut it.)

      • Don replied

        on April 11, 2014 at 8:57 pm

        Regarding affiliated charters, do you mean where LAUSD is the chartering authority as opposed to the SBoE? Of course, charters have to have their own LCAP because they each have entirely different school plans and operate outside most Ed Codes. What kinds of services do LAUSD provide these charters besides oversight? Are they all members of the SELPA?

  3. Manuel said

    on April 10, 2014 at 2:48 pm

    The cited number of 640,000 students is, unfortunately, incorrect for the purposes of distributing LCFF funds. This is because this number includes all students enrolled in the charter schools, both affiliated and independent.

    Slides 9, 10 and 11 of the Superintendent’s presentation to the Board explicitly states that affiliated charter schools are excluded from receiving LAUSD’s LCFF funds. This is because the budgets of these schools are determined by the CDE as shown in the CDE’s spreadsheets where apportionments are listed.

    Not counting these schools shows that LAUSD enrollment is 512,046 students for 2013-14 as presented in certain published document. That’s 20% less than the number cited.

    Also, the amount obtained from LAUSD’s own calculations of the LCFF Supplemental and Concentration funds for 2013-14, as shown in their Second Period Interim Financial Report, is $1,059,531,507. That’s a far cry from $700 million.

    Given that the funding for 2014-15 is based on the ADA for 2013-14 and that Gov. Brown has already stated in his first budget release that LCFF funds will go up by 10%, I’d say that $837 million is a low-ball estimate.

    The next question is why this is so. I have no answer for that without putting on my tin-foil hat.

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