There’ll be no pre-holiday look at the much-anticipated spending regulations for the Local Control Funding Formula. Instead, the draft rules for California’s new school finance system will make a post-Rose Bowl appearance on the California Department of Education website on Friday, Jan. 3, state officials said Friday.

The State Board of Education had set a self-imposed deadline for Dec. 20, but staff are still working on it, taking in written ideas and suggestions from 50 meetings in the last six weeks with groups with various positions, State Board Executive Director Karen Stapf Walters said.

“We think we’re getting to a better place, but we are not there yet,” she said.

Samantha Tran, senior director of education policy for Children Now, one of the groups providing recommendations, said she saw the delay as a good sign. “The staff of the State Board heard the concerns and comments from the field,” she said. “They’re really listening.”

The half-dozen page regulations will instruct districts on how much latitude they will have in spending extra dollars that the funding formula, called LCFF, allocates for low-income students, children learning English and foster youth, the three groups that are earmarked for additional dollars. The law creating the LCFF said that a district must increase services and programs for high-needs students in proportion to the additional dollars they bring to a district.

But that leaves a lot open to interpretation, and groups advocating for minority kids, like The Education Trust-West and Public Advocates, and groups representing school districts and superintendents have very different opinions on what that should mean.

The advocates want strict accounting for the dollars tied to identifiable programs for high-needs students. School districts, arguing that base level funding is far from pre-recession levels, want more flexibility to spend on district programs and purposes that may benefit all students, not just targeted kids. The percentage of high-needs students in a district will likely determine the amount of flexibility a district will have.  But establishing the threshold for tighter accountability has been one of the sticking points.

In November, draft regulations presented by WestEd, the consultants for the State Board on LCFF, were widely panned because the proposal gave districts an option of setting goals for academic and school improvement not tied to spending more money on high-needs students. That option won’t be in the next draft.

The spending regulations are key to guiding districts in setting annual goals, through a Local Control and Accountability Plan, detailing what actions they will take to improve student achievement, school climate, parent engagement and other areas among eight priorities in the funding law. Earlier this month, the State Board released a draft template of the LCAP. There may be further refinements in the next draft, on Jan. 3.

The State Board will adopt both the regulations and the LCAP template on Thursday, Jan. 16. The regulations are technically emergency regulations, adopted to meet a Legislature-imposed Jan. 31 deadline. The State Board will then open up a nine-month process to adopt permanent regulations, giving it a second chance, after a year’s trial and error, to rewrite them.

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