The staff of the State Board of Education will decide in the next several weeks whether to tinker further with regulations governing the Local Control and Accountability Plans – the accountability and budget plans that school districts completed for the first time in June.
Board members heard testimony Thursday from those urging further changes and those saying in effect, “Enough – it’s time to move on.” Further tweaking would push off final adoption to January, creating uncertainty for school districts as they begin a year-long process of addressing the commitments they made in their initial LCAPs.
“Districts would rather have a document sooner than later; we can live with it as it is,” Teri Burns, senior director of policy and programs for the California School Boards Association, told the state board.
But others called for another round of revisions. Eric Premack, founding director of the Charter Schools Development Center in Sacramento, said the proposed revisions compounded the confusion that charter schools already have determining which parts of the LCAP requirements apply to them. John Affeldt, managing attorney for the nonprofit law firm Public Advocates, and others asked the board to require districts to show how they calculated how much supplemental money must be spent on “high-needs” students – low-income students, students learning English and foster youths.
If numbers of commenters and tone are an indicator, the staff appears to be close to bridging most differences with the latest revisions. In an argumentative hearing earlier this year, there were more than 350 speakers. In July, with the latest changes, there were about 100 commenters. On Thursday there were about 30, with many of those complimenting the state board and staff for taking seriously the issues they had raised.
The process for revising the regulations has been inclusive, said Annie Fox, a lead organizer for PICO California, a church-based organization that advocates for low-income families. “Our families felt their voices were heard.”
LCAPs are three-year budget and academic plans that districts must update annually. They spell out how districts respond to eight legislatively mandated priorities for school and district improvement and require that districts use supplemental money allotted for high-needs students on services and programs benefiting them.
The state board adopted temporary regulations in January; the staff incorporated proposed revisions in July. The staff also significantly revised the LCAP template to make it easier to understand and write.
The latest changes include:
- Explicitly requiring that districts consult with a broad range of students, including English learners and low-income youths, in writing their LCAPs;
- Expanding the definition of parents to include guardians and foster parents;
- Permitting money allotted for high-needs students to be used for districtwide or schoolwide purposes if districts can show the money would be “principally directed towards” those students and would be effective in meeting the district’s goals for them.
Organizations representing school administrators, school business officers and school boards criticized the last proposed change as encroaching on districts’ flexibility to make spending decisions. Burns, of the school boards association, called it “litigation bait” that will lead to lawsuits, not clarity.
Civil rights groups and children’s advocates thanked the board on Thursday for including the new wording. They said it would serve as a check on districts that might use supplemental money for non-germane purposes. Brian Rivas, director of policy and government relations for The Education Trust –West, cited one district that used supplemental money to fund increased costs for teacher pensions while another funded construction work.
Michael Hulsizer, chief deputy of government relations for the Kern County Office of Education, which is charged with approving the LCAPs of 47 districts in the county, called the proposed wording change “slight but very significant.” Had it been in effect already, the county “would have been able to push districts harder” to spend the extra money for the high-needs students on expanded services for them, he said.
The state board approved one last 15-day period for additional comments on the revisions. If the staff makes no further changes, the state board will pass the final regulations at its next meeting in November. Further revisions would delay adoption until January at the earliest.