Sourc: Pivot Learning Partners
Megan Sweet

As we pass the first anniversary of the historic adoption of the Local Control Funding Formula, it is tempting for districts to celebrate having turned in their Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs), pat themselves on the back for a job well done and breathe a huge sigh of relief.

After all, with all of the uncertainty, controversy, hard work and unrealistic deadlines, we sure deserve a little break.

Only one year ago, most of us were not aware that California’s educational funding system was changing; just eight months ago, we still did not have budget guidelines or a draft LCAP template to plan toward. Nonetheless, here we are today, and each school district and charter school has submitted a final LCAP to their county office of education and is now awaiting final approval of their plan.

When those LCAPs were submitted, however, it was not the end, but the beginning.

Think of the adjustment to the Local Control Funding Formula as a decathlon. While we have reached the finish line for the short sprint to complete the first LCAP, the race isn’t over, and we need to transition to the next event –  implementing our new LCAPs. How we approach this next series of events will have a significant impact on the future of new funding system.

At the state and county level, the next stages include reviewing the LCAP guidelines and template, seeking alignment across counties and districts, and identifying model practices to reach the state level. School districts, however, have an entirely different set of challenges ahead of them.

Here are four  for next year:

  • Reflect on what just happened. It has truly been a mad dash for districts to learn about the LCAP and the new funding formula, to develop and conduct an engagement process and to create their first LCAP. In August, leaders will need to take time to reflect on questions such as: What parts of our LCAP process worked and what challenges did we face? How did our first attempt at LCAP community engagement work? What should our ongoing engagement process look like? What departments within the district worked most closely to develop the LCAP and how might the way we work together look different moving forward?
  • Gear up for implementation. Districts will need to review their LCAPs and map out how they will implement and gather data on all that is outlined in the plan. They will need to put systems in place to gather data on the metrics that were identified in their LCAPs and create a process to report the results. Similarly, each action in the LCAP will need to be matched with folks responsible for getting it done. This may require changes or additions to staff and annual work plans. It is particularly urgent to understand the collective impact of implementing both the Common Core State Standards and the new financing system simultaneously – and how central office systems may need to shift to support both initiatives.
  • Develop an annual planning and budgeting calendar. Stretching the six-month LCAP process of this year to a year-long process will work best if LCAP development is aligned with the annual budgeting calendar. This summer, districts should be reflecting and planning on the steps 1 and 2 outlined above. In late summer/early fall, districts will begin to implement their plans, funded by real dollars that match the students who arrive in their schools. In late fall and early winter, districts will review their data and begin to revise their plans and budgets with their stakeholders. In late winter and early spring, those plans will get matched with a draft budget that coincides with the state’s release of its anticipated annual budget. Finally, in late spring, district LCAPs and budgets will be finalized at the same time as the state budget.  
  • Engage early and often. The community and stakeholder engagements that led to the first LCAP will need to be broadened  next year. While much of the engagement can align with the annual planning and budgeting calendar, it should not stop there. After districts have identified areas for improvement, they should make a special effort to reach out to community members who did not participate this year. They should also seek to build ties with other organizations, including social service agencies, and look for opportunities to combine efforts in support of youth and families. There is still a lot of work to be done. Some districts will develop a strategic plan out of their LCAP or align their current strategic plan with their LCAP. Others will focus on local accountability and on develop assessments to measure student achievement in the absence of a state testing system.

Whatever each district’s LCAP process looks like next year, adjusting to the new funding system will take time, reflection, transparency and perseverance. Districts will also not be able to do this alone; local control does not mean district control. Now is the time for all of us to lace up our shoes and prepare for the next leg of the race together.

Megan Sweet is Director of Education Finance Reform for Pivot Learning Partners. In that capacity, she leads Pivot’s work on the Planning, Budgeting and Accountability for Resources (PBAR) program, and provides analysis of statewide policies, including the Local Control Funding Formula. She has been a middle school teacher, an assistant principal, a partner supporting local school reform, and most recently a central office administrator.

EdSource welcomes commentaries representing diverse points of view. The opinions expressed in this commentary represent those of the author. If you would like to submit a commentary for EdSource Today, please contact us.

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  1. Steven Nelson 5 years ago5 years ago

    The issue of holding all LEAs (Districts and Charters) accountable through the County Office of Education needs to be pushed by the concerned public. This is the mechanism in the Ed Code that Dr. J mentions. It is called oversight. I guarantee that at first this will 'be broken' (like the links in Contra Costa COE), but hey - it is the largest reform of educational funding in the last 4 decades … Read More

    The issue of holding all LEAs (Districts and Charters) accountable through the County Office of Education needs to be pushed by the concerned public. This is the mechanism in the Ed Code that Dr. J mentions. It is called oversight.
    I guarantee that at first this will ‘be broken’ (like the links in Contra Costa COE), but hey – it is the largest reform of educational funding in the last 4 decades in Calif. That is huge. Reform bordering on revolution I’d say (the SF Chronicle education reporter – on a weekend KQED interview program said that she did not expect to see such reform in her lifetime).
    Buck up, send your printed complaints to the COE, make sure receipt is confirmed. (I hand delivered mine to the Santa Clara COE). Show up at Board meetings. File formal Brown Act complaints with the LEA if necessary! This is a “cease and desist” letter, which must be answered – by the LEA governing board – by board action, within 30 days! (check the 2013 update of the League of California Cities website on “Open & Public”, case law suggests you have 9 month for a general-process complaint).
    Urge your Board members – even one – to make sure the public and stakeholder engagement is really working! Megan’s ‘forth bullet’ is extremely important for this process to be Local, and Control in the pockets of those intended (the Legislature made this clear – and it was not “District Administrators/Board only”).
    As a Board member myself – I’m prepared to ‘pull from Consent’ every contract and hire that (IMO) violates the clear Legislative and SDE intent, and make sure my voice, or my vote, is publicly recorded. This is AT LEAST a 5 year process in Democracy. Nothing slower and worse than Democracy, right?
    Nice conciliatory article on the process Megan!

  2. Doctor J 5 years ago5 years ago

    Why aren’t County Superintendents being held accountable to post those plans which are approved as required by Ed Code 52065(b) ? In Contra Costa County they only provide links back to district sites, and in the case of Mt. Diablo USD the link is broken because the district keeps making changes to its LCAP even after the Board approved one version. More than just a sleight of hand.

    Replies

    • Don 5 years ago5 years ago

      My experience at this one charter school, anecdotal as it is, has illustrated how deeply removed charters can be from community, district and state accountability. I have been a charter proponent for years, but I believe the current law allows for charters to use public money while acting like a private corporation, whether for profit or non-profit. Why should a public school get to operate entirely without the input of those it … Read More

      My experience at this one charter school, anecdotal as it is, has illustrated how deeply removed charters can be from community, district and state accountability. I have been a charter proponent for years, but I believe the current law allows for charters to use public money while acting like a private corporation, whether for profit or non-profit. Why should a public school get to operate entirely without the input of those it “serves”? The LCAP was designed to provide for that input, but without a mechanism to oversee compliance, its all just words on a paper. And that goes for traditional schools as well.

  3. Don 5 years ago5 years ago

    So my son's charter school never ever raised the issue of the LCAP or sought the input from the community. Whether it even has one I don't know, though supposedly it had to submit one by the July due date. As I have complained before about the lack of parent engagement at the school, I'm not inclined to totally destroy my relationship with the people who teach my child. As a parent I feel as though … Read More

    So my son’s charter school never ever raised the issue of the LCAP or sought the input from the community. Whether it even has one I don’t know, though supposedly it had to submit one by the July due date.

    As I have complained before about the lack of parent engagement at the school, I’m not inclined to totally destroy my relationship with the people who teach my child. As a parent I feel as though my hands are tied. Do you, Megan, have any suggestions as to what can be done in situation like this? I fear that my situation is not at all uncommon and that many parents, guardians and community members in general have little real recourse. And even if there is some, how much trouble will it cause for me and my family?

    Replies

    • Megan Sweet 5 years ago5 years ago

      Hi Don, thanks for your question. Charter schools are also required to engage with their communities in development of an LCAP. I think a good first step is to ask the principal to see their LCAP and to inquire about the engagement activities you can participate in this year.

      • Don 5 years ago5 years ago

        Towards the end of last year I inquired at the school about the LCAP process. At that time I was given the usual assurances. Since then there has been absolutely no mention of the LCAP. It wasn't itemized on any board agendas or raised in any other way at the school, though the LCAP was passed at a board meeting in May according to the minutes. There was only a brief mention of it. Given … Read More

        Towards the end of last year I inquired at the school about the LCAP process. At that time I was given the usual assurances.
        Since then there has been absolutely no mention of the LCAP. It wasn’t itemized on any board agendas or raised in any other way at the school, though the LCAP was passed at a board meeting in May according to the minutes. There was only a brief mention of it. Given that it was not agendized, this in itself is a violation of open meeting law and the LCFF law. Too bad Ed Source won’t write about egregious violators of this sort. I wish there was more reporting of the scofflaws.

        • Celeste Phooey Condon 5 years ago5 years ago

          I have only one question. Why don’t I get to ask any questions? Why can only Don ask questions? Are my questions not valid because they show a concern for the poor?

  4. David B. Cohen 5 years ago5 years ago

    Glad to see your contribution here at EdSource, Megan. In conversations with teachers and parents from around the state, I’ve heard mostly discouraging anecdotal information about LCAP – primarily lack of awareness and engagement. I hope your advice about improving that engagement will be heeded.