The plan in its draft form outlines an approach to managing $2.6 billion in federal funds for low-income students and meets federal requirements. At the same time, the plan ensures California maximum flexibility to continue its ground-breaking educational reforms that began with 2013’s landmark Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). We believe this is the right balance.
The State Board of Education is expected to approve the plan Wednesday at its meeting in Sacramento. The board has come under come under pressure from a range of quarters to make the plan more prescriptive and more detailed.
However, we support the plan in its current form, as do many of our partners in the business world. Recently, the Regional Economic Association Leaders (R.E.A.L.) Coalition, an association of California’s most influential business and economic development entities, representing 20 member organizations and up to 15,000 employers who collectively provide up to 3.9 million California jobs, wrote a letter of support to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst.
Signed by Gov. Brown more than two years before Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, the state’s new funding formula provides extra funding to schools that serve students needing extra help — $10.1 billion annually when fully implemented. LCFF also moves California’s educational system away from top-down directives from Sacramento by empowering local communities to make spending decisions based on local needs.
In exchange for this flexibility, school districts are required to increase transparency in decision-making, improve community engagement efforts, and focus resources on improving student learning. We believe this model will help create positive leadership and performance cultures throughout California’s 1,000-plus school districts. Revitalized school cultures will then help our schools attract, retain and support effective teachers — so critical in easing the current teacher shortage.
Through the Local Control Funding Formula, California has developed a robust and meaningful set of student performance indicators to help local communities see progress and address learning gaps among student groups. These indicators, which also include graduation rates, suspension rates, English learner progress and college and career readiness, will help communities better understand the complexities of education in a way systems based solely on test scores cannot.
The state’s ESSA plan — essentially a grant application — is designed to retain California’s flexibility to adjust what’s working and what isn’t with its reforms based on feedback from parents, students, teachers and others. California hasn’t yet completed its exhaustive work to overhaul public education. The state’s new system of providing support and assistance to struggling school districts has yet to come online. With more to be done, it makes sense to craft an ESSA plan that allows for innovation and improvements.
We stand ready to work with state education leaders to develop a future workforce that will support a strong, economically competitive California. My colleagues and I believe California’s public school classrooms must foster critical thinking, complex problem solving, effective communication, teamwork, and independence for students to thrive in today’s rapidly changing work environments.
California is on the right track toward achieving those goals, although it still has a way to go. The ESSA plan will help California stay the course.
Gary Toebben is President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
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