Associated Administrators of Los Angeles Weekly Update - Week of January 21, 2013 | http://bit.ly/Wk6jeu
►THE GOVERNOR’S PROPOSED BUDGET BRINGS OPTIMISM
17 Jan 2013 :: Governor Jerry Brown released his proposed $97.7 billion state budget on Thursday, January 10, 2013, which, for the most part, brought good news to California educators. It provides an increase of $2.7 billion of Proposition 98 money over the current year and includes a $1.8 billion repayment for prior deferred appropriations. We recognize that this would not be possible without the passage of Proposition 30 and thank the voters for voicing their support for public education. It is now time for the LAUSD Superintendent and Board Members to develop a local budget that instills public confidence in the management of the increased funding.
The governor is also proposing what he calls a “sweeping restructuring of how the state funds public schools” by implementing the Local Control Funding Formula, previously called the “weighted formula.” At his news conference, he said that his proposed budget is aimed at creating a more level playing field for all students. The revised formula would provide additional support for schools with disadvantaged and/or English learner students, with a higher base grant for all districts. The average base grant target would be approximately $6,816 per student, with an additional 35 percent going to districts based on the number of disadvantaged students they serve. This is good news for LAUSD, as districts with 50 percent or more of their students designated as disadvantaged, English learners or foster children get an additional 35 percent grant over seven years. However, this portion of the budget is likely to generate some opposition as it pits districts against each other, since, ostensibly, suburban, affluent districts would not receive as much, and, as yet, there are few concrete details available. The LA Times said “Providing extra funds for districts with more disadvantaged students is of course a fine thing to do in theory, but don’t forget: If one group is to get more of the pie, another group has to get less. So Brown’s plan could harm other districts that, although not quite as impoverished, are far from affluent. Such schools are struggling financially and under Brown’s proposal, they would fall even further behind.” (Editorial, January 16, 2013).
Another key point is that virtually all categorical programs will be eliminated except for TIIG and Home-to-School Transportation programs. There are also key accountability requirements including a mandated District Plan for Student Achievement that will show how the district uses state funding for:
• Basic conditions for student achievement (having qualified teachers at each school site, sufficient instructional materials available for students and school facilities in good repair).
• Programs or instruction that benefit low-income students and English language learners.
• Implementation of Common Core Content Standards and progress toward college and career readiness (as measured by the Academic Performance Index, graduation rates and completion of college-preparatory and career technical education courses).
Basically, districts will be asked to aggregate all of their individual school Title I plans and prepare a district plan in which expectations for student achievement are tied directly to their budget.
Another recommendation is that a $300 million block grant be allocated to community colleges as part of Brown’s plan to transition primary responsibility for adult education to them. His reasoning for this is that the K-12 districts that have customarily overseen adult programs have had to make major reductions since 2009 due to budget cuts and have diverted funds from the adult to the elementary and secondary programs.
Community College Chancellor Brice W. Harris welcomes the shift, but the California Council for Adult Education is adamantly opposed to the change and wants adult education to remain with K-12 districts. It is important to note that the proposed $300 million is new funding for adult school, which makes it a local decision whether to restore the adult program to its previous levels of course offerings and services. AALA is, of course, extremely concerned about this provision and will be addressing it with the District in the immediate future. We are anxiously awaiting more information on this particular recommendation and will keep you informed.
So, while the budget does bring some good news it also raises some questions. In this era of allowing schools and districts much local control, how can one be really sure that the funds actually reach the student at the school? Simple ways are to provide more resources to support professional development, improve safety, upgrade technology, restore certificated and classified positions and implement the transition to the Common Core State Standards.
As we continue to look at ways to reduce the extreme workload under which our members are functioning on a day-to-day basis, the resolutions mentioned last week (increase the number of school-based administrators to improve safety and security at school sites; find ways to use remaining bond money to ensure that all LAUSD schools, particularly older ones, receive needed security upgrades, including those that are technology based; and identify and allocate the resources necessary to provide adequate mental health services and support for students and their families) actually correlate to what is required in the District Plan for Student Achievement. These resolutions are the foundation for establishing an environment conducive for teaching and learning.
While the revised budget, if adopted, would move California from being 49th in the nation in per-pupil spending (according to Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report) to being slightly under the national average, there is still much room for growth. The increased funding will allow LAUSD, if it uses it appropriately, to begin to restore services and staff that have been cut over the last four years, when we were ranked 43rd in the nation. While Superintendent Deasy has voiced approval of Governor Brown’s proposal and said that it looks promising for the financial stability of LAUSD, to the extent that he doesn’t anticipate any new cuts or furloughs, AALA members, both school-site and central office personnel, eagerly await his proposed budget and expect it to have a tangible focus on school safety and accountability centered on the instructional and physiological needs of students and staff members.
►NEW STATEWIDE TESTING SYSTEM
17 Jan 2013 :: On January 8, 2013, Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, unveiled a proposal that contained twelve recommendations that would fundamentally change California’s student assessment system. His proposal, Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System, would replace the paper-and-pencil based Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) Program with computerized assessments in 2014-2015 that he says will “measure the real-world skills our students need to be ready for a career and for college.” The new assessment tools will be developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), a multistate group that has been working to develop a testing program aligned with the Common Core State Standards.
Superintendent Torlakson’s proposal was the result of AB 250 (Brownley, D-Santa Monica) which mandated that the state’s assessment program be aligned with the CCSS and meet the requirements of the federal ESEA. California is one of 45 states and three territories that have adopted the CCSS for English/language arts and mathematics. The SBAC developed tests will be models for high-quality teaching and learning that requires students to think critically and solve problems.
Among the 12 recommendations is the suspension of the STAR testing for second graders and end-of-course exams in high school which Superintendent John Deasy opposes. The report also urges policymakers to question the current regimen of testing all students every year and to arrange for a formative diagnostic tool that would provide teachers with feedback on student progress throughout the school year. Some legislators and educators are expressing concern that the 2015 timeline is too ambitious, especially since no money has been allocated to buy instructional materials aligned to the CCSS or to train teachers. Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, Chair of the Education Committee, says that she’d be amazed to have full implementation in all school districts. However, CORE, California Office to Reform Education, an affiliation of eight of the state’s most influential school superintendents (including Dr. Deasy) supports rapid adoption of the new assessments. To read the entire report, go to: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/sa/ab250.asp.
Lawmakers, with the governor, will ultimately decide which of the recommendations from the report to adopt.