Tuesday, January 21, 2014



by Tom Chorneau, SI&A Cabinet Report  | http://bit.ly/1ePIV1g

January 21, 2014  ::  (Calif.) After a marathon hearing and a surprise visit by the governor last week, members of the California State Board of Education are not expected to make any major changes to a set of temporary regulations governing use of billions in new state money for schools during the coming year-long process to set permanent rules.

That said, the board has directed staff to look at several parts of the program while also signaling to critics their satisfaction with pieces already in place that some had called for revising.

For one, the board wants to review the growing number of planning documents that school districts must now file to see if the state can eliminate overlap and redundancy. There’s also interest in looking closer at how big federal programs interact with the new accountability requirements tied to the Local Control Funding Formula, especially as it relates to English learners.

One area of concern that was raised by civil rights groups, as well as other critics of the temporary regulations, last week had to do with district-wide spending and complaints that the new regulations provided a loophole that could allow districts to use money intended for disadvantaged students on those who are not.

But based on comments from Sue Burr, a key member of the state board who served as Gov. Jerry Brown’s primary education adviser from 2001-12, the board is not likely to take up the district-wide spending question.

Burr said that the temporary regulations gave schools a good balance between flexibility for spending the supplemental and concentration grants provided by the LCFF and accountability to the community for those choices.

“There is no loophole,” she said last week. “We have set conditions under which districts may use funds on district-wide expenditures and school-wide expenditures. We set thresholds in the regulations to conform with, what we felt was really federal law, and/or the level at which concentration grants are provided.”

But, Burr said, the temporary regulations do lay out a “fairly high accountability expectation” that districts must meet to explain to the community what expenditures they are making and “why they think those are the best expenditures on behalf of the students who generate them.”

One area of growing sensitivity, however, that board members expressed was on the number of plans that school sites and districts must create. Ilene Straus, who serves along with Burr as board liaisons on LCFF issues, said they want staff to look for ways to minimize duplication and opportunities to streamline reporting.

Two of the plans in question, however, are required under federal law – the School Site Plan and the Local Educational Agency Plan. Both call for reporting on how federal resources are being used to improve performance of struggling students.

Straus noted also the School Accountability Report Cards, which are required of each school under state law. The SARCs are produced annually and cover a variety of topics to allow parents and public the ability to compare and contrast schools

Now, with the creation of the LCFF schools are also required to begin providing a Local Control Accountability Plan, a document intended to disclose how the new state funding is being used to increase services to the educationally disadvantaged – low income students, English learners and foster youth.

One big new component for schools under the LCAP is that school and district managers will need to show how they have engaged parents in the planning process – something the board also asked staff to provide more and better examples of to shore up a draft planning template.  (smf: emphasis added)

The final area of interest that the state board will consider is how the new LCFF system and its new accountability requirements fit in against existing federal law.

The No Child Left Behind Act requires that schools use federal funding to supplement existing services – the law prohibits schools, districts and states from using federal money to supplant existing spending.

There are concerns that schools might overlook the federal supplant rules as they implement the LCFF – especially as it relates to the use of Title III money intended for English learners. The board has asked staff to look at the state program to see if clarification or support is needed to ensure supplanting does not occur.

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