Saturday, December 29, 2007


by Kristofer Noceda, Staff Writer | Hayward Daily Review

smf notes: Hayward Superintendent Dr. Dale Virgil is the former superintendent of LAUSD Local District J (now LD#6)

December 26, 2007 HAYWARD — If district officials decide to turn down a state program that would help two elementary schools, they would be violating state and federal laws, according to civil rights firm Public Advocates.

Superintendent Dale Vigil said he has considered rejecting state aid designed to raise test scores at Burbank and Faith Ringgold (formerly Charquin) elementary schools because hidden costs to run the program would encroach upon the district's general fund.

The schools are scheduled to receive funding under the Quality Education Investment Act. The estimated $3.3 million windfall, collectively over seven years, would go toward class size reduction and intervention programs at the two schools.

Attorneys from the San Francisco-based firm have sent a letter to the district outlining the possible violations if it were to reject the state program.

"We're urging the district to accept the program," said Michelle Rodriguez, an attorney with the advocacy firm.

Although a decision on whether to take on the program has not been made — staff are studying alternative ways to find funding — the letter from Public Advocates assumes the district has rejected state support.

Because of this, the firm said the district is in violation of the Brown Act, a state statute requiring all public agencies to openly disclose actions.

"A decision was never an agenda item, and that is not accurate," Vigil said, referring to the firm's claim. "Hayward Unified has not returned funds to the state."

Still, the letter warns the district of two possible violations if it were to give back state funding.

"Once a school applies and is selected for participation in QEIA funding, it can only be withdrawn from participation if the county superintendent determines that the school has not met the requirements of QEIA or the school has engaged in fiscal wrongdoing," the letter states, citing the Cali-fornia Department of Education. "The schools here ... have not failed the requirements. Thus, the board does not have the authority to withdraw the schools from the QEIA program."

In addition, attorneys say such a decision would also violate state and federal mandates regarding parent involvement in children's education.

The California Education Code says the district first must consult with school site councils before making a decision regarding such funds.

Administrators have met with staffs at both schools to discuss and find ways to run the program without encroaching on the budget.

"We want to look at all our options, but I'm very encouraged from the discussions we've had," Vigil said.

District officials said they plan to further study the issue with staff within the next month.

The two schools are scheduled to receive a total of about $328,000 to jump-start the program next school year. Hidden costs, according to Vigil, would force the district to pick up a near $240,000 tab.

QEIA, sponsored by the California Teachers Association, will allocate about $2.9 billion over a seven-year period to struggling schools.

Funding was made available after the CTA settled a lawsuit with the governor in 2005 that repays schools money they are owed under Proposition 98, a voter-approved amendment ensuring that schools receive shares of any increase in state revenue.

In order to qualify, schools must score in the bottom two deciles of the Academic Performance Index, or API — the state's way of measuring the academic performance and growth of schools through standardized tests.

The Hayward schools are two out of 488 selected by the state to receive funding.

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