Saturday, February 16, 2013



By Tom Chorneau | SI&A Cabinet Report – News & Resources

Monday, February 11, 2013  |  The Los Angeles Unified School District is set to bring applications forward next month seeking relief for 78 school sites from class-size restrictions required under a special state funding program.

The waiver applications, which probably would not have attracted much attention a year ago, will instead test a policy of the California State Board of Education to provide districts leeway in setting student-teacher ratios even as an improving economy and passage of tax hikes in November ease the fiscal crisis schools are facing statewide.

As a matter of routine over the past four years, the state board has approved waiver requests from local educational agencies that have been forced to lay off teachers and increase class sizes.

The most common requests have come from districts seeking to avoid fiscal penalties that otherwise would be imposed for exceeding a student-teacher ratio generally set at 30:1 for kindergarten through eighth grade.

Separately since the 1990s, the Legislature has provided funding aimed at limiting teacher-student ratios in kindergarten through third grade at 20:1. But because of the fiscal crisis, lawmakers have, since 2009, allowed districts to receive much of that money even though class sizes have often exceeded the limits.

A second large category of waivers coming before the state board has given districts permission to exceed class-size restrictions imposed under the Quality Education Investment Act.

QEIA has provided about $400 million annually to about 500 low-performing schools as a result of a court settlement between the California Teachers Association and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But the program rules call on districts to meet a number of benchmarks – including a requirement that they reduce class sizes in participating schools by five students from a base year (either 2006 or 2007) or maintain an average of 25 students.

A large number of QEIA schools have received waivers from the state board to exceed the class size limits – but since passage of tax hikes in November and new signs the California economy is improving, there’s growing pressure on the board to curtail that policy.

One key issue with the requests coming from LAUSD – expected to be considered by the state board at its March meeting – is that the waiver would cover not only the 2013 school year but 2014 as well.

Although the state board has provided two-year waivers to many districts since the onset of the recession, staff at the California Department of Education have cautioned that the fiscal environment may be significantly different even six months from now and that the board may regret permitting the larger class sizes at struggling schools for such a long period – especially given the intent of the QEIA program.

At a hearing in January to consider a request for the same waiver from Salinas City Elementary – the board granted the request.

Sue Burr, a newly-appointed member of the board who was, until December, a top education advisor to Gov. Jerry Brown, noted that the governor’s January budget proposes to continue a number of policies aimed at giving districts flexibility in spending money and meeting performance goals given that the fiscal landscape remains problematic.

“It took a long time to get into this hole and it will take us a long time to get out of it,” she said

2cents smf

  • smf: QEIA was a lawsuit settlement over money illegally withheld from Prop 98 in the Schwarzenegger administration -- specifically intended to support underperforming schools through class size reduction.
  • The CSR has proved successful in LAUSD schools in improving outcomes. Schools which do not reduce class size and don't meet performance targets don’t get future QEIA funding. It’s called accountability.
  • Every LAUSD school in the program has met the goals except a few schools operated by outside partners – notably LA’s Promise and PLAS. They lost their funding.
  • Am I missing something here? …or does LAUSD propose waive the class size reduction – which has been shown to be effective  … allowing the District to increase class size where it’s proven to work? WWT?

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