By John Fensterwald | Ed Source Today | http://bit.ly/22Ml93G
March 28, 2016
:: In the first step toward a
potential lawsuit, a public interest law firm on Monday filed a complaint with
the state alleging that the West Contra Costa Unified School District violated
the disclosure requirements of the state’s Local Control Funding Formula when
it approved a pay raise for district staff. It charged that the district failed
to explain to the public how the pay raise might affect spending commitments,
including money targeted for English learners, low-income students and foster
11-page complaint by San Francisco-based Public Advocates
that the district categorically cannot grant the pay increase – totaling $25.8
million over three years – it approved last month. But the law firm says that
West Contra Costa Unified never told the public last summer that it might use
$4.3 million that it is required to spend this year to improve programs and
services for high-needs students to help pay for the across-the-board raises
The complaint says the district put that money in a reserve
without adequately informing the public and failed to include it in the Local
Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP, a three-year planning document,
updated annually, that the school board passed last June.
Last month, on the same night that the board ratified the
staff contract, which includes a 12 percent increase over 12 months, the board
voted not to use the $4.3 million to fund the raises after all. It shifted the
money back into the general fund, directing the district to spend the money on
But Public Advocates’ complaint says the school board should
amend the LCAP after a public hearing to spell out how all this new money will
benefit high-needs students. Otherwise, the public cannot track the money and
make sure the district spends it as it says it will and not as a back-door plan
to fund pay increases now or in the future.
John Affeldt, managing attorney of Public Advocates, said
that he suspects that West Contra Costa Unified is not alone in skirting the
law. “We are seeing a lot of districts giving pay increases,” he said Monday.
“We want to see teachers fairly paid, but this must be done in a way that
honors the community conversation. An involved community is sacrosanct under
the Local Control Funding Formula.”
In a one-paragraph statement, the school district denied
that it did anything improper.
“We believe the District has followed the procedures
outlined by the Local Control Funding Formula,” spokesman Marcus Walton wrote
in an email. “Our district’s Local Control Accountability Plan Parent Committee
appropriately made recommendations, many of which the Board incorporated into
the approved LCAP plan. The original plan for the 2015-16 school year included
a $4.3 million reserve, which was approved after the proper notifications and
hearings. When the reserve was no longer needed, those funds were allocated in
accordance with the priorities of the LCAP, following a public hearing on the
Public Advocates filed a complaint with State Superintendent
of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson – a step that precedes going to court.
Claiming “irreparable and immediate” harm from further delays, the complaint
gives state officials 10 days to order the district to suspend spending on the
raises. The district must consult with the community on revising the LCAP to
include $3.3 million for the raises this year and to measure the impact of the
full $25.8 million raise over three years, the complaint says. The state should
also require the board to explain how it is using the $4.3 million for
high-needs students, the complaint says.
If the department doesn’t step in, Public Advocates said it
will seek a temporary injunction in Superior Court. The law firm filed the
complaint on behalf of three parents: Isabel Cruz and two unnamed parents, all
of whom serve on an LCAP district advisory committee, the complaint said.
The state distributes about 90 percent of K-12 funding
through the Local Control Funding Formula. Most of the money is provided
through a uniform base grant for all districts. In addition, districts receive
“supplemental” dollars for each enrolled English learner, foster and homeless
child and low-income student, plus additional “concentration” dollars for
districts with large percentages of those students. With high-needs students
making up 74 percent of West Contra Costa Unified’s enrollment, the district
received $200 million in base funding plus $36.3 million in supplemental and
concentration dollars in 2015-16.
Contra County Unified’s 67-page LCAP for 2015-16
lays out in great detail
how it plans to spend money for the high-needs students on five primary goals,
including improving school climate, parent involvement, the use of technology
in schools and raising achievement. But the district noted in an early LCAP
draft that $4.3 million – 12 percent of its supplemental and concentration
funding – would be put in a reserve account, then deleted any reference in the
final LCAP about moving it after Public Advocates publicly questioned the
expenditure, the law firm said. Public Advocates said that the district has
ignored repeated inquiries about its failure to specify what it intended to do
with the money. The complaint says the law firm also raised the issue in a
letter to the Contra Costa County Office of Education, which approved the
district’s LCAP without commenting about the $4.3 million.
USING TARGETED DOLLARS FOR GENERAL RAISES
The state Department of Education has given ambiguous advice
about using supplemental and concentration dollars for general raises, as West
Contra Costa Unified had considered doing.
In May 2015, Jeffrey Breshears, an administrator at the
department, advised districts would face a heavy burden in using the money for
this purpose. Quoting the LCFF law, he wrote that a district would have to show
that a general raise would be an “effective” strategy for raising achievement
for high-needs students, and that teachers and other staff are underpaid
relative to the surrounding districts, putting the district at a competitive
disadvantage. The district would have to cite a goal for student improvement
that the pay increase would help achieve and rescind the pay increase if it
weren’t met, Breshears wrote.
Two weeks later, after employee unions complained, Torlakson
issued a clarification that backed off of some of Breshears’ requirements,
while confirming its basic point: Districts could use money for a general pay
raise if they documented in the LCAP that students’ academic progress was
affected by the difficulty in recruiting, hiring and retaining teachers.
The district said that the new pay package will enable it to
better compete for teachers. “It’s no secret that our teachers have been
underpaid relative to their peers in neighboring school districts,” Walton told
the Contra Costa Times. “Correcting that has been a priority identified by the
Local Control Accountability Plan, the administration and the Board of
Education in order to help with the recruitment and retention of our teachers.”
The Local Control Funding Formula says a school district
must seek the advice and recommendations of parents, students, teachers and
other community members before adopting an LCAP. The law – Education Code 52060
(c) – further says that the district “may adopt revisions to” an LCAP during
the year, but only if it follows the same process of involving the public and
adopts the revisions at a public meeting.
Affeldt said that approving a $25.8 million pay increase in
effect changed the LCAP, creating new expenditures that will force the
elimination of other priorities.
But it did so without a public process. Instead, the
complaint said, West Contra Costa Unified acted “without the transparency, engagement,
public hearing, and county approval process required to ensure equity and
accountability for LCFF funds.”
Peter Birdsall, executive director of the California County
Superintendents Educational Services Association, which represents county
offices of education, said county offices and districts have assumed that pay
contracts passed after LCAP approval don’t require mid-year revisions. Changes
can be accounted for in the yearly LCAP update in June, he said.
But Affeldt said that would be too late for parents and the
public to have any impact on major changes in the LCAP and spending commitments
made without their knowledge.
LAUSD delivered a major pay raise after its 15-16 LCAP was submitted+approved. Not a lot of resistance was presented as those contract negotiations took place over John Deasy's dead body ...and labor+management+parents+staff were all too busy singing "Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead" to question the LCAP legal niceties.
Eyebrows were raised, even at LACOE, but that was extent of it.
I seriously doubt if the line “Our district’s Local Control Accountability Plan Parent Committee
appropriately made recommendations, many of which the Board incorporated into
the approved LCAP plan" could be delivered with a straight face under any circumstances in LAUSD, prior-to-or-after the LCAP was approved.
The LAUSD LCAP PAC are an Advisory Committee ...and they were advised. LAUSD’S LCFF PARENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE TREATED LIKE KINDERGARTNERS ...GIVEN MINUTES TO MAKE MILLION DOLLAR DECISION | http://bit.ly/1hlP0sz