Classroom at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Lynwood, California. (Photo Credit: Violeta Vaqueiro)
When a working group tasked with helping schools navigate California’s Local Control Funding Formula met for the second time last week, funding adequacy for schools to comply was a major concern.
“While equity is directly incorporated in the financial process with LCFF, is funding back to 2007-08 levels adequate?” said Keith Bray, general counsel at California School Boards Association. “Equity doesn’t necessarily mean adequacy.”
The LCFF Collaborative Working Group met for the second time to discuss challenges and promising practices during the first year of California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) implementation. The meeting featured several speakers throughout the state presenting information to identify, collaborate and promote successful LCFF and Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) implementation strategies.
The Collaborative, created by California School Board Association (CSBA) and California Forward (CA Fwd), is composed of superintendents and board members from 17 statewide Local Education Agencies. The meeting was held at the CSBA headquarters in West Sacramento.
Bray provided an update on the Education Legal Alliance’s (ELA) Adequacy Committee, which will meet for the first time in March. It was created to expand the efforts of the Robles-Wong v. California lawsuit, which was filed by the ELA challenging the state’s education funding levels. Bray also discussed steps the task force will take to evaluate recent court decisions in other states which address funding adequacy and whether funding levels are consistent with the states’ respective constitutions.
San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten and School Board President Marne Foster presented an adequacy tool the district has developed. It allows local education agencies (LEAs) to calculate adequate funding levels by comparing current levels to the specific needs of their district or county office.
Marten also echoed a sentiment shared by LEAs statewide: The need for adequate funding.
“We must frame the argument of adequacy as an economic problem for the state — get the whole state engaged in a long-term conversation about adequacy,” Marten said.
Steve Ward is government relations director for Clovis Unified School District. He reviewed factors that are increasing education costs in California, including COLA, healthcare, minimum wage, technology, and CalSTRS.
“Ask legislators when considering any bill, ‘How will school districts be impacted?’” Ward said. “I’m very concerned that districts are not thinking about new and hard costs beyond two-year budgets that happen in the third, fourth, and fifth year.”
Ward also told the group that his model wasn’t about taking a policy stance, but seeking a resolution for adequacy of funding. While the LCFF takes the district back to 2007-08 levels, it doesn’t account for “2015 and beyond” expenses.
Jim Mayer, president and CEO of CA Fwd, shared the same sentiments when he presented the recently released report by CA Fwd and the California Economic Summit, “Financing the Future: How Will California Pay for Tomorrow?” Mayer informed the group they need to be ready to articulate district costs to the community and to legislators.
In addition to adequacy, the Collaborative also participated in a round-table discussion on student outcomes and equity, and year one of LCFF implementation. The discussion focused on best practices observed in district LCAPs, and also made mention of areas of improvement. Facilitated by Teri Burns, CSBA senior director of policy & programs, panelists in this discussion included Brian Rivas, director of policy and government relations for Education Trust-West, Taryn Ishida, executive director of Californians for Justice and Roberta Furger, director of writing and research at PICO California.
Best practices included making LCAPs accessible to parents through the publishing of executive summaries, and supporting African-American males by focusing on emotional supports.
The Collaborative also heard presentations from Wendy Gudalewicz and Josephine Lucey of Cupertino Union School District on board and parent engagement in mathematics, and Donald Gill and Barbara Cowan of Antioch Unified School District on their district’s African-American Male Achievement Initiative. Both shared LCFF and LCAP strategies their districts have employed that included effective community outreach and parent support, and the use of disaggregated data as a driver in the governance and decision-making process.
The LCFF Collaborative Working Group will meet next on April 16, 2015. Based on participant feedback, the group will move forward on its three main priorities for future work: student outcomes and equity, resources and funding adequacy, and community engagement and stakeholder expectations.
Gayle Romasanta is staff writer at California School Board Association.