The Local Control Funding Formula has been an issue California Forward has been aggressive about covering because of the sweeping, necessary changes the law brings to funding our state’s schools. Less touched upon, by us and other media in the state, is what it’s like for a district to have to implement not just LCFF, but Common Core at the same time. While LCFF significantly alters the way schools are funded, Common Core significantly alters the type of instruction students across the nation will be receiving. They are major shifts happening at the same time, which is why we’ve reached out to school board members across the state for an update on implementation in their respective districts, as well as some analysis of the unique challenges facing each district they represent.
In this interview, CAFwd spoke to Kathy Gomez, Superintendent at the Evergreen School District for her perspective on the ongoing changes.
What’s the process been like implementing LCFF in your district?
LCFF is still a relatively new concept and is intimately tied to the LCAP. I can’t really speak to one without speaking to the other. The initial step in our process was to convene a stakeholder meeting where we invited about 300 parents, teachers, and community members to come together. We did some work aligning the district’s strategic plan goals with the eight state priorities. Our next step is to form a subcommittee that will take that large group input and begin to shape it into a plan. Once that has happened, we’ll begin the work to develop our budget. We’ve planned a public hearing for our May board meeting.
What are the unique challenges facing Evergreen School District?
I think we face the same challenges as other districts. We don’t meet the threshold for concentration grants and that’s a significant source of revenue we’re not going to have.
Are the LCAP deadlines and other benchmarks reachable or should they be pushed back?
I have spoken with colleagues in local districts and none of them has expressed concern or apprehension about meeting the deadlines that are required. We’re all at different stages of implementation and I know some of them are not quite sure how they’ll start. And quite frankly, none of us is quite sure yet how the LCAP and LCFF will marry. It will become clearer once we’ve gone through the process. In Evergreen we’ve chosen to work with West Ed, and they are providing us with a lot of support in developing our LCAP. That support has been incredibly helpful. Districts that are not working with an outside agency to at least get launched probably face a few more challenges. Once it’s launched, however, and we’ve been through one cycle of LCAP/LCFF development, it should become much clearer.
What’s your primary takeaway for the new opportunities that come with LCFF?
Basically what has happened is that the programs formerly known as categorical programs, have gone away and those dollars have been freed up to be used flexibly. That has been met with a lot of happiness on the part of school districts. We now have the flexibility to use those dollars on programs or services that our community has identified as priorities.
How has your district gone about shifting to Common Core?
We are also working with West Ed on that. We are using instructional coaches in the classroom and we are using teachers to develop units of study that are aligned with Common Core. We have pulled together teams of teachers to develop units of study in math and English/language arts. They are rolling those units out to their teacher colleagues, who will develop the actual lessons. I love it. I’m excited about it. I think this is the way teachers should be teaching and kids should be learning. I think it really addresses our needs as a country to have students that are college and career ready.
Do you think having to do LCFF and Common Core implementation at the same time makes things difficult?
It’s a lot of change for districts but at least in Evergreen, our CFO is really on top of it. I also believe that we have the necessary expertise in each area to be successful. I’m comfortable with our staff’s ability to rise to the challenge and am not terribly worried about it.
How do you differentiate between the two when doing outreach to parents?
We have our LCAP, and parents are aware Common Core is coming. We’ve done a lot of work with our parent groups around Common Core and parents understand that Common Core is basically a new set of standards. They have a vague understanding of LCFF and LCAP. As the LCAP emerges and gets published and people begin to see the direct tie to the budget, their understanding is going to be enhanced. Right now there’s probably greater awareness around Common Core than LCFF.
Has LCFF’s mandated parent outreach changed the way your district communicates with parents?
It has and I think it’s a good thing. It has brought parents in and it’s making them aware. Before they may not have paid so much attention; they knew the district had a plan and they knew standards existed but there wasn’t a lot of engagement. By requiring broad community input conversations have become deeper and awareness is enhanced. We have complied not only with the LCAP requirement for broad community input but also with it spirit. We had 300 community members attend our first stakeholder meeting; that’s not business as usual.
What’s your take on the LCFF regulations as they stand now?
I have a bit of a concern that there are going to be demands made on the dollars that really need to go to support English learners, low income students and foster youth. I think districts need to be really cognizant in differentiating what dollars are available for what purpose. There needs to be real intentionality to make sure those pots of dollars are clearly defined and support those things that need to be supported.