CA Fwd’s most recent endeavor involves partnering with the California School Boards Association in forming a coalition of school districts and offices of education to determine best practices to take advantage of new funding and control offered to local education, no matter the student population and demographic makeup. Leading the charge for CA Fwd is Susan Lovenburg, who sat down to answer some questions and take a deeper dive into what was accomplished in 2014 and what lies ahead in 2015 on this front.
1. California school districts have more local control thanks to the implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), CA Fwd has been working with the California School Boards Association on implementation issues. Why are we doing that?
In July 2013, under the leadership of Governor Jerry Brown, the state adopted the LCFF, a new way to fund public education based on equity and flexibility. The LCFF sets key state priorities for all students, but school districts and county offices of education determine the programs most likely to benefit their students. The LCFF provides more funding for students who come from low-income families, those learning English and those living in foster care. The new law requires that parents, students, teachers and other community members be involved in deciding how local districts spend funds and monitor progress.
CSBA and CA Fwd are convening a statewide LCFF collaborative working group of 17 school districts and county offices of education to:
- Support and engage in continuous learning and improvement: Evaluate key opportunities, challenges and solutions in the implementation, management and governance of LCFF, with particular focus on the development of Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs).
- Build a culture of collaboration: work with others to support sustainable change: Identify opportunities and create models for districts to work together and with other governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations toward mutual goals of improving student outcomes.
- Demonstrate, share and spread what works: engage in practice that informs policy: Improve understanding of LCFF and aid all districts in California in their implementation, management and governance practices by sharing findings widely with other school districts and county offices of education. The project will distribute information via CSBA’s communication channels, webinars and annual conference, and via CA Fwd’s communication channels and collaborators.
- Invest data-informed decision making: Assist districts in using data to develop solutions to ongoing systemic and situational challenges that may hamper effective, efficient and consistent implementation of LCFF by providing a venue, technical assistance and national expertise for the Collaborative.
- Improve outcomes for vulnerable youth: Provide models for Collaborative members to meaningfully engage parents and families of disadvantaged students—those who come from low-income families, those learning English and those living in foster care—in student success. The LCFF directs funding where the need and the challenge are greatest and improving outcomes for these students will be primary focus of the Collaborative.
- Take an incisive role in public policy to contribute to statewide system improvement: Information gained from and by the Collaborative will inform the ongoing policy effort to address achievement gaps in California as CSBA’s over 950 district and 5500 give it a place at the table in important policy conversations. Therefore, the work of the Collaborative will foster successful statewide implementation of LCFF for improved student outcomes, monitor systemic trends, and share information in advance of engagement by the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence.
The CSBA/CA Fwd partnership provides a unique environment for districts to identify, develop, test, evaluate and share strategies and tactics related to LCFF. While some collaboration exists among and between districts, this proposal would intentionally create a laboratory environment, supported by subject-matter experts from a cross-section of organizations and disciplines, to provide guidance and support for staff and governance leaders. Additionally, this effort will develop an information clearinghouse for best practices regarding LCFF and LCAP strategies, as well as chronicle the challenges and solutions developed by districts.
2. You also serve as a School Board member (Davis). What challenges is the new local control presenting to school boards and school districts?
School districts and governing boards are shifting from a compliance mode to one which engages stakeholders in developing local solutions for local problems, and uses real-time data to sharpen strategies and improve outcomes for students. Successful implementation of the LCFF requires a significant shift in governance mindset and practice. The opportunity presented is enormous, but it will take time and resources to realize the benefits.
3. It looks like how to engage various stakeholders (parents, students, other community groups) is a big priority followed by how to ensure more student success. What will the LCFF Collaborative Working Group do to help in those areas?
The Collaborative identified community engagement as one of three top priorities for their work together. Resources and funding adequacy, and focusing on student outcomes and equity were the other two priorities. In each of these areas, the Collaborative would like to create a clearinghouse of practices, explore research currently underway, develop new tools for practice, and engage in public awareness and advocacy activities.
4. A year from now, at the end of 2015, how will you know if our efforts have been successful?
The CSBA/CA Fwd LCFF Collaborative is a three year project, and the LCFF is an ongoing initiative, so expecting success in one year is not realistic. Over time, though, the project will support successful implementation of the LCFF and contribute to transforming public education systems in California by creating a culture of collaboration across school districts and county offices of education to develop data and evidence-based practice and policy, and promote accountability for student learning and achievement. As a result, more youth will:
- Graduate from high school
- Be prepared to succeed in college or be career-ready
- Develop the social, emotional, and cognitive skills to be self-sufficient
- Be engaged at home, school, and in their community