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Walnut Creek Councilman suggests Clayton Valley charter consider accepting less funding

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, November 4th, 2011 at 7:22 pm in Clayton, Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Kish Rajan, a Walnut Creek City Councilman and Mt. Diablo school district parent, says the Clayton Valley High School charter committee should consider accepting less money from the district to create goodwill, if the trustees approve the charter Tuesday.

Here’s a letter he submitted to the Times about this idea:

“November 1, 2011

Dear Editor –

On Nov. 8, the Mt. Diablo School board intends to make its decision on whether to grant final approval to the Clayton Valley charter application. The decision they make, and how they make it, has enormous implications to our district that is at a critical crossroads.

It has been well chronicled, perhaps at times overly so, that our district suffers from a myriad of challenges. Persistent state budget cuts have been particularly damaging to large unified school districts like ours that are mandated to serve a large and diverse range of educational needs. Though our district leadership has done their best under increasingly difficult circumstances, to be sure, over the years they have made some errors of commission and omission. Together, these factors have caused frustration among the widely disparate communities tied together by district boundaries drawn decades ago.

Despite this frustration, I believe that the large majority of parents in our District are driven by a yearning to see things improve for our District in general, and certainly for their children in particular. The recent effort by some Northgate parents to explore a transfer of that feeder pattern into a different district was one expression of that. And now, of course, the Clayton Valley charter petition. In each instance, the primary motivation is sincere and understandable. Undeniably, for the MDUSD, some things must change. Indeed I believe the district leadership wants positive change.

The question therefore should turn from whether our districtshould be reformed, to how. Where can we make fundamental improvements in the education program, curriculum, structure, district operations, and district culture? How can we leverage the talented and committed people who abound in our community to participate in that effort, both to create near term reforms and to engage the broader community in supporting our schools for the long term?

But in order to get to that important discussion, we first need a thoughtful, constructive resolution to the Clayton Valley charter application that gets us beyond the vitriolic tone that has defined it to date. To this point, the process has unfolded as a battle between one community and our District (literally described at one point as ‘war’). The matter is also provoking a conflict pitting individual feeder patterns against one another. Should it conclude as such, this will result as a battle in which all sides lose.

The charter proponents (driven by parents, teachers, and community leaders) are raising serious concerns about the state of their campus, e.g. safety, campus conditions and the overall quality of education. They believe strongly that under a new operating structure, with localized leadership, accountability, and flexibility to innovate, they can make substantial improvements. Their community has spoken out with passion and conviction about their commitment to supporting the school, and in so doing is demonstrating the kind of community engagement and commitment we need district wide. The Clayton Valley charter should be used as an opportunity to experiment and evaluate how we canimprove all of our high schools (and all schools for that matter).

The problem with the approval is the potential negative budget impact on the balance of our District. Under the state law that defines this process, it appears that the new charter school would be funded at a higher rate than the other high schools in our district, and that difference must come from our District budget. However, also per the state law, this broader financial impact is not one of the approval criteria the school board may use in making their decision on the application. Nevertheless, it would be unconscionable to take resources away from the balance of our kids to support one school, particularly amidst these brutal economic times.

The solution and the opportunity are clear. There should be an agreement to approve the charter application with an understanding that the new charter school would be funded at the same rate as all other high schools in our district. This would grant the Clayton Valley community what they seek: a new way forward for their school with the local control, flexibility and accountability that they covet. Yet this would be accomplished in a way that is financially responsible, fair and reasonable toward the balance of our district.

Should all the parties involved join in this solution, they would transcend conflict, embrace positive change, and set an example of collaboration. This could also commence a new chapter for our district: one of reform, innovation, and planning that welcomes change while reaffirming our commitment to serving our entire community and all of our kids.

Let’s use this moment to do what is smart, fair and right. And let’s remember our kids are watching.

Sincerely,
Kish Rajan
MDUSD Parent and Walnut Creek City Council Member”

I spoke to Clayton Mayor David Shuey about this today. He said the committee would not change its funding proposal before the board vote, since trustees cannot consider financial impact in their decision.

“Once the charter is approved, if the issue of funding comes up, we will meet in good faith on this,” he said. “We are all parents and teachers who recognize that we’re not an island.”

Shuey also said he agrees with a suggestion made by Rajan — along with state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, and Asssemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord — asking the district for an independent analysis of the financial impact of the charter on the district. The district still has not revealed exactly how much it spends to operate the school, he said.

The district has posted several memos to the public regarding the financial impact of the charter. Each one has stated a different amount:

May 20: $1.65 million
May 26: $1.59 million
Aug. 26: $1.52 million
Oct. 7: $2.4 million

But Tuesday’s agenda report states that the financial impact would be “at least $1.8 million.” It also states: “This amount may be revised based on the FCMAT report.”

However, the staff report does not provide any basis for this latest estimate. It also fails to state what staff’s recommendation will be.

It says: “Accept or deny Clayton Valley charter high school proposal.” There is no report detailing the conditions of approval.

It states: “Prior to Nov. 8, 2011, district staff will have completed its final review and be prepared to present their summative recommendations to the board for approval or denial of the charter petition.” No summative recommendations are attached.

Rajan recommends funding the charter “at the same rate as all other high schools in our district.” However, the district’s school spending reports show that each high school receives a different amount of funding.

The most recent school spending information on the district’s website appears in School Accountability Report Cards. Unfortunately, however, the 2009-10 reports have data that is one year old, from 2008-09.

Here’s a breakdown of what was spent at each high school, according to that data. I am listing the total per student first, followed by a breakdown of unrestricted and restricted funds (including Title 1). Note that the district average unrestricted funding per student was $4,835.41.

CLAYTON VALLEY: Total: $7,849.12
Unrestricted: $4,937.05
Restricted: $2,912.06

COLLEGE PARK: Total: $7,549.24
Unrestricted: $4,523.84
Restricted: $3,025.40

CONCORD: Total: $8,400.82
Unrestricted: $4,341.17
Restricted: $4,059.65

MT. DIABLO: Total: $10,252.39
Unrestricted: $4,862.85
Restricted: $5,389.53

NORTHGATE: Total: $8,043.11
Unrestricted: $4,903.59
Restricted: $3,139.51

YGNACIO VALLEY: Total: $8,661.39
Unrestricted: $5,004.92
Restricted: $3,656.47

According to data provided to the California Department of Education, the district spent $8,199 per student in 2009-10: http://www.cde.ca.gov/ds/fd/ec/currentexpense.asp.

In response to a Public Records request, the district sent me the following information related to its 2010-11 per student expenditures:

CLAYTON VALLEY: Total: $7,839.78
Unrestricted: $4,648.57
Restricted: $3,191.21

COLLEGE PARK: Total: $7,503.54
Unrestricted: $4,677.64
Restricted: $2,825.90

CONCORD: Total: $8,011.70
Unrestricted: $4,709.92
Restricted: $3,301.77

MT. DIABLO: Total: $9,551.46
Unrestricted: $5,256.86
Restricted: $4,294.60

NORTHGATE: Total: $8,228.21
Unrestricted: $5,282.71
Restricted: $3,005.50

YGNACIO VALLEY: Total: $8,918.44
Unrestricted: $5,660.51
Restricted: $3,257.92

Here are all the schools that received more unrestricted funding than Clayton Valley in 2010-11, according to data provided to me, followed by the amount per student more they received:

Cambridge Elementary: $4,735.25 (+$86.68)
Fair Oaks Elementary: $4,782.13 (+$133.56)
Gregory Gardens Elementary: $4,675.77 (+$27.20)
Holbrook Elementary: 4,903.61 (+$255.04)
Ygnacio Valley Elementary: $5,049.84 (+$401.27)

Diablo Valley MS: $4,739.57 (+$91.00)
Foothill MS: $4,751.55 (+$102.98)
Glenbrook MS: $4,733.44 (+$84.87)
Riverview MS: $4,765.53 (+$116.96)

Mt. Diablo HS: $4,862.85 (+$214.28)
Northgate HS: $4,903.59 (+$255.02)
Ygnacio Valley HS: $5,004.92 (+$356.35)

Gateway small HS: $7,499.43 (+$2,850.86)
Prospect small HS: $8,940.89 (+$4,292.32)
Summit small HS: $9,366.59 (+$4,718.02)
Crossroads small HS: $17,442.61 (+$12,794.04)
Nueva Vista small HS: $5,362.39 (+$713.82)
Olympic HS: $8,215.00 (+$3,566.43)

The difference between the district’s 2011-12 projected base Revenue Limit of $5,207.18 per student and the charter’s projected base Revenue Limit of $6,148.00 is $940.82 per student. As you can see above, the district spent over $940.82 more per student than it spent at Clayton Valley at nearly every small necessary high school.

It also spent between $27.20 and $401.27 more per student at 12 elementary, middle and high schools.

Do you think the charter should consider operating with less funding than it is entitled to request?

NOV. 6 UPDATE: Below are links to the spreadsheets provided to me by the district to backup the $2.4 million estimated financial impact.

Here is how Superintendent Steven Lawrence explained them to me in an e-mail:

“Attached at the three spreadsheets that Bryan Richards’, CBO, prepared to determine the financial impact of the CVCHS on district finances. The first one is an overview of the calculations we made to determine if there would be a gain or loss in revenue when CVCHS opens next year. The second is our School Accountability Data that shows the cost of each site, and the third is our special education encroachment data. We basically take special ed encroachment data divide it by the number of students in the district. Then multiple that number times the number of students at each school to determine their share of the special education encroachment costs. Basically, columns B and C in the first spreadsheet provide the information you are requesting and the second and third spreadsheets provide the back-up date around some of the calculations in the first spreadsheet. The numbers that were put in the News Update take into account the money saved as well as revenue reductions.”

It’s unclear why the district has now revised the estimated financial impact down to $1.8 million. As you can see, the district did not provide any specifics related to salaries or many other costs related to operating the school. It’s unclear what is included in the unrestricted, restricted and central services costs.

Overview of calculations: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/document-preview.aspx?doc_id=101888376

School accountability data: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/document-preview.aspx?doc_id=101888370

Special education data: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/document-preview.aspx?doc_id=101888371

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  • David “Shoe” Shuey Mayor of Clayton

    @100 – The City of Clayton has already received its money back from the charter.

  • Just J.

    Just a Parent- I would love to know what and how you are fixing things at state level? I am serious this is not a joke or a poke. If you can let us know I would be willing to help you try and fix the problem for everyone.

  • Anon

    Just a parent is sherry whitmarsh. Yes the same sherry whitmarsh who according to local people in the know is threatening retribution on the CVHS feeder pattern.

    She is going to vote no and needs to be recalled for it.

  • Wait a minute

    So Sherry,
    you “are trying to fix it where it matters…”

    That would explain the recent $850,000 COST OVERRUN on district transportation? How about the $150,000 COST OVERRUN on the textbook/workbooks screwup?

    Thats over 1 MILLION DOLLARS of the people’s money WASTED right there Sherry.

    ARE YOU GOING TO HOLD ACCOUNTABLE THOSE REPONSIBLE LIKE ROLEN, SHERRY???

    I have a feeling that if someone made a 1 million dollar mistake at Chevron they would be losing their job.

    That’s the same Chevron you work for and tried to get the millions dollars contract for the MDUSD’s solar project until Stevie Lawrence got caught with his hand in the Chevron cookie jar getting who knows what in gratututies Sherry.

    Better hope the Grand Jury doesn’t dust off that complaint and start investigating Sherry.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Just J: Textbooks are part of the direct costs: http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2011/11/07/more-details-regarding-clayton-valley-hs-costs/
    Regarding fixes at the state level, Board President Gary Eberhart has said the law that allows charters to take more money away from districts should be changed. In the past, the state provided the extra money. But lawmakers changed that, so now the district must make up the difference.

  • School Teacher

    I would add that in “making up the difference” that Mr. Eberhart mentions that the law is just assuring that the school is receiving all the funding it is supposed to get in the first place. I would agree with a phrase that I have seen in other articles- “the money follows the child.”

  • anon

    Making up the difference without any regard to the true costs of operating the school? Just continue to proves how idiotic they all are. And just like if my job’s pay was decreased i would probably make some adjustments before I let it hurt the rest of my lifestyle. With a full 1/3′rd going to central services and then not needing it at that school, seems a perfect place to pare down what is needed at Dent, and of course they will lose all the admin salaries, all teacher salaries, etc. It’s all just scare tactics. They do it, because they know it works for the 85% of the unaware families out here.

  • anon

    School teacher, however it doesn’t seem MDUSD agrees with the “follows the child” philosophy and instead they do what brought down the mortgage industry and they slice and dice until it is virtually unrecognizable . Show me the money!

  • Theresa Harrington

    Last year, the district spent less than the revenue limit amount of $5,206.08 per child on direct unrestricted costs at Clayton Valley HS: http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2011/11/07/more-details-regarding-clayton-valley-hs-costs/.
    Instead, the district spent $3,822.30/ADA on direct costs and $826.27/ADA for central services costs, for a total of $4,648.57/ADA on unrestricted costs.
    This was $557.51 per student less than the revenue limit, for a total of $977,772.18 less for the school than some people may have assumed the school was receiving, based on the revenue limit.

  • Just J.

    Oh my goodness this is making my brain spin! So not only are they shorting CV for how many years? but last year they shorted even more then we figured? Seriously peolple we need to start paying attention! (yes me included in this)

  • g

    TOTAL REVENUE 2010-11 was $298,075,448.42 TOTAL EXPENDITURES WAS $297,722,231.51 TOTAL HELD OVER IN RESERVE ACCOUNTS FROM ONE YEAR TO THE NEXT WAS $23,217,128.85

    This year’s budget calls for a decrease in everything EXCEPT employee benefits!

    My mind goes back to; just how much was or could have been accounted for as “savings”in closing two schools? How could they even figure it out?

    Adult Ed costs 4.5 million more than it takes in. 3.5 million in salaries 1.3 million in benefits 32.5 thousand in travel and conferences!!! half a million in professional consulting services!

    That $4.5million deficit is spread out/charged out to all other K-12 schools.

    Special Ed costs anywhere from $42 to $47 Million more every year than is covered by Fed/State/Grant etc. All of that extra cost is spread across the District based on every school’s ADA (pro-rata share), regardless of actual school/feeder pattern the child attends or would attend if they were in normal school: ie, $21K to just one attorney for one child for 3 months…. This sounds terrible, but bottom line here is “what else could you do”? If actual costs of special ed were charged to actual school—a couple of normal schools would have to go belly up–and it would not have been the schools that were closed! Last year’s special ed records are still around, including addresses of the most expensive special ed costs.

    Every penny spent using Site Code 000, 010, 0-anything, 901 (another catch-all?), etc is spread across the District based on every school’s ADA, regardless of which school actually benefits from the purchase: ie, $144,646.49 one month for elementary grade workbooks, or $24K to the City of Pittsburg for Delta View/Lasater Park costs. Why would all schools have to pay for that? Why did all schools get charged a pro-rata share of Ygnacio Valley’s gym floor? The list is endless.

    Trying to figure actual plus or minus income/cost at Clayton Valley High School under this accounting method is just plain silly! Take roughly $300Million of Total revenue (includes everything) for the District and devide it by ADA of 32000 students that actually show up daily= $9375/kid income.

    But the District is whining about having to give Clayton Valley $6100/kid?

    How about the District is required to rethink its system of “open order” purchasing to better account for letting anybody and everybody run to the store for whatever it wants on a daily basis? Rethink making Adult Ed pay for itself as an Enterprise Fund? Rethink cleaning up its bookkeeping instead?

  • Just a Parent

    Good to know Mayor Shuey. Thank you for that update.

    Hilarious that there are still tin foil hat folks here thinking I’m someone I’m not. Seriously, you might as well think I’m an Oompa Loompa, and you’d be about as right.

    As for fixing things at the State level, there are a number of things that can be attempted.

    First, is simply making difficult budget decisions and allocating more money toward education. There are very tough decisions to be made here and it would need to be a combination of cuts, efficiencies and potential taxes as well.

    Second, the MDUSD is simply too large to be administered efficiently. Lobbying to break the district up would be an interesting way to solve some of the problems and allow neighborhoods to feel more connected to their district.

    Third, work to repeal Prop 13. The impact of the revenue from this change would be small at first, but that’s not the real point. Prop 13 creates ‘graying’ populations by limiting the natural turnover of neighborhoods. It creates a dis-incentive for empty nest families to move and is one of the prime culprits in the declining enrollment in the MDUSD.

    And then there are things you can do right here and now. Support the schools financially (put your money where your mouth is) and with your time. Get involved and make a difference. If someone tells you no, don’t just take it and walk away. Ask why not, and figure it out. If they’re blocking you unnecessarily, go to someone else.

    I mean, how many parents are eligible to actually be in the school? That means they’ve done the Live scan finger printing check.

  • http://ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2011/11/04/walnut-creek-councilman-suggests-clayton-valley-charter-consider-dividing-school-district-accept-less-funding Peggy

    The MDUSD Administration is adept at using smoke and mirrors to line their pockets, at the expense of the students they purport to serve. Sound familiar? It seems this has become the American way. S#### the small guy, so we can live the high life!