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MDUSD State Board of Education waiver request raises questions about current laws regarding charter conversion funding

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, May 11th, 2012 at 7:03 pm in California Board of Education, Clayton, Concord, Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

The financial impact of Clayton Valley High’s charter conversion on the Mt. Diablo Unified School District has become a test case for the California State Board of Education.

With a never-before-tried waiver request, Superintendent Steven Lawrence and supporters asked California trustees Wednesday to cover $1.7 million in costs the district must pay to the charter, which are above and beyond revenues Mt. Diablo expects to receive from the state for Clayton Valley students. Lawrence argued that current law unfairly penalizes low-wealth unified districts such as Mt. Diablo by requiring them to pay high school charter conversions a higher per student rate than the district receives for the rest of its students.

The district receives about $5,208 per student, but would have to pay Clayton Valley about $6,187 per student. This means Clayton Valley would get nearly $980 more for each of its approximately 1,776 students than other district students, Lawrence said.

“This is a critical issue for our district,” he said. “Currently, our district is deficit-spending $9 million a year. This will push us closer to being bankrupt.”

California Department of Education staff recommended denying the waiver request, saying it would substantially increase state costs and would have the same effect as changing statutes that govern district revenues, which cannot be waived. If the board were to grant the waiver, it could set a precedent that might prompt 13 other unified districts that are paying additional costs for conversion charters to ask for similar relief, which could cost $8.4 million a year for all 14 districts, Department of Education staff said.

State trustees appeared to agree that the current system is unfair, but they disagreed about whether they have the authority to do anything about it.

“I reviewed this with a great deal of interest and concern,” said Trustee Patricia Rucker. “They’re not overstating their financial risk.”

However, she agreed with staff that the revenue apportionments did not appear to be waivable. She said the board was up against the wall and had two choices.

“You can choose to be brave and make a precedential decision and approve the waiver request,” she said. “Or, we can be a Debbie Downer and deny the waiver, knowing we’re creating a great problem for the district and great joy for the charter, which would be better-funded than other schools in the district.”

Board President Michael Kirst said the Legislature should fix the problem. Approving the waiver, he said, would force the state to pay the extra cost and the board doesn’t have authority to apportion money.

Rucker agreed that the Legislature should change the current law.

“Whether we approve this waiver at all, the district is still going to be in the position to rob Peter to pay Paul,” she said. “These are the unkindest of cuts.”

Richard Zeiger, Chief Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, said the district’s analysis was correct, but his staff didn’t see any legal way to remedy the problem.

“This is one of those unfortunate circumstances where the person coming in is right,” he said. “But, we can’t help them. So, this really hurt us too.”

Trustees voted 4-2 to deny the waiver, but Kirst said there were not enough votes in favor of the motion to sustain it, so the waiver will come back for a second vote in July. If a motion to deny fails to get enough votes at that time, the waiver would automatically be approved for one year, according to board policy.

Lawrence said AB 1811 proposed by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, could help alleviate the current inequity. Bonilla’s bill — which is set to go into effect in 2013-14, if approved — would require a charter conversion high school in a unified district to receive essentially the same allocation it received per student in the previous year, adjusted annually for inflation and state funding increases or decreases.

But the bill exempts charter conversions established between Jan. 1, 2010 and Dec. 13, 2012, including Clayton Valley Charter High, which will open in the fall under supervision by the Contra Costa County Office of Education. Instead, the bill says it would not preclude a charter school established during that time to agree to an alternative funding formula with the district.

Do you think the state board should approve the district’s waiver?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • Doctor J

    Remember Lawrence proposed his own set of Goals & Objectives back in 2010 with annual review and adjustment to fend off the Strategic Plan — take a look at them as he has never accounted for them. I don’t think he met a single one ! And he just parlayed what was originally announced as a three year contract [and I think even voted as a 3 year contract beginning 2/1/2010] to a 53 month contract. He’s like the used car phenom Ralph Williams who touted his cars had dual door handles.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s a new blog post about how the May revise may affect MDUSD and other Contra Costa County districts: http://bit.ly/Ko62Dv

  • Doctor J

    Approved Board Minutes Sept 28, 2010 [Praise the Lord they kept "real" minutes] ! “14.10 District Goals and Objectives
    Starting 2010/2011, the Board will review and adopt District Goals and Objectives that will help focus and drive the efforts of the District. The Goals and Objectives will include measureable performance targets and strategies that will ensure that all Mt. Diablo Unified students will master the California standards for their grade level by the end of each year. The purpose of the performance targets is to provide the Board and the District administration with the information needed to monitor how well schools are meeting the identified targets. Students need to 1) master the California standards for their grade level, 2) learn to read with fluency and comprehension by the end of third grade, 3) demonstrate proficiency in mathematics, 4) English Learners need to become fluent in reading and writing skills, 5) pass the California High School Exit Exam, 6) attend school regularly, 7) graduate from high school, and 8) take and pass courses that provide the knowledge and skill necessary for our high school graduates to be successful in their future endeavors. Schools will report progress on the identified performance targets in order to monitor the effectiveness of our District’s programs. In order to support these performance targets District-wide strategies have been identified. For example, The use of periodic district benchmarks and other common assessments that measure student progress towards mastery of grade level standards and provide information about the effectiveness of instruction. These assessments will also provide critical feedback to staff regarding where instruction needs to be modified to improve student achievement results. • Collaborative grade level and subject specific teams will meet to use data to identify students’ learning needs and respond through targeted instruction and intervention. • Instructional schedules will be developed that has designated time for English learners to focus on their English language development skills. • Staff will utilize online gradebook and HomeLink to report student progress in grades 6-12. A current draft of the District Goals and Objectives as well as a draft of the Cycle of Inquiry that the Board and District will annually follow to ensure that Goals and Objectives reflect the current realities and needs of the district. The creation of explicit district goals and a cycle of inquiry is our first step in developing a district-wide strategic plan.
    Public Comment
    Mike Langley, MDEA president, asked the Board to exercise caution in approving the proposed goals and objectives.
    Eberhart moved, Whitmarsh seconded, and the Board voted 5-0-0 to approve the District Goals and Objectives for the 2010-11 school year.”

  • Doctor J

    Agenda Item 14.10 9/28/2010: “In order to support these performance targets district-wide strategies have been identified. For example,
    • The use of periodic district benchmarks and other common assessments that measure student progress towards mastery of grade level standards and provide information about the effectiveness of instruction. These assessments will also provide critical feedback to staff regarding where instruction needs to be modified to improve student achievement results.
    • Collaborative grade level and subject specific teams will meet to use data to identify students’ learning needs and respond through targeted instruction and intervention.
    • Instructional schedules will be developed that has designated time for English learners to focus on their English language development skills.
    • Staff will utilize online gradebook and HomeLink to report student progress in grades 6-12.

    Attached to this Board item is a current draft of the District Goals and Objectives as well as a draft of the Cycle of Inquiry that the Board and District will annually follow to ensure that Goals and Objectives reflect the current realities and needs of the district. The creation of explicit district goals and a cycle of inquiry is our first step in developing a district-wide strategic plan.”

    And here are the actual Goals and Objectives approved by the Board: http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/aea0e5ae-e32e-4cf1-a749-e8ca9e8f0252.pdf

  • Doctor J

    The annual Cylce of Inquiry approved by the Board and never followed by Lawrence even though he wrote it and proposed it. “the Cycle of Inquiry that the Board and District will annually follow to ensure that Goals and Objectives reflect the current realities and needs of the district. ”
    http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/0107ee84-be6d-4cb8-b939-58f7e85eec6c.pdf

  • Doctor J

    And if you really want a good laugh — or a sad cry — here is Lawrence’s PowerPoint on the Goals and Objectives. Result: 2011 Star tests a whopping 2 point API gain in the entire district. Shameful !
    http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/b019b488-1218-486d-b30f-8588ffa444fa.ppt

  • Theresa Harrington

    I just tried calling Sun Terrace to leave a message for Mrs. Jacobs and heard that the voicemail box was full.
    I was then transferred to a recording that announced Back to School Night in September and the date for fall pictures.
    Then, it said not to leave a message and to call back during business hours.
    I wonder if anyone ever listens to the voicemail messages. Clearly, no one updates the school recording.

  • Wait a Minute

    Nice to know that you can single handily write your own goals and objectives then NOT MEET A SINGLE ONE and GET YOUR CONTRACT EXTENDED WITH AUTOMATIC RAISES and at the same time you ask your employees to take pay-cuts or furloughs.

    I assume that this is considered LEADERSHIP by The Gary and Chevron Sherry in their twisted little world.

    The MDUSD, “Where Failed Administrators and Board Members Come First!”

  • Another Parent

    Jim, School Teacher, G, etc…

    Apparently, the State Board of Education see things differently than you do. Theresa didn’t report on any State Board members saying that MDUSD had been cheating its high schools and that CVCHS was just getting its fair share. As I read it, the Board was very sympathetic to MDUSD’s plight and the unfairness of conversion charter high schools being funded at a higher rate than unified districts and MDUSD having to make up the difference. Theresa quoted a state education official as saying “This is one of those ununfortunate circumstances where the person coming in is right, but, we can’t help them. So, this really hurt us too.”

  • Theresa Harrington

    AP: Yes, the state board and CDE staff appeared to be very sympathetic to the district.
    However, it’s unclear if the trustees reviewed any materials besides what was presented in the staff report and waiver.
    Jim and others are commenting on budget information the district has provided to the MDUSD community, which was not provided to the State Board of Education. This relates specifically to the amount of money MDUSD allocates to each school.
    At the state Board meeting, Superintendent Lawrence stressed the high cost of educating alternative high school students, as opposed to comprehensive high school students. He also said it doesn’t cost much more to educate high school students than elementary and middle school students.
    I don’t believe any state Board trustees specifically commented on whether they agreed with that assertion. They mainly appeared to be reacting to the difference between the charter funding rate and the blended unified rate per ADA.

  • Doctor J

    State Board President Kirst’s comment that the waiver was “irresponsible” was not very sympathetic. We all get to watch the rerun next week. Theresa, I wonder if they will let you “excerpt” that one agenda item and link it ?

  • g

    Small issue maybe because enrollment at Eagle Peak is small (1/10) by comparison to CV, but I believe under current grade span funding charter elementary schools get a lot less per student than a K-12 district, and high schools get more. The local school district is allowed to pocket the additional funds related to charter elementary students but must pay the differential for charter high school students.

    Does MDUSD “pocket” the overage allocation they receive for Eagle Peak, or pass it on to that school?

  • http://www.k12reboot.com Jim

    G– very interesting question!

  • Doctor J

    @G #62 Brilliant ! It should work both ways — and that means just like President Michael Kirst said, there will be a flood of Elementary charters seeking the additional funds from the districts. Indeed, that is the fallacy of Lawrence’s argument.

  • Seriously…

    @G – Great Question! Theresa…is this something you can follow up with the District?

  • g

    I asked because I think it is fundamental to the overall argument of the fairness of charter funding.

    However, in looking at most recent reports it seems that Eagle Peak is not being shorted—in fact just the opposite. Eagle Peak, like most of the grammar schools is given more basic unrestricted per pupil funds than College Park ($108.00 more)and Concord High ($177.00 more). It gets as much, or more, than all but a couple of the middle schools. It even gets more than many of the other elementary schools, and that’s a hard one to figure out. Can’t blame it on the old “more experienced” teacher excuse because that boat won’t float there.

    I think it all comes down to the fact that they keep quiet, mind their p’s and q’s, and manage to keep MDUSD pretty much out of the way of their teaching business.

    Then there’s the simple fact that the district desperately needs to ride on the backs of all those 900+ scores, and feels the extra money is worth it.

    But at what cost to CP and Con. What more might they accomplish with that extra $108 and $177???

  • School Teacher

    In looking over the district’s waiver application, their claim is that the higher high school cost comes about because of “students who are more expensive to serve”. I find this to be a weak argument. Are those students not “more expensive to serve” before they get to high school? Would the state agree with this reason? If not, then they should deny the waiver simply because the district’s reasoning is incorrect (go figure!). If this were correct, maybe we should take money away from districts if they don’t have enough of these “expensive” students. Additionally, the district claims they are “retaining ALL (caps added) of the expensive students”. As I understand it, CVCHS is keeping their special education students/program. (I even heard that the district made sure the district would not be picking up special education students with the conversion charter) If this is correct, then CVCHS should be entitled to this higher rate that, according to the district, is meant to help serve these “more expensive” students.

    A second thing I noticed is that the waiver refers to “the State’s intended objective of district unification and consolidation”. Is this really an objective of the State?

    As an additional thought, if the state wanted to straighten this issue out, maybe they could fund the unified distrists in a way where they would receive their money based on a formula that would separate the overall funding into elementary, middle school, and high school categories as separate values, and then add them together. This would add weight to the concept that they are getting certain amounts of money for certain levels of students. In that case there would be less contention about how much a charter should receive. They would simply receive the money that corresponded to them in the district. The money would follow the student.

  • Doctor J

    @SchTeach#67 Quoting from Theresa’s earlier post: “The governor’s May revise includes more information about education funding: Page 38 says: “Add grade span adjustments: Base grants, and concentration grants are revised to provide grade span differentials to reflect the cost of educating students in grades K-3, 4-6, 7-8 and 9-12 respectively.”
    http://www.dof.ca.gov/documents/2012-13_May_Revision.pdf

  • g

    The problem I see with grade span splits is that most districts seem to have moved 6th grade up to middle school level. That is going to cause a discrepancy in proper share of funds.

    It seems to me that with declining enrollment 6th needs to go back to grammar school level and maybe convert a middle school to grammar school to relieve Meadow Homes crowding. But I haven’t seen anything to indicate they have considered that in the secret boundary change plans from Schreder.

  • Doctor J

    Well G, apparently Lawrence has moved his secret shell game back out to Bay Point in order to get gullible parents to believe they are getting something “down the road” in exchange for giving up on bussing now. CDE has the total enrollment figures by grade now, so its really simple to give the money to the schools. I think if CDE advised the schools and the parents what the gross allocation was per school, then the districts are going to have to start justifying their expenses and you can compare districts in proximity to see what their overhead charges are. The only real way to get the district overheads down is to peel the onion and expose it.

  • Doctor J

    The Concord City Council threw a monkey wrench into Lawrence’s plan for Meadow Homes boundary reorganization by requiring MDUSD to partner on the crossing guards — and Lawrence is refusing along with Eberhart. Lawrence isn’t doing too well with the juggling lately, and the GretchenGATE is just another flat tire on the bus.

  • School Teacher

    Just a follow up on my comment in #17-

    Has Susan Bonilla explained the meaning of her bill?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to ask her yet.

  • Doctor J

    Watch the Steven Lawrence Six perform before the State Board of Education ! Note when State Board President Michael Kirst calls it “irresponsible”. http://www3.cde.ca.gov/video/sbe/sbemeeting20120509.asx

  • Doctor J

    Who paid for the Lawrence six to spend 7 hours up in Sacramento ? You, the taxpayers, did ! That money came out of the general fund — straight from the students.

  • Theresa Harrington

    In response to this blog post, I received a letter from one reader who suggested that the state should discontinue the unified rate altogether and instead allocate money to unified districts using a K-8 rate for elementary and middle school ADA and a 9-12 rate for high school ADA.
    According to this formula, the San Ramon Valley USD would receive more money, the reader said. And, conversely, if the Acalanes USD were to unify with its feeder elementary districts, they would receive less money overall.
    This argument assumes that high schools are costlier to operate than K-8 schools.

  • School Teacher

    Just as a refresher, what are the rates for elementary, middle school, and high school presently? What would the suggested K-8 and 9-12 rates be under the new proposal?

  • Flippin’ Tired
  • School Teacher

    This is a follow up to my comment @77. I’m looking for the ADA rates for elementary, middle, and high schools, and the new K-8 and 9-12 proposed ADA rates.

  • Been Down That Road….

    @#79–Currently the ADA for MDUSD is about $5200 per student across the board. As a “unified” school district, all ADA is the same, unlike a district of only high schools or elementary schools which get funded at rates higher (high school) or lower (elementary school) depending.

  • g

    Grade span and Charter Funding. If this artical doesn’t put you to sleep, pay particularly close attention to-or just skip to- pages 16 and 17, explanation of charter funding, where in part it says:

    “The adjustment for all locally funded charters in the state totaled $3.4 million in 2005–2006″. That’s for ALL CHARTERS. There are a lot more charters now, but the formula has not changed much, if at all.

    I’ve played with the math, and I disagree with what the district is saying it will cost. Of course, I’m assuming the article is correct, and that I’m not completely lost.

    http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/report/r_310mwr.pdf

    The adjustment between Charter Block Grant and District Revenue Limit funding appears to me to be relatively small when you do the complete equation.

    The article says: “…in some districts, the charter school block grant provides more funding than revenue limits; in others, it provides less. The locally funded charter school adjustment captures that funding difference. It is calculated by first taking the difference between the average charter school block grant per charter ADA a district receives and the funding it would have received if the students in those schools had been funded by the district’s base revenue limit”.

    Per the article’s formula:

    Take the Charter Block Grant rate of (approx) $6130.00/ADA, minus Base Rev Limit of $5208.00/ADA and you do get (approx) the amount the district is bemoaning = $922./ADA

    However the equation is not complete, and this is the important part.

    Page 16: “That difference is then divided by the total actual (32000) ADA of the district, which INCLUDES locally funded charter school ADA”.

    You then end up with an “adjustment rate” of (approx).03?

    It appears that the District is then taking that $.03 times the entire district of 32000 ADA to get its $960 per charter student or, $1.73 million total.

    Following the language and the formula in this article, I believe the district is incorrect.

    I believe the adjustment should be $.03 times the charter school ADA of 1800, for an added cost of only about $52.00 per Charter student? A total of $93,600.00 per year.

    The district is NOT losing 1800 ADA, it is gaining an additional $922 for each Clayton student ($1,659,600.00), and then only has to pass on the “adjustement rate” of $93,600.00 of it.

    The article says that in 2005-6 the mean adjustment was about $2.00 per ADA, but has a range up to $56.00 per ADA.

    formula: 6130. minus 5208. = 922. x 1800 = 1,659,600.00 /by 32000 = $51.86 per charter student.

    Using this Block Grant formula, I believe the district may also still charge 1-2% for management fees but not for rent-(since it gets to keep a majority chunk of the ADA)-but I’m not really sure about that. If I am correct on all of this, wouldn’t this be the way the district would want to go?

    Can someone with a contact in Sacramento (hint-hint) confirm whose $.03 formula is correct.

  • g

    I worked the above formula late last night using approximate figures. If I use the numbers that Mr Lawrence gave the end result is $54.33 per student.

  • question authority

    Back to posters above (see posters late #20′s above). Do you know how many teachers, who are not entitled to vacation days, use their sick leave for all sorts of personal vacations, extended weekends, weddings, cruises, etc., all @ taxpayer expense? A lot! Nontenured teachers use their ten alloted sick days by the end of each schoolyear. Doctor’s notes not required for missing five days of school. Unethical, but that is the way it works.

  • Theresa Harrington

    ST: At the School Services of CA workshop I attended, the governor’s proposed weighted student formula increases the base funding to a statewide average of $5,421 per ADA, with grade span differentials of:
    K-3: $5,466
    4-6: $4,934
    7-8: $5,081
    9-12: $5,887
    Originally, the base level was proposed at $4,920, with additional money for EL and low-income students.

    At last night’s MDUSD board meeting, Superintendent Steven Lawrence told trustees the district is deficit-spending $12 million a year. That’s $3 million a year more than he told the SBE the district was spending. It’s unclear why his deficit estimates are varying so drastically.

  • Doctor J

    Why did MDUSD’s deficit spending increase $3 million in less than two weeks ? Either he makes it up as he goes or he just can’t remember the truth !