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Governor’s proposed Local Control Funding Formula would create winners and losers, some say

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, February 22nd, 2013 at 6:02 pm in Contra Costa County, Education.

A new formula proposed by the governor to radically change the way school districts are funded is creating a buzz statewide, as officials look at projections released Wednesday that show some would get big revenue boosts, while others would receive far less per student.

The rationale for the funding overhaul is that disadvantaged students cost more to educate. So, districts that have a higher percentage of English learners and students who quality for free and reduced priced meals should get more money than those that don’t, the governor argues.

He would also do away with dozens of “categorical” funding streams that were created to funnel money into specific programs. Instead, the governor wants to give local control to school boards to decide how best to spend their dollars.

While most school officials praise the local control part of the proposal, some that would get less money under the plan are critical of the funding formula, which would provide supplemental grants equal to 35 percent of the base per student revenue for each English learner, economically disadvantaged student or foster youth.

Contra Costa County districts would see a wide variety of funding increases, ranging from a low of 12 percent growth in the tiny Canyon district to a high of nearly 71 percent in the Pittsburg district.

Although the state says Canyon has no English learners or low-income students, Superintendent Gloria Faircloth said that’s a mistake and she estimates about 12 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunches. In Pittsburg, 80 percent of students are low-income and 32 percent don’t speak English fluently.

Officials in these and other districts said they are waiting to see what the final outcome will be.

“It should change a little bit, but it still doesn’t look good for us,” said Faircloth, whose district educates about 66 K-8 students. “We’re so small, but with our operating costs, there’s a lot of things we have to do, so we’re not crazy about the new funding method. I understand why the governor wants to do this. It seems equitable for other districts, but we were all low, so it would be nice if we could go up (more).”

Canyon’s funding would rise by $857 per student, from $6,945 in 2011-12 to $7,802 when the plan is fully implemented. Pittsburg’s per student funding, on the other hand, would grow by $4,813 per student, rising from $6,799 in 2011-12 to $11,612 with full implementation.

Enrique Palacios, Pittsburg’s Deputy Superintendent of Business Services, said more money will mean more accountability.

“The challenge is, OK, we’re getting all this money,” he said, “but now the expectation is we have to bring the performance of students up and the decisions are going to be left to the local level.”

For districts that believe they will need more money, Palacios said the governor is also proposing to lower the threshold for passing a parcel tax from two-thirds voter approval to 55 percent.

The San Ramon Valley Unified District, which currently receives about $6.6 million a year through a parcel tax, would get a funding increase of about 39 percent under the local funding formula, based on a relatively low number of needy students, including 4.5 percent English learners and 2.5 percent who qualify for free and reduced price meals.

“The concept of local control is something that I think all school districts have wanted back for a long, long time,” said district spokesman Terry Koehne. “But, the devil’s in the details. That comes with a certain level of disparity. It’s going to mean that our district will most likely not receive as much money as other districts, so it’s a double-edged sword.”

Orinda Union Elementary would see a bump of about $2,027 per student when the formula is fully implemented, going from about $5,753 in 2011-12 to $7,780 per student, or a 35 percent increase.

“We’re very disappointed in the formula,” said Orinda Superintendent Joe Jaconette, “There shouldn’t really be winners and losers.”

Moraga Superintendent Bruce Burns agreed, saying the state should strive to raise all districts to the national average.

“There’s going to be some push-back from communities like Lamorinda,” he said. “They pay higher property taxes and income taxes and would expect a return on their tax dollar investment.”

A breakdown of all the projections is at www.dof.ca.gov/reports_and_periodicals/district_estimate/view.php.

Do you support the governor’s funding proposal?

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  • Theresa Harrington

    At the very least, there must be emails between Lawrence’s secretary and Rolen. I do not believe that she would have modified them without direction from Rolen or Lawrence, since she specifically told me she was waiting for direction. It’s possible no one noticed that Richard’s vacation accrual had been manually changed, so that may have been a sloppy oversight. But, the removal of the clause from the superintendent’s contract was obviously intentional.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Mt. Diablo’s veracity is also questioned in this story about mandated reporter training: http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_22749690/school-abuse-reporting-training-murky-despite-horrifying-cases

    Although Felicia Stuckey-Smith and Julie Braun-Martin assured me that MDUSD trains ALL of its employees in mandated reporting, they were unable to verify this after I told them that Annie Nolen surveyed her members and that very few ever remembered receiving any such training. Nolen told me that out of about 200 responses from CSEA members, only a handful ever recalled receiving such training — and that was several years ago. Nolen is pushing for online training offered by the state, but so far, the district has been slow to respond to her suggestion. I spoke to Board President Cheryl Hansen about this and she said she believes the district needs to ENSURE that this training is taking place, not just hope that it is.

  • Doctor J

    Tom Torlakson sent this letter to all District Supts about who needs to be trained in mandatory reporting. http://www.cde.ca.gov/nr/el/le/yr13ltr0214.asp

  • Doctor J

    National Sunshine Week began today. “Join us in a nationwide discussion about the importance of access to public information and what it means for you and your community. Sunshine Week, March 10-16, 2013″ http://www.sunshineweek.org/

  • Doctor J

    @TH#102 Did Felicia Stuckey-Smith or Julie B-M provide the training ? I don’t think so. Board Regulation 5141.4 says: “Training Training of mandated reporters shall include child abuse identification and reporting. All employees receiving such training shall receive written notice of state reporting requirements and employees’ confidentiality rights. (Penal Code 11165.7) Training shall also include guidance in the appropriate discipline of students, physical contact with students, and maintenance of ethical relationships with students to avoid actions that may be misinterpreted as child abuse.” Here is another provision of that regulation: “The Superintendent or designee shall give persons hired by the district a statement informing them that they are mandated by law to report suspected child abuse and neglect, inform them of their reporting obligations under Penal Code 11166, and provide a copy of Penal Code 11165.7 and 11166. Before beginning employment, employees shall sign the statement indicating that they have knowledge of the reporting obligations under Penal Code 11166 and that they will comply with those provisions. The signed statements shall be retained by the Superintendent or designee. (Penal Code 11166.5)” Julie, are you really doing this ? I don’t think so.

  • http://www.k12reboot.com Jim

    It is so characteristic that State Supe Torlakson and Assemblywoman Buchanan would suggest that we need to “tighten and clarify regulations”, as if the law is not already perfectly clear about what constitutes abuse, who MUST report it, and TO WHOM. The only thing the law does not mandate is a specific training regimen, and even there it clearly recommends training. In fact, the law says that any district that does not provide training MUST submit a waiver to the state, and according to the CC Times reporter, NOT ONE district has EVER submitted such a waiver. So even though the law is clear, and even though in-person and online training is available FOR FREE to any school district employee in the state, lapses and downright incompetence are all too frequent.

    Clearly, the problem is NOT that the laws are inadequate. And the old saw of “not enough funding” does not pertain. The problem is that district personnel are not being held accountable for following the laws that ALREADY EXIST. Once again, our officials want to exhibit a suitable buzz of activity (at least until this particular education scandal blows over), while ignoring the fundamental problem that plagues our public school districts — accountability. In the end, almost no public figure wants to force that issue regarding ANY of the serious failures facing our tradition public schools.

  • Wendy Lack

    @ Jim #106:

    Agreed. This lapse isn’t solely a training issue. It’s a character issue, a matter of ethics, and likely incompetence, too, as you point out. Character is tested under fire. Those individuals we’re reading about in the CC Times failed in performing their clear duties for fear of bad PR, etc. — they didn’t want to pay the price for doing the right thing.

    This is precisely why private (esp. parochial) schools have waiting lists and homeschooling families are on the rise. Why should parents entrust their precious ones to public schools that can’t keep kids safe? Why take the risk?

    We teach our kids the importance of personal responsibility, trustworthiness and other ground rules of ethics through “Character Counts” programs. Sounds like school administrators and staff are the ones who need the ethics refresher (http://bit.ly/dEYOzO).

    I wonder about the thoroughness of school hiring practices, as well. “Personnel is policy” and public schools should be doing thorough background checks, etc. to ensure only those of good character are placed on the payroll. It’s not a matter of merely checking criminal histories — it’s a matter of striving to hire only those individuals whose character is unimpeachable. Don’t our kids deserve at least as much?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Dr. J: No, Felicia and Julie didn’t say they provided the training. They said they assumed that principals provided the training to their staffs. But, Annie points out that since the board slashed the hours of instructional assistants, they are not often included in site meetings. Neither are custodians,secretaries and bus drivers. Julie sent an email saying that Felicia should have a record of the training. But when I sent a follow-up email to Felicia asking when the training s occurred, I got no response.
    In fact, Felicia responded in the survey that MDUSD has no reporting and training policy. Yet, the AR you cite is the same one that many other districts pointed to as their policies. Does this mean Felicia was unaware that the district had that in place?
    Jim: I agree that the law is being largely ignored and I’m not sure Buchanan’s proposed changes will make much of a difference, since even districts with policies are ignoring them. And she is specifically being vague about what she means by “reviewing” the policy. Nolen’s suggestion of online training is much more comprehensive than what Buchanan wants to require.

  • Doctor J

    No wonder lawyers are having a field day and getting large awards and settlements against districts — they just ask for the “signed statements” as required by the CSBA model regulations and when the districts can’t produce them: GUILTY AS CHARGED. Julie saying Felicia should have a record of the trainings and Felicia not having any kind of record is so typical of the dysfunction in the district. Now Julie and Felicia pawn off the district’s responsibility for training in mandatory reporting to the principals ? What a joke. Greg Rolen, as the Risk Manager, should be appalled.

  • Doctor J

    @Jim#106 I believe the state law does state some elements that must be in the training regimin as outlined in my post #105 based on MDUSD Board Administrative Regulation 5141.4. Since neither Felicia Stuckey-Smith [a lawyer BTW] and Asst Supt Julie B-M were apparently aware of their own Board regulations, MDUSD is ripe for huge payout on an abuse lawsuit. Clearly the CEO of MDUSD, Steven Lawrence, has no idea of how to manage a District this large and ensure ACCOUNTABILITY.

  • Doctor J

    Theresa, perhaps you can do a PRA for the “form” new hires are supposed to sign under Administrative Regulation 5141.4. I don’t think it exists.

  • Doctor J

    Has Steven Lawrence made a “designee” ? “The Superintendent or designee shall provide training regarding the reporting duties of district employees mandated by law to report suspected child abuse and neglect.” Board Policy AND Administrative Regulation 5141.4. http://gamutonline.net/DisplayPolicy/374328/5

  • Theresa Harrington

    Dr. J: Nolen showed me the form. But, she points out that many people don’t read the documentation that comes with the form, which is why she believes it is imperative to have actual training.
    It is surprising that neither Stuckey-Smith nor Braun-Martin appear to have been aware of the board policy that already exists regarding mandated reporter training. Clearly, just having a policy is not enough. It must actually be reviewed by all staff to ensure that everyone knows their responsibilities.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#113 The Board sets the policy and the Supt sets the implementation along with accountability to ensure full implementation. Otherwise a school board will end up writing a check for $4.75 million like this one. http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_22725025/record-settlement-mentally-disabled-girl-sexually-abused-school

  • Doctor J

    Wow, I just learned that CSBA recommended in November that 38 different Board policies and By-laws be amended, but in MDUSD not a single one has been presented to the Board until the AB 1575 changes tonight. 5 months delay ? Why ?

  • g

    Dr J.@112: As noted, the board is remiss in updating Board Policies. Is it in fact the Supt’s responsibility to assure legal compliance? Read through the almost magical appearance of an Appendix A for Rolen’s contract.

    Also look at when the Board designated a broad range of duties to the General Counsel. “…5. Training for all employees of applicable laws, safety procedures, loss prevention, etc.”

    Legal Counsel duties: See minutes of Item 10.6 of 12-09-08.
    Legal Counsel Budget: See Item 5.3 of minutes of 12-16-08.

    Then, a year later, Rolen said he’d take charge of ‘even more’ departments—if he got a new contract, AND the money was right!

    Of course, no matter how many jobs may be ‘designated’, the buck should stop at the big man’s desk.

  • g

    I’m also looking forward to board discussion and decision on allowing Eagle Peak to draw even more students away from district control. Will ‘up to 35′ sixth grade students mean subsequent bumping and yet more Certificated lay-offs.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s my own PRA response from Rolen, along with my response to him and the board: http://www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment/2013/03/11/mdusd-board-to-discuss-public-records-act-request/