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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

Do you support the governor’s funding proposal?

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118 Responses to “Governor’s proposed Local Control Funding Formula would create winners and losers, some say”

  1. Giorgio C. Says:

    It’s my understanding that this will lead to drastically reduced funding for the WCCUSD Adult School program. I am still trying to understand why an agency tasked with the responsibility of k-12 education has taken on the stewardship of adult schools. The WCCUSD has been spending over $1million dollars yearly on this program, while at the same time cutting AP classes and SROs for our children. How can this be justified?

    The Adult School program needs to lobby for support just as any other community service must. Lumping it in with a k-12 program approaches the realm of deceptive. I am a proponent of the Adult School program, but it must not take resources from our kids.

  2. vindex Says:

    I find this formula to be fantastic. Local control, no more categorical funds, and more understandable. A no-brainer. Liberals and Conservatives can find much to like in this funding model.

  3. soooo frustrated Says:

    Why wasn’t anything written regarding 2/25 MDUSD board meeting?

  4. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Now that it is livestreamed, I thought there was less of a need to live blog.
    But, I will try to do a short recap with video clips.
    Now, I’m off to the Willard Daggett event at MDHS.

  5. Teacher Says:

    Where is it live streamed?

  6. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The livestream was at:

    But, unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be archived. I have posted video clips from the meeting at and

  7. Doctor J Says:

    Its archived on the District website under the agenda tab.

  8. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Thanks for pointing that out. Here’s the link to the archived video:

    Unfortunately, it looks like it’s impossible to get rid of the ads at the bottom of the screen. But, I appreciate the service. Do you know how soon after the meeting the video was posted?

  9. Wendy Lack Says:

    Dan Walters in today’s Sacramento Bee (

    “Brown’s multiyear budget plan ignores ever-growing unfunded liabilities for retirees’ pensions and health care.

    “The State Teachers’ Retirement System says it needs $4.5 billion more a year to remain solvent, and a new report released by Controller John Chiang says the state faces an unfunded liability for health care of as much as $64 billion.

    “Dealing with just those two items, rather than ignoring them, would absorb all of the money generated by the [Prop 30] tax increase.”

  10. vindex Says:

    @ Wendy and @ Theresa
    I haven’t seen this reported.. This is shocking.
    This just came to my attention about Susan Bonilla, the former teacher and local education advocate, and has not been reported in the local press. How can she bemoan the state of education and take thousands of dollars in Special interest accomodations from a Special Interest group during a trip to Maui. Appalling. Sacramento Bee broke the story. Here it is

    “Five lawmakers attended a separate November public policy conference, also in Maui, that was sponsored by the Pacific Policy Research Foundation, a group led in part by former Assemblyman Tom Bordonaro Jr. and Sherry Leonard, wife of Bill Leonard, former legislator and Board of Equalization member.
    Conference attendees included Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, who accepted accommodations totaling $2,416;”

  11. Doctor J Says:

    @Vindex#10 This is exactly why reporters read the FPPC Form 700’s. Someone ought to be reading the ones on File of the BIG5.

  12. Wendy Lack Says:

    Hmmm. I wonder how this is working in Arizona:

  13. Wendy Lack Says:

    More on AZ plan here. Intriguing.

    I believe this is something new.

  14. Wendy Lack Says:

    Laughing all the way to the bank, at taxpayer expense.

  15. Doctor J Says:

    @Wendy#14 I would love to see the list of “huge crew of sub-contractors”. After all there aren’t that many sub-contractors who have “training” in solar. I imagine the list should be part of the contract identifying the sub-contractors and thus be a public record. Might be interesting to see whose name shows up on the list.

  16. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ DJ #15:

    Yes, I would expect whatever was paid for with public money is a public record.

    “So many alligators, so little time.” It’s becoming increasingly evident that the swamp needs to be drained.

  17. g Says:

    At least one contractor filed Chapter 11 a few months ago. SatCon, with whom we have (only) a 10year Warranty on the Solar Inverters filed in Oct. I believe we paid a bundle for that ‘extended warranty’ pass through contract SunPower. So…

    The question is, do we still have a warranty?

    Someone really should check.

  18. Doctor J Says:

    Database for Capital Appreciation Bonds. Is the MDUSD data correct ?

  19. g Says:

    Dr. J: It’s hard to tell since the district combined two issues and then duplicated its Official Statement on those two issues so that no Official Statement shows up for the third issue, and failed to even file an Official Statement on a fourth issue.

    See 9/30/10:

  20. g Says:

    Main SunPower Solar Subcontractor list: ATI Architects, QKA and Engio Consultants, Taber Construction (of course!), Del Monte Elec., SatCon, (In chapter 11, agreed to a short term–to 3/13 credit deal with their China manufacturer of the inverters.)

    It would be good to find out if SunPower paid SatCon the ($20million or so?) that we paid SunPower for inverters and warranty subcontractor.

  21. g Says:

    And let us not forget Alisha Jensen, the “no bid” Inspector of Record on every construction project for the last two-three years.

    Costs total well into the hundred of thousands of dollars.

    Can’t help but wonder why we only use one “no bid” person when there are about 17 qualified inspectors in this county alone.

    Of course, if asked, the answer is: “because she is familiar with our projects and sites, and…” Of course, no one else has been given a chance to become “familiar with our projects”!

  22. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Related to today’s budget study session, School Services of CA gave a budget presentation to district managers in January that said the following related to collective bargaining: sequestration and the Local Control formula add uncertainty to the budget; classified layoff timeline had increased from 45 days to 60 days; current law allows districts to reduce the school year by five days through 2014-15; for districts that are deficit-spending, previous cuts may not be able to be restored — “our advice is to be as open about restoration as you were about the need for concessions – a dialog, not a monolog, is called for”; elimination of “restricted” funds “is clearly an opportunity for discussion and collaboration”; early retirement incentives may still make sense and “the effect of hiring virtually no new teachers for five years creates future workforce management issues.”

  23. g Says:

    The district could use a closer look at teacher absences on the annual budget. How much does a Sub cost per day?

    How can you expect students to give you a 95% attendance quota to get adequate ADA, but let teachers slip by on as little as 84 to 90% of actual in-the-classroom time?

    2011-12 facts per district records:

    1448 regular teachers. (X) 180 teaching days + 3 non-teach days = 260,640 total teacher classroom days.

    16,548 regular teacher ‘sick’ days.

    6,287 absent teacher days in ‘conferences’ or ‘other business’.

    total teacher absent from classroom days = 22,835

    22,835 / 260,640 = average teacher attendance 87.6%

  24. Theresa Harrington Says:

    g: Where did you find that information?

  25. g Says:


  26. Doctor J Says:

    @G#23 Here is the link to the substitute pay schedule. As you can see if varies from $97 to $179, depending on experience and the school. I don’t know how detailed the information you have is so you could calculate it accurately, but if you just took an average of $140 that would mean for all teacher absenses it costs the district about $3.2 million. Just the days that teachers are in conference [data analysis]or on “district business” the cost is about $880,000. I wonder how the substitutes are tracking this year compared to last year ? I don’t know why Bryan Richards and Julie B-M have not calculated the cost — and where is it in the budget ?

  27. Doctor J Says:

    It is significant that about 27% of all teacher absenses are due to “absent teacher days in ‘conferences’ or ‘other business’. “Not only is this costing the district a ton of money, but it also must detract from learning.

  28. Doctor J Says:

    @TH — I am sure you could get this information in PRA request, with the actual costs. If Bryan and Julie don’t know this information, there is something rotten in Denmark. But as Wendy said, there are so many alligator in the swamp, its time to drain the swamp.

  29. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#22 Didn’t Steven Lawrence already promise full restoration ? Probably a little premature. But Steven is impulsive.

  30. g Says:

    Dr. J @28, Your average is about right. Whether they got $100 or the $179 premium for SIG schools, the point is that teacher absences not only cost the loss of proper education, but they cost enough to have kept shuttered schools open, AND more than funds lost on the CV charter combined!

    I don’t want to hear much about MDEA protections or teacher dedication with absentee numbers like I’ve seen for our worst performing schools.

  31. Doctor J Says:

    Even sick days seem high. It would be interesting to see if the sick days spike on Fridays and Mondays.

  32. Jim Says:

    @17 G — Warranty beneficiaries usually join the other unsecured creditors in a bankruptcy. Some bk judges try to get those who are buying the defunct company’s assets to take on the warranties, and sometimes that works if the acquiror wants to continue an ongoing product line and maintain the brand’s image. But there have been so many bankruptcies among solar companies, and the business is so depressed, they probably had a hard time finding anyone to buy the solar-specific assets. In which case, the warranty is worthless. SatCon’s board voted on Feb 4 to liquidate, so I’m guessing there wasn’t much interest in their assets, except as piecemeal pickings for the junkyard dogs.

  33. g Says:

    Even more, I’d like to know exactly how many missed for “stress” at MDHS, Oak Grove and Sun Terrace–known hot spots last year!

  34. g Says:

    Jim: Thanks for the info. The inverters were made in China, and the best SatCon got from China in January was a month or two reprieve on the $30million they owed them. Not enough!

    Sun Power should have to refund to us any monies not yet sent to SatCon.

    It was bad enough that we jumped on this deal at the solar high-dollar mark. Kind of like my 401K investments in Spring 2007 🙁

    We knew, and discussed here in 2010 that the warranty was too costly and not reliable even with SunPower supposedly doubling the term on it.

  35. Doctor J Says:

    I am hoping Wendy, as a former HR manager, will weigh in on the absences.

  36. Doctor J Says:

    I can’t wait until Lynne Dennler brings up the projector bulbs again when the district is attempting to cut millions. Here is a free online workshop on Fiscal Solvency for School Districts producted jointly by School Services, Inc and FCMAT. Its worth watching.

  37. Doctor J Says:

    @Jim#32 I wasn’t paying that much attention to the warranties — didn’t the district pay some insurance company to handle the warranty much like you do with an extended warranty on a car ?
    And I also thought that SunPower had agreed to provide the overall warranty — do they back up the subs if the subs fail ?

  38. Doctor J Says:

    A real tragedy. “The 2010 assault was captured by video camera on the school bus. The girl, 8 at the time of the assault, had the mental capacity of a 5-year-old. She was alone on the bus with driver Richard Evans, now 61, in 2010 while on her way to elementary school.Evans was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Before his hire, Evans had been convicted of having sex with a prostitute while driving a potato chip delivery truck. The child’s attorney hopes the settlement will force school districts to better check bus drivers’ backgrounds, and that it will prompt a state investigation.”
    What ever happened to the bus driver who slammed on her brakes and caused the injury of 40 children ?

  39. Wendy Lack Says:

    The same happy-talk Del Monte press release keeps getting reprinted, retelling the sweetness-and-light version of MDUSD’s solar project again and again.

    Well, I suppose everybody has to make a living.

  40. Doctor J Says:

    @Wendy, Its just money laundering — converting bond funds into general funds. Wendy, I do hope you will weigh in on the absence issue.

  41. Jim Says:

    @40 Dr. J — “Money laundering” may be a bit harsh. There is nothing wrong with making a capital investment to realize savings on operating costs (electricity in this case). Successful companies do it all the time, even if they have to borrow the capital. The problem with MDUSD’s solar was borrowing money for 42 years to purchase an asset that might last 20 years, at best, but counting (and exaggerating) 42 years of electricity savings to justify the investment. That simply reflected financial ignorance.

    @34, 37 — If the district received insurance on the warranties from a viable insurer, or from Sun Power, then SatCon’s bankruptcy may not hurt the district. The devil’s in the details, when it comes to assuming long-term warranty obligations.

  42. Wendy Lack Says:

    DJ #40:

    As a rule, I prefer to focus on root causes rather than symptoms.

    When people work in a high performance organizations that reward excellence and integrity, they’re happy to come to work. Attendance and related issues (such as leave abuse, malingering and workers’ comp fraud) seldom are found in high-performing organizations in which everyone is held accountable for excellence.

    Creating this kind of organization is my focus.

    We can do better.

  43. Wendy Lack Says:

    @ Jim #41:

    While “money laundering” may be a bit harsh, attributing MDUSD’s mistakes to “financial ignorance” is rather light IMO.

    Eventually the truth will out, re who profited from MDUSD’s solar fiasco.

    Regrettably, these bond-funded school solar projects are fleecing taxpayers throughout California.

  44. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Wendy, the same goes for student absences. When I visited Meadow Homes Elementary yesterday to see how the SIG is being implemented, I was very impressed by what I saw. Principal Mary Louise Newling is putting in place the kinds of “futuristic” ideas that Willard Daggett was espousing, even though she didn’t attend his talk. She intuitively gets it.
    While I was touring the campus with her, one teacher came up to her and said she is the best principal she has ever had. She said: “Thank you for making it such a pleasure to work here!” When Newling humbly dismissed the compliment, the teacher said emphatically: “I MEAN IT!”
    Newling has implemented a schedule that includes art, science, computers and instrumental music. She said one student who used to act up last year is now happily leading the drummers in music and she hasn’t seen him in the office at all this year. She said English learners need lots of hands-on activities to keep them interested and engaged. She said attendance is up because no students want to miss their art, music and computer lessons.
    The parents at the school are also VERY engaged, with nearly 50 signing up to volunteer for the new “walking school bus” program and many participating in Zumba classes aimed at encouraging fitness and healthy living.
    Anon asked earlier if public schools can operate like charters. Newling is showing that it can be done. She and her staff have carefully evaluated research-based educational materials that are being used successfully — many in charter schools in San Jose and Los Angeles – and Newling believes they are on the way to replicating those successes at Meadow Homes.
    In this case, a federal funding grant is allowing Meadow Homes to have the flexibility to go “outside the box” of the district’s one-size fits all approach and really experiment with new and innovative ideas.
    She also has a math coach whom she was praising for the use of hands-on manipulatives, which help students understand the concepts. This, of course, has been going on for nearly a Century in Montessori schools. But, the public education world is finally starting to see that Maria Montessori’s ideas about differentiated learning and hands-on teaching strategies really work.

  45. Wendy Lack Says:

    @TH #44:

    Encouraging news, indeed. Thanks for sharing.

    What you describe at Meadow Homes Elementary can be replicated, with the right leadership. Indeed, with the right leadership our entire MDUS District can become a place in which students, parents and employees (certificated and classified) alike can be “high” on achievement, innovation and the fun of learning.

    We can do better.

    We must do better.

  46. Doctor J Says:

    Well,lets see how she does this year. Last year she had 6 API points gain == the year before Toby had 56 points gain. The proof is in the pudding.

  47. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Daggett said it takes three years for true reform to take hold. Part of that has to do with getting teachers on board. He said generally: one-third of a school’s staff is eager to try new ideas; one-third is hesitant at first, but will jump on the bandwagon after seeing their colleagues having success with new innovations; and one-third has to be nudged along or be left behind.
    At Meadow Homes, the SIG is paying for collaboration time with teachers at the same grade levels, who also observe each other teaching lessons, focusing especially on students’ reactions.
    On the subject of subs, Newling said it’s difficult for her staff to attend outside professional development trainings or off-site meetings, because the school is so large she often can’t get subs for every teacher at the same grade level. For example, she said she has NINE first grade teachers. It doesn’t make sense to only send those for whom she can get subs to outside meetings or trainings, she said.

  48. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Here’s another example of kids getting really excited about learning during the Disney “Science Rocks!” program at El Monte Elementary in Concord:

  49. g Says:

    True, Dr. Newling has, by far, the largest elementary school teaching staff due to cramming in of students by a district with no foresight when it came to school site reorganization. The district chose to close a school first, pack half of the shuttered school students into a school that would have been a good choice for ‘true’ overflow, and THEN look at where to overflow the most crowded schools in the district.

    On the other hand, Dr. Newling’s assertion that she has a hard time finding subs begs the question of how then did we find the funds to cover over a thousand days of teacher absences at Meadow Homes, with nearly half of those days dedicated to ‘conference or other school business’ – by far the highest ‘conference, etc’ absences.

    Only three elementary schools had lower teacher attendance percentages.

    While SIG promotes teacher training, the greater emphasis of those funds should be spent in the classroom.

    For the children’s sake, let’s hope test scores prove she has spent her money wisely.

  50. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Hmm…that’s interesting, because Newling also told me: “With subs, the instruction is not always where it should be.”
    So, she acknowledges it’s not always in students’ best interests to take their teachers out of the classroom.
    But, I believe the SIGs stress professional development to improve the overall capacity of teachers to use best-practices to educate students and to work collaboratively schoolwide.
    However, Newling is using a lot of the money for educational supplies, resources and additional teachers, including a dance teacher.
    Also, as Daggett recommended, these teachers are integrating literacy into all classes.

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