Part of the Bay Area News Group

Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula brings optimism and concerns

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, March 15th, 2013 at 6:27 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

The governor’s plan to give school boards more control over how they spend money — and give more funding to districts with a needy students — is creating both optimism and concern in the education community.

At a New America Media briefing about the proposal Wednesday, three panelists described the frenzied debate going on in Sacramento and districts throughout the state, which are trying to get as much money as possible for their students.

A California Budget Project policy analyst joined the executive director of Education Trust-West and an EdSource reporter to talk about how this proposal could revolutionize school funding in a way that the state hasn’t seen in decades.

Jonathan Kaplan from the California Budget Project said the formula would give schools with low-income students and English learners more money over seven years, which could end up flip-flopping current funding inequities. For example, the Dublin school district now gets about $1,000 more per student than Alameda City Unified, he said. But under the governor’s proposal, Dublin would get about $3,000 less per student after seven years.

“Some people say there are winners and losers after this,” he said. “But, are there winners and losers now?”

Arun Ramanathan, executive director of Education Trust-West, said the extra money for low-income and immigrant students could help the state overcome the persistent achievement gap. But, the proposal needs to be strengthened to ensure that extra money really goes to those students and not to other board priorities, he cautioned.

He said civil rights groups are struggling with the proposal because they agree that needy students deserve more money, but they think school districts should be required to show how they will use it to help struggling kids.

“Who’s going to hold districts accountable?” he said.

John Fensterwald, a longtime education editor and journalist, said local control will require school boards to be effective.

“The dynamic is changing,” he said, “so it requires much more intelligent, involved school board members than we’ve had before.”

He hinted that some may not be up to the task.

“There is debate over the wisdom of local school boards,” he said. “Those of us who have been around school boards have seen that they vary in quality.”

But he said everyone fundamentally agrees that more money should go to the neediest students.

“The dichotomy over winners and losers distracts from overall agreement that inequity needs to be addressed,” he said.

One issue of concern is that funds currently set aside for specific programs that help vulnerable students, such as those for foster youth, will be lumped together in a pot of money that districts could spend however they want.

“The language needs to say it will supplement dollars being spent on needy students,” he said, “not supplant it.”

Another twist is that money will not be designated for individual schools, it will go straight to the district. So, in districts such as Mt. Diablo — which includes poor communities as well as wealthy communities — the poor schools may not be assured of getting the extra money meant for their students.

“Parents are going to have to be very vigilant,” Fensterwald said, “and hold boards and districts accountable for spending money on needy students.”

Ramanathan agreed.

“For years, school boards have punted this to Sacramento, saying, ‘Our hands are tied,’” Ramanathan said. “Now, they will be accountable for how they spend money.”

Panelists also agreed that the estimates released by the state are not set in stone, since the Department of Finance hasn’t explained the assumptions it used to create them. For the next few months, superintendents and others are bringing their concerns to Sacramento, hoping to influence the final budget, which the Legislature should adopt by the end of June.

“The critical question,” Ramanathan said, “is: ‘What would districts do with more money?’”

What do you think districts should do with more money?

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

  • Doctor J

    Won’t MDUSD end up with less money ? One of the continuting issues will be declining enrollments over the last ten years and expected to continue. As you point out, those districts which use the “at large” trustee voting model will be tempted to direct less money to impoverished schools and more to schools where the Trustee’s supporters and donors are located. Districts that divide their trustee’s by area, will be more likely to have even distribution of money. It will be an interesting debate. http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/DQ/EnrTimeRpt.aspx?Level=District&cYear=2011-12&cname=MT.%20DIABLO%20UNIFIED&cCode=0761754

  • g

    Whatever the final decision is on amounts to distribute, one thing is clear. MDUSD does not have a dependable administration in place at Dent to allow them to be trusted indiscriminately with the funds. Nor do we have a full board with the brain power or strength to control current administration of those funds. As stated above:

    “”“Who’s going to hold districts accountable?” he said.”

    “John Fensterwald, a longtime education editor and journalist, said local control will require school boards to be effective.

    “The dynamic is changing,” he said, “so it requires much more intelligent, involved school board members than we’ve had before.””

    The problem is not just the poor leadership–or perhaps even illegal administration of the dollars that flow so freely. We cannot go another (almost) two more years with Mayo and Dennler playing their form of ‘mejor amiga’ to the end, with little regard for what is right.

    Both need to give up the ghost–now!

  • Theresa Harrington

    The MDUSD board showed lack of interest in the budget at the last meeting, when the superintendent announced that CFO Bryan Richards would just give a quick overview and that anyone who was really interested in the budget could see his PowerPoint at the Budget Advisory Committee meeting. This is the first time that I can ever recall the CFO failing to give a full PowerPoint presentation to the board before they approved his second interim report.
    Of course, it appeared that the reason for the quick report was the fact that the agenda was so packed that trustees were unable to address everything that evening. Perhaps the board should consider meeting three times a month, like the Concord City Council. Then, it could give each item the attention it deserves.
    Somewhat ironically, Trustee Barbara Oaks said some administrators complain they are only given 10 minutes in meetings for topics of great importance. What about the board?

  • g

    Mayo has said before that she believes fully in the recommendations of staff, and has shown on occasion that even if she doesn’t understand or isn’t really sure about an issue, she will still ‘vote the recommendation’.

    Far too frequently items come before the board, such as AB1575 on Monday, that was already 10 days late in filing, or like Rolen’s last Monday hurrah with the outside attorney’s contracts stating he had already used them and now they had to be contracted to be paid.

    What’s left for the board but to go along.

    Too often the board fails to simply say “You should have brought this to us in a more timely manner. Let’s put this item off to a better time when we’ve had time to study it.”

    As a sometimes silly, but generally wise man once said: “Trust, but verify!”

  • Theresa Harrington

    On at least one occasion, however, the board did not go along with the recommendation — when the superintendent sought authority to enter into contracts during winter break and the board questioned the lease-leaseback contract. Still, Mayo wanted to give the supt the authority to approve that contract sight unseen to avoid delays. In that instance, too, it seemed that staff was expecting the board to go along with the recommendation due to time constraints.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#5 As I recall, Pete Pedersen said waiting until January would cause construction delays and so a special meeting was called for just before Christmas. Well, when January rolled around we learned that the “urgency” was not really construction delays but Pete Pedersen had used use hours and was back in hibernation. It makes one wonder if Pete had a vested interest in getting those contracts approved while he was still captain of the ship. Just saying.

  • g

    Yes, we have a new board, and old bad habits have to be broken.

    Every June and again in Nov/Dec Pedersen’s Measure C deals “could not wait.” This has been going on since at least 2003.

    Every June, Lawrence “needs” to play 52 Pick Up with school and Dent staff during the Board’s planned July break.

    Sure, occasionally a few will leave and need to be replaced at an awkward time and over Summer break–that’s what the application pool and pre-vetting is for. Some failing school will need to find new leadership as soon as scores come out. But swapping out/hiring 30 or more in one swoop during July with no oversight? Not if you are on top of your job all year long!

    These are perfect examples of “plan and present” in a timely manner.

  • g

    I seem to remember Pedersen rattling on about “if we wait we’ll have all the extra expense of ‘temorary’ housing.”

    Has the board looked at the warrant reports lately for what we are paying right now for ‘temorary’ housing? I sure don’t remember those bids coming to the board.

  • g

    While I’m on a roll…tear down an old portable, Alisha Jensen gets paid to inspect it. Bring in temporary housing, Alisha Jensen gets paid to inspect it. Run wiring/plumbing to the temporary, Alisha Jensen gets paid to inspect it. Bring in the new building, Alisha Jensen gets paid to inspect it. Wire and plumb the new building, Alisha Jensen gets paid to inspect it.

    There are no fewer than 17 qualified Class 1 DSA certified inspectors in Contra Costa Co. alone. Why has Alisha Jensen (who raised her rates $10./hour last year) NEVER had to bid for the work?

    How do we pay one person more than a quarter of a million a year without ever bidding?

  • Doctor J

    You have to wonder.

  • Doctor J

    I wonder how the outside counsel reviewing the 100 documents described by Rolen is going ?

  • Wendy Lack

    It’s up to the Board of Trustees to manage the “bum’s rush” M.O. that staff has become accustomed to using. Trustees should insist on thorough staff briefings, receipt of staff reports in advance, adequate time for deliberation, etc.

    Additional Board meetings appear to be necessary, for the foreseeable future — so that Board members can get their questions answered, discussed, etc.

    Those Trustees that subscribe to the blind followership method (“just vote for the staff recommendation”) surely recognize that it cannot work in the current environment. Given staff’s recent conduct, the Board must rise to the occasion and actively involve itself and verify information provided in staff reports. This kind of micromanagement is irksome, but necessary — since the buck stops with Trustees and they’re already on notice that some District execs play fast and loose.

    This state of affairs adds urgency to need for staff changes. Trustees will quickly grow tired of doing their jobs AND doing detailed review of every staff report and giving close scrutiny to the metrics and analysis supporting each staff recommendation. As Will Rogers said, “Chaotic action is preferable to orderly inaction.”

  • Theresa Harrington

    Dr. J: Good question. But, on the subject of PRAs, I received this response via US mail today, which I assume is in response to my request for FCMAT records, although it doesn’t say: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B6mS2O1_NKceTG5WekxRQWswOWc/edit?usp=sharing
    As usual, Rolen is withholding some documents, claiming “confidential attorney-client indications and attorney work product.”
    I also have an outstanding PRA request regarding Mildred Browne’s mysteriously approved new job, but I haven’t heard a peep in response to that one.
    And when I called to request copies of Form 700s, I was told I needed to submit a PRA for those as well. Although I complied, it’s my understanding that no PRA is necessary to inspect Form 700s, since they are required to be kept on file for the express purpose of disclosing them to the public upon request.

  • Hell Freezing Over

    I wonder how much $$ we would save (postage)if Rolen just replied via email instead of U.S. mail?

  • Doctor J

    @Theresa, quit putting up with the BS. Call the Fair Political Practice Commission. http://www.fppc.ca.gov/index.php?id=498

  • Theresa Harrington

    HFO: You can also find the link to the CAC’s response to the FCMAT report here: http://mtdiablosped.blogspot.com/2013/03/message-from-cac-chairperson-lorrie.html
    The postage was 46 cents, plus the envelope and letterhead. Also, it took four days to reach me. If Rolen would use email, he could save the district money and respond more expediently. Also, my request specifically asked for the district to respond via email.

    Dr. J: Thanks. I was planning to call them. I also sent a copy of my PRA regarding the Form 700s to the superintendent, Bryan Richards and Board President Cheryl Hansen, explaining that I had been informed that I needed to file a PRA to receive the forms, which I did not believe was necessary. I attached a 2009 email in which Rose Marie Scorsati had previously scanned and emailed me the forms. Things sure have changed since then!

  • g

    We all know the 4/23 contract vote was garbage-in, garbage-out with nothing presented to actually cast a valid vote on.

    We’ve seen the McCoy letter to Namita Brown–I want to see the phone logs/emails and the ‘Engagement Letter’ to McCoy from Rolen and troops.

    And, the emails or phone logs from Rolen/Lawrence enviting just “certain” board members (Eberhart, Mayo and Whitmarsh) to come in to sign the “Oct” contracts.

  • Theresa Harrington

    As an update to the PRA question, our lawyer says the district cannot require a PRA for Form 700s and cannot make the public (or press) wait 10 days to see them, since the 10-day period is meant to allow districts to review documents for possible exemptions. That’s not necessary with Form 700s, since they are legally required to be public.
    I hope that when the board reviews its Public Disclosure policy to make it more transparent, it includes: responses by email when requested; and immediate disclosure of Form 700s, with no PRA necessary.

  • Doctor J

    Wow, I wonder if Steven Lawrence, Gary Eberhart, etc. are having frequent trips to the restroom after reading this article: http://www.ocregister.com/news/school-500256-bonds-political.html
    I don’t think the statute of limitations has expired.

  • g

    Great article Dr. J. Be sure to click on the other article link at the bottom. It goes into even more detail. Alicia Minyen and others have been trying to wake the people up! While the article specifically tells the perils of CABs, the real culprit for us is the words “Negotiated Sale” that is in every one of our bonds–that costs us more than we should have to pay.

    “The securities board also said banks must tell school officials about the risks of complicated bond deals. A bank that promises schools it will get them the best deal, but fails to do that, the board said, is breaking federal law.”

    A Negotiated Sale is NOT the best deal!

    Some ‘good ol’ boy pals (Isom, Juhl-Darlington, Rolen, Eberhart, Lawrence) need to answer some GJ questions.

  • g

    In the article I reference, it says Baum et al slimy bod deals cost 1.1% but the average if handled properly would only cost a school district about .613%. Well here is an easy to read example of one of ‘our’ bonds–with a cost of issuance of 1.62%.

    http://esb.mdusd.k12.ca.us/attachments/98e53d24-edc6-468d-bfa0-936036b50053.pdf

    Check out those ballooning payments and interest rates!

    Did your breakfast stay down?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Well, my trip to get the Form 700′s was VERY interesting! Although Rolen had been checked off on the list, his was missing. When I pointed that out, his secretary brought it in, dated 3/17/13. Pete Pedersen has also not turned in his form, after repeated requests, according to Richard’s secretary. Also, Mildred Browne, Gary Eberhart and Sherry Whitmarsh were never asked to fill out Form 700s in 2012, so Richards’ secretary is following up with them.
    And, it turns out that no one seems to know where the forms for 2010 and earlier are, since they used to be housed in the assistant superintendent for administrative services office. When that position was eliminated, it appears that these important public documents were stored away somewhere – but no one is sure where.
    It’s pretty ironic that Bryan Richards was carrying around social security numbers on his laptop that were decades old, but no one knows where the Form 700s from TWO YEARS ago have gone!
    Shouldn’t someone have scanned them into some sort of secure file?

  • Doctor J

    FILE YOUR FPPC COMPLAINT ASAP !

  • Theresa Harrington

    And on a somewhat humorous note, I saw a Volvo and a BMW parked in two spaces marked “reserved for district vehicles.” No wonder the district is running a deficit! :)

  • g

    Wasn’t the position Asst. Supt. of Administrative Services created specifically to both reward and bump Pedersen up for his last couple of years of district pay/retirement benefits?

    Didn’t the position go away when he retired?

    Did he move his complete office files to storage at Holbrook, or off-site at his place in Arcata?

  • g

    Speaking of PRA, back on 8/11/10 Theresa, you gave us figures for legal costs that yr. Although they apparently neglected to give you the PRA that would include FFF and Stone Youngberg payments, the total wad admitted to for one yr. was $915,556.42.

    Using Rolen’s best buddy Juhl-Darlington’s contract from that period at $185./hr, totaling $405,458.00 He worked 2,192 hours in that one year! That means he spent 4hrs out of every single day, 7 days a wk, 365 days a yr, for that entire year working on MDUSD business

    Yeah, sure!

  • Hell Freezing Over

    TH @ 22 – didn’t you post somewhere that the district CFO responded via voicemail to your request for the Form 700s saying something about archived forms/docs? I can’t find your earlier post about his voicemail, so wondering why he would tell you that, if the forms from 2010 and earlier have conveniently become unable to locate …

  • Hell Freezing Over

    Here it is – it was posted under the 03/11/13 blog … He needs to explain what “archived” means (scanned to a file? Filed in a cabinet at Dent? Dumped in a box? ) and why he would tell you that if no one seems to knows where those forms are.

    Theresa Harrington Says:
    March 18th, 2013 at 6:07 pm
    It turns out that I had a voicemail message from Bryan Richards earlier today saying that the Form 700s for this year and last year are available in his office, but those from farther back are archived, so they would need a request for those. I will try to swing by Dent tomorrow for the current forms and reiterate that I have already submitted a PRA for the rest.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Actually, Richards’ secretary said she didn’t know if the previous person collected all the Form 700s as required.

  • Doctor J

    Bryan Richards is going to blame it on the secretary — just more evidence of what Cheryl Hansen commented on that the CFO doesn’t know how to manage a department. He’s toast.

  • Doctor J

    How to file a Fair Political Practices complaint against MDUSD for its failure to have its management personnel file their form 700′s. Every citizen should flood the FPPC with such complaints. http://www.fppc.ca.gov/index.php?id=498

  • Theresa Harrington

    It hasn’t been established that they didn’t collect all the forms as required, but the secretary couldn’t find evidence that they did. She had one file from 2011 that had a smattering of Form 700′s from some principals, along with a comprehensive list of many more officials whose forms weren’t in the file.

  • Doctor J

    So Theresa, whose form 700′s did you receive and for what years ? I assume the rest have not been filed with the district and they failed to report it to the FPPC. Are you going to write a story about this ?

  • g

    “… a comprehensive list of many more officials whose forms weren’t in the file.” Was that a list of “who has to file” or a list of files that had once been in the file? Any check-off system to keep track?

    Or is this just same ol’ – same ol’; kind of like the Mandatory Training issue?

    Somebody thinks Everybody did it but Nobody knows if Anybody did it.

  • http://www.k12reboot.com Jim

    @19 — “I was startled by how explicit the quid pro quos have become,” Lockyer said.

    That’s right. The piano player had no idea at all what was going on upstairs…

  • Theresa Harrington

    Some of them were checked off, but they weren’t in the file. Others were highlighted. It was impossible to decipher what system was used.
    I have to compliment Janet on her excellent organization of the files since she has been responsible for keeping them, however.

  • Doctor J

    Board Policy 2310 and Board By-law 9270 identify a long list of employees who must file a Form 700 — obviously this ball has been dropped by the BIG5: Here is just a sampling of the first two categories:
    DESIGNATED POSITIONS/DISCLOSURE CATEGORIES
    1. Persons occupying the following positions are designated employees in Category 1:
    Governing Board Members
    Superintendent of Schools
    Assistant/Associate Superintendent
    Chief Financial Officer
    General Counsel
    Purchasing Director
    2. Persons occupying positions with the following designations as part of their title are designated employees in Category 2:
    Administrator
    Director
    Manager
    Principal
    Program Coordinator
    Program Specialist
    Supervisor

    I would bet there are over a 100 people who should be filing Form 700′s in MDUSD. Steven Lawrence knows better — Bryan Richards is inept in managing his department charged with the collection of these forms.

  • Alicia

    @19 & 21 – Many don’t realize that effective January 1, 2010, AB 1388 allowed all municipalities to sell bonds on a negotiated basis. Prior to this legislation, only schools were allowed to sell bonds on a negotiated basis. Even worse, AB 1388 repealed Government Code 53508.5. 53508.5 essentially required a level debt service for repayment of bonds….meaning CABs over 25 years could not be sold because levies would vary widely. Ever since this repeal took effect, there was a material uptick in very expensive long term CABs up to 40 years. Assemblyman Edward Hernandez authored AB 1388…who is now a State Senator.

  • Doctor J

    I am anxious to get Wendy Lack’s take on Form700GATE.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Again, I want to reiterate that Janet is doing a good job of keeping everything organized. The person before her, however, does not seem to have kept everything together in one file. You’re right. There are over 100 employees who HAVE filed those forms this year. As already mentioned, Greg Rolen somehow slipped through the cracks and Pete Pedersen appears to be refusing to do it. Janet has sent the forms along with her checklist to the county. Pete Pedersen’s name has no check mark next to it. Inexplicably, Rolen’s name DID have a check next to it, even though his form was missing. And, as I have already pointed out, Mildred Browne, Gary Eberhart and Sherry Whitmarsh were inexplicably left off the list for 2012. But, when I pointed that out, Janet immediately made phone calls to get the forms to them.
    She said it’s difficult for the fiscal dept. to keep track of the forms since information about new hires doesn’t get forwarded to her. It might make more sense for HR to handle this responsibility, since the forms are supposed to be filled out upon hire, promotion to a new job category from a previous category that doesn’t require the form, and upon leaving the district.
    Although it might be incredibly embarrassing for the district, I am going to suggest that it might be easier to just ask the county for copies of the missing forms than to spend hours searching for them. Then, the district will know exactly what it sent to the county in the first place.
    Also, I am going to suggest that it get a new copy of Barbara Oaks’ form, since portions of the copy on file are virtually unreadable.

  • Doctor J

    Steven Lawrence, as Supt, is in charge of supervising all of the departments, and obviously he has not been doing a good job of this if there is such disarray in collection of these forms. Leaving off Board members is inexcusable. Theresa, are you saying these were all forwarded to the COE ? As for Pete Pedersen, I think when an employee refuses to fill one out, they are to be reported to FPPC and fined per day for not filling them out.

  • Theresa Harrington

    No, I believe they were forwarded to the county clerk in Martinez.
    I don’t know what the penalty is for failing to file the form, but Janet said she had contacted Pedersen at least three times and that she was required to keep documentation showing that the form had been sent to him, but he had failed to complete it.
    Forms for Tim Cody, Mitchell Stark and Jeff McDaniels were all filed.

  • g

    I’ll go looking, but I seem to recall a conversation either here on board minutes where ‘someone’ told Pedersen he did not have to file 700s.

  • g

    I also seem to recall when I made a phone call about this a couple of years ago, I was told that the District is not required to send the Form 700s anyplace, but are required to keep them at the District Office (and available) for 5 years.

  • Theresa Harrington

    At one point, I think Pedersen told the BOC members that THEY didn’t have to file Form 700s, but he later said they did. The funny thing is, when he told them they DID have to, he basically said it was no big deal and that he fills them out too.

  • g

    Answer to my own post 43. When a couple of CBOC members got their feathers up over filing Form 700s, or anything to do with Conflicts of Interest reporting, Pedersen told them CBOCs did not have to file the forms.

    So…. Do CBOCs have to file Conflict statements or not?

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s a story about Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan’s proposed laws on strengthening the mandated reporter law and making it easier to dismiss abusive teachers: http://www.contracostatimes.com/twitter/ci_22827426/assemblywoman-introduces-two-bills-aimed-at-protecting-school
    If this law is passed, MDUSD would have to review its board-adopted policy (which neither Julie Braun-Martin nor Felicia Stuckey-Smith appeared to be aware of) annually with employees.

  • Theresa Harrington

    As previously stated, I believe Pedersen later told BOC members they DID have to fill out Form 700s. The senior citizen member then quit, saying she didn’t want to do that.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Deb Cooksey has informed me that she will respond to my request for the Form 700s. She wrote in an email this afternoon:

    “…please note that I will be providing the District’s response and production of applicable documents. We are in the process of trying to locate all documents relative to your request…”

    I responded with the suggestion that it might save time for her to just request them from the county so they’d get them all together and be assured they don’t miss any. I also asked for a better copy of Oaks’ form.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#49 “trying to locate” ???? Clearly the Captain of the ship has no idea how to run the ship. How embarrassing ! What kind of management is in place in MDUSD ????? Its time to make a change ASAP.