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.]

  • Theresa Harrington

    Deb has agreed to ask the county for the records instead of trying to find them in the district.
    HFO: This is very interesting, since the supt recently reported to the board that he was meeting with DVC and LMC to try to develop this kind of program. Are you sure it is currently in place?

  • Hell Freezing Over

    TH 51 – I think you meant Flippin …

  • Theresa Harrington

    Oops, yes, you’re right. I meant Flippin.

  • g

    Theresa; It just sank in what you said in #49. Deb Cooksey will be ‘handling’ the full PRA request. At first reading I thought you meant she’d send her own….

    Interesting.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Yes, here’s Deb’s emailed response to my suggestion about requesting copies from the county:

    “Hi Theresa,
    Good idea. Via a separate email, I have just asked Janet to request them from the County…”

  • Wait a Minute

    Gee, I wonder why Pete Pederson and “he Gary”, nd “Chevron” Sherry didnt file their REQUIRED FORM 700s???

    Gee, I wonder why it is so hard for them to find any form 700′s from 2010 or earlier???

    I wonder if the massive amounts of Measure C lobbying by Chevron among others has anything do with this???

    FOLLOW THE MONEY THERESA, I have a feeling your getting close.

  • Doctor J

    Theresa, why not just you request them from the county and don’t let MDUSD filter them ?

  • g

    The PRA issue just took a step forward.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_22827580/judge-orders-san-jose-disclose-officialsmessages-private-devices

    At the 3/11 PRA/Borenstein meeting, Rolen did say (4 times) “Or, you could let a judge decide.”

    Precedent has been set. Of course the SJ case will go to appeal, but we can still hope…. You know Rolen doesn’t want his private conversations looked at too closely.

  • Doctor J

    @G#58 I would call that a Blockbuster decision. Rolen, Eberhart, Whitmarsh, and even Strange have to be reaching for the Immodium. Theresa, I hope you get on this ASAP.

  • Theresa Harrington

    I’m having a hard enough time just getting Form 700s and FCMAT emails. After receiving Rolen’s response to my FCMAT PRA via US mail, in which he said I could view the documents at a mutually agreeable time, I called him on Monday and said I’m available anytime this week.
    After not getting a response from him, I dropped by his office yesterday while I was at the district office to look at the Form 700s. His door was closed and his secretary said I couldn’t view the documents at that time because there was “no room.” She said that Wendy Lack had previously had to sit at the table in the lobby to look at documents. The secretary seemed to be implying that a conference room or some other special area needed to be set aside for me to view the documents. This is ridiculous. I could have easily just sat at the same table Lack had used earlier. I don’t need a lot of space. All I need is the documents….and a return phone call from Rolen.
    Since he hasn’t bothered to call me back in two days, I will now follow up with an email.

  • Doctor J

    Theresa, I am sorry to say that Rolen is playing you like a piano.

  • g

    I would imagine “the room” is being taken up right now by an outside attorney looking at last year’s contract materials–with Rolen–or his own attorney–arguing legal points.

    That’s why Cooksey is manning the legal helm.

    In order for there to be a “mutually agreeable time” you have to have both parties be of an “agreeable” nature.

    That leaves Rolen out!

  • Doctor J

    The FCMAT emails are available directly from FCMAT which is a public entity and subject to the PRA.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Dr. J: FCMAT has already complied with my PRA. I also requested emails between staff and trustees from MDSUD related to the Oct. 3 agreement with FCMAT. FCMAT would obviously not have those. It does appear that Rolen is unnecessarily delaying my access to the records. I will copy trustees on my email to him so that they will be in the loop regarding his tactics.

    g: The interesting thing is that Dan Borenstein told me that after he and Rolen agreed to a mutually agreeable time for Borenstein to look at the Gagen McCoy letter, Rolen wasn’t even there. So, this requirement is virtually meaningless. I should be able to just drop in and see the documents, since they have already been collected.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#64 Rolen is clearly desperate. His lies have reached the end of the rope. Its not any different than his lies with Diane as she detailed in her so called book review that unveiled the lying sack of manure that Greg Rolen really is.

  • g

    Theresa, how did the district respond to your (3/13 ?) request for “…documents, including any settlement agreement, related to the creation of the assist supt on special assignment position.”

    I suppose a snail mail refusal will be postmarked on 3/23.

  • Theresa Harrington

    g: You are correct that so far, I have received no response to that PRA. In fact, when Deb Cooksey told me yesterday that she would be responding to my PRA, I asked: “Which one?”

  • Theresa Harrington

    Just as I was about to send my email to Rolen and the board about the FCMAT PRA, Rolen’s secretary called to invite me to come to the district office this afternoon to review the documents. Progress is being made.

  • g

    I don’t know why, but based mostly just on gut feeling, I suspect something kind of nasty must have happened over in SpEd personnel dept. that came to light in early 2012, and that board decided to bury it.

    It is very rare to move someone as high ranking at Browne into a ‘no desk’ job–with pay.

    Maybe they felt some obligation to not leave contract renewals to a new board in fear that the new board would renew Browne without knowing the full circumstances.

  • Anon

    Theresa, you may find this useful: San Jose Superior Court Judge orders emails/texts from city officials’ private cell phones produced per PRA request. Makes your’s and Borenstein’s requests look like no-brainers.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_22827580/judge-orders-san-jose-disclose-officialsmessages-private-devices

  • Anon

    G @ #58, I should have read your earlier post, you beat me to it on the San Jose case!

  • g

    ;) sometimes double exposure is good! Whomever they have assigned to read this blog all day may have missed it too.

    Theresa posted on the 13th that there was no Bay Point Agenda, and suddenly up-it-pops. She posted about no BAC agenda, and…up-it-pops.

    I imagine minutes of the meetings will require another PRA.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Speaking of the nearly secret Bay Point meeting, here’s our Pittsburg reporter’s story about the proposed boundary changes for Delta View Elementary: http://www.contracostatimes.com/twitter/ci_22792736/boundary-changes-being-proposed-delta-view-elementary-school

    It says a committee will be making a recommendation to the board. But so far, the district has never posted the committee’s agendas or minutes.

  • g

    True, Steven Lawrence cannot be blamed for this fiasco.

    What the recent buyers in the Delta View area AND the district don’t want to admit is that this problem all stems from two things.

    1) Pittsburg and its developers getting new schools south of Hwy 4 without actually paying for them.

    2) Shady land deals made between the district, the city of Pittsburg and developers that pretty much flew under the radar during the years of escalating real estate tax income.

  • Wait a Minute

    OK G,

    Who do you think was shady enough in the MDUSD to be involved on the district’s side in these “shady land deals”???

    And regarding Mildred Brown, is it possible that they couldn’t risk firing her because she knew too much about who gave the orders for the interpreting contract to be switched to the brand new company AIS, which just happened to be owned by Greg Rolen’s co-habitator, Marisol Padilla???

  • Theresa Harrington

    Browne told me she didn’t know why the contract was switched and that Margot Tobias handled that. As previously stated, Tobias isn’t talking.

    After getting the FCMAT/MDUSD records, I’m more puzzled than ever about why the report didn’t do a side-by-side comparison of the district’s estimates and the county’s, since Superintendent Steven Lawrence specifically requested that initially. In documents that must not have been released to me, that direction was apparently changed. Also, FCMAT clearly expected the report to be presented to the board. There are no emails revealing who decided not to present it to the board or why. I guess that information was considered “privileged” by Rolen.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Contra Costa County Board of Ed. voted 4-1 to allow Clayton Valley Charter HS to expand to Cal State East Bay, Concord. Daniel Gomes voted no and Pamela Mirabella voted yes, but expressed concerns about the financial impact to MDUSD.

  • Anon

    What financial impact would it have? Is she talking about the impact from the FCMAT or is there more of a cost to have them use cal state?

  • MDUSD Board Watcher

    Pamela is probably worried that more kids are going to be applying to CVCHS and leaving the MDUSD.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Yes, I believe that was what she and Daniel Gomes were concerned about. I videotaped the hearing and will post clips to YouTube.com/tunedtotheresa.

  • Theresa Harrington

    With regard to the Form 700′s, Richards’ secretary informed me yesterday that Pedersen has filed his.

  • vindex

    I have been told by people in the MDUSD that Rolen will be relieved of duties on Monday? What are the odds? Is this true?

  • MDUSD Board Watcher

    Vindex,

    Why do you think that Deb Cookesy is already “handling” some of these PRA requests?

  • Wait a Minute

    I think the odds should be very good.

    Afterall, Rolen has been strongly implicated in STEERING HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS towards certain people.

    Some like his then girlfriend Marisol Padilla he obviously personally benefitted from.

    For others like his buddy Matt Juhl-Darlington, (who according to G’s calculations billed the MDUSD for over $405,000 in 2010 alone!), I think we have to assume that there was some kind of quid-pro-quo based on Rolen’s MO.

  • Theresa Harrington
  • Theresa Harrington

    Back on the topic of Bill Morones taking a trip to Whittier, I heard from the CVCHS group that they are doing a lot of the same progressive things that Whittier is. Perhaps Morones could save some money and just visit CVCHS.
    During the hearing, Trustee Cynthia Ruehlig praised the planned Early College Academy at Cal State East Bay, Concord, saying that’s exactly what charters are supposed to be doing — innovating and trying new things that could be replicated by others.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#85 Deb Cooksey needs to go too. Sidewalks are in the city’s right of way — the public is entitled to be on them without restriction. The Teamsters are going to slam dunk her and get a major fine against the district.

  • g

    I’ve never heard of anyone claiming Cooksey actually knows much law. Without a book (and that has to be highlighted for her) she will step on her tongue the minute she offers ad-lib.

    Of course, she was probably instructed by her superiors to go ‘handle the situation’ without being specifically instructed to “stick to the script AND (highlighted) don’t answer any questions!”

    Of course no one will ever talk openly about the real ‘why’ she left Oakland.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#86 I was told that it was a “hell-of-a-party”.

  • Theresa Harrington

    MDUSD probably won’t be partying when they see CVCHS adding another 150 students a year in the next four years.

  • Doctor J

    @Vindex#82 Maybe you could donate some boxes to make the office clearning more efficient. :-)

  • Theresa Harrington

    I’m hearing there may be some dissatisfaction with Local One and the Teamsters may be trying to seize the moment.

  • Doctor J

    @TH#90 The boondoggle trips, a la Mildred Browne, Bill Moronoes, and remember the Palo Alto C&I fiasco, will come to a rapid halt once there are no more “categorical funds”. Steven Lawrence’s days — yes days — are numbered. Can’t wait for the agenda to be posted. I hear Greg Rolen will resign rather than be humiliated with a firing.

  • Anon

    #93-”resigning” means a 6th month severance per his contract. “Firing” means a dismissal hearing for cause, and if the District loses, he gets back pay. That means 3 board members have to agree to shell out $95,000.

  • Doctor J

    @Anon#94 No he will just walk away if he is smart. Otherwise, he risks his law license.

  • Anon

    I disagree that he risks his law license. The state bar is indundated with complaints, and I don’t think they would take much interest in his conduct at MDUSD. And even if they did, he’d only get a reprimand. It comes down to whether he resigns and forgoes the severance, is “released” from his contract which requires the 6 month severance pay, or the boad decides to dismiss him for cause, which is expensive.

  • Wait a Minute

    Well Anon#96 and 94,

    last time I checked, corruption by a public official was illegal.

    IMO, Rolen would be lucky to only lose his law license.

  • Wait a Minute

    Just wanted to add that with Rolen’s corruption we are talking about large amounts of money and don’t forget what happened to the Bell, Ca defendants–all convicted very quickly by their jury!

  • Anon

    Ok, I understand your arguments, I just don’t think those things would ever come to pass. Goodness, AIS is still contracting with the District with the Board’s blessing. Assuming I am right, how do you feel about him walking with half a year’s salary?

  • g

    Anon: I’m one of those people that will gladly spend $10. to keep someone from cheating me out of $5.

    So, 6mo pay is better that 12mo pay.

    On the other hand, every single contract, for both internal and external agreements written by a public entity like MDUSD should have a Conflict of Interest Code clause spelled out in it.