State board lends sympathetic ear to QEIA waivers

Schools struggling to meet requirements of the Quality Education Investment Act can expect to receive favorable treatment through the waiver process overseen by the California State Board of Education.

Despite some opposition from staff of the California Department of Education, the state board approved earlier this month wavier relief to nearly a dozen school districts from requirements under the QEIA program to reduce class sizes and provide a high number of experienced teachers.

Some 500 schools enrolled in QEIA faced a November deadline for meeting three-year commitments to improve test scores, reduce class sizes and develop a more experienced teaching staff, among other requirements.

Many district administrators are finding that the schools are not likely to meet one or more of the requirements and risk losing a share of about $400 million in additional revenue provided by the program.

But under state law, the state board has the authority to waive QEIA requirements and thus all allow petitioning schools to remain in the program.

At their November meeting, members of the state board approved all eight QEIA waiver requests put before them - many with unanimous votes.

CDE staff had recommended against approval in some of the cases, arguing that schools and districts had been given more than six years to prepare for the requirements and that meeting the benchmarks are a condition of the enabling legislation.

The compassion position the state board has taken - at least so far - on the QEIA waivers will be tested again in January when another large batch of schools are expected to come before the board looking for relief from both the class size restrictions and teacher experience requirement - but also from the mandate to improve student test scores.

The state board took action on these additional waiver items:

Approved with conditions, requests from one county office of education and two school districts to waive portions of California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 11960(a), to allow charter school attendance to be calculated as if it were a regular multi-track school.

Approved a request by Alpaugh Unified School District for a renewal to waive portions of California Education Code Section 51745.6, and California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 11704, and portions of Section 11963.4(a)(3), related to charter school independent study pupil-to-teacher ratios to allow an increase from 25:1 to a 27.5:1 pupil-to-teacher ratio at Central California Connections Academy Charter School.

Denied a request by five local educational agencies to waive California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 3051.16(b)(3), the requirement that educational interpreters for deaf and hard of hearing pupils meet minimum qualifications as of July 1, 2009, to allow nine educational interpreters to continue to provide services to students until June 30, 2012, under a remediation plan to complete those minimum qualifications.

Approved requests by five local educational agencies to waive the State Testing Apportionment Information Report deadline of December 31 in the California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 11517.5(b)(1)(A) regarding the California English Language Development Test; or Title 5, Section 1225(b)(2)(A) regarding the California High School Exit Examination; or Title 5, Section 862(c)(2)(A) regarding the Standardized Testing and Reporting Program.

Approved with conditions, a request by five districts, under the authority of California Education Code Section 41382, to waive portions of Education Code sections 41376 (a), (c), and (d) and/or 41378 (a) through (e), relating to class size penalties for kindergarten through grade three. For kindergarten, the overall class size average is 31 to one with no class larger than 33. For grades one through three, the overall class size average is 30 to one with no class larger than 32.

Approved with conditions, a request by Montebello Unified School District, under the authority of California Education Code Section 41382, to waive portions of Education Code sections 41376 (a), (c), and (d) and 41378 (a) through (e), relating to class size penalties for kindergarten through grade three.

Approved with conditions, requests by five districts to waive portions of California Education Code Section 41376 (b) and (e), relating to class size penalties for grades four through eight. A district's current class size maximum is the greater of the 1964 statewide average of 29.9 to one or the district's 1964 average.

Approved with conditions, requests by five districts, under the authority of California Education Code Section 33050, to waive portions of Education Code sections 48660 and 48916.1(d) relating to the allowable grade spans for community day schools and/or Education Code Section 48661 relating to the colocation of a community day school with other types of schools.

Approved with conditions, requests by two districts, under the authority of California Education Code Section 33050, to waive all portions of California Education Code sections 17473 and 17474 and portions of 17455, 17466, 17472, and 17475 relating to the sale and lease of surplus property. Approval of these waivers will allow the districts to lease or sell property using a request for proposal process," thereby maximizing the proceeds from the sale or lease of the properties.

Approved with conditions, a request by Twin Rivers Unified School District to waive California Education Code sections 15102, 15106,15268, 15270(a), to allow the district to exceed its bonding indebtedness limit of 1.25 percent of the taxable assessed value of property and $30 per $100,000 assessed value (requesting 2.50 percent and $60 per $100,000, respectively).

Denied, a request by Lindsay Unified School District to waive the California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Section 3051.16(b)(3), the requirement that educational interpreters for deaf and hard of hearing pupils meet minimum qualifications as of July 1, 2009.