CTA, school groups back Brown’s latest funding regs

CTA, school groups back Brown’s latest funding regs

(Calif.) Major players in the state’s powerful Education Coalition have endorsed the latest draft regulations from the Brown administration governing the use of billions of dollars in new money for schools.

Gov. Jerry Brown and state schools chief Tom Torlakson had been struggling for weeks to strike a compromise between competing goals of the Local Control Funding Formula – a landmark restructuring of school finances approved last summer as part of the 2013-14 budget agreement. Brown had made clear he wanted the new system to give local school boards control over the lion’s share of the spending decisions, but he also wanted most of the money to support educationally disadvantaged students.

An initial set of regulations released in November drew strong criticism from civil rights groups as well as the Legislature’s Democratic leaders for giving school districts too much flexibility.

But representatives of several of the state’s biggest and most influential school groups said Wednesday they are supporting the most recent draft regulations, set for consideration by the California State Board of Education next week.

“We have an amazing opportunity here to meet the needs of underserved students throughout California,” said Wes Smith, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators. “We have to ensure, as a coalition, that those resources are going to the students for whom they were intended.”

The California Teachers Association, the California School Boards Association and the California Association of School Business Officers are also endorsing the latest draft plan.

It is unclear if all of the civil rights advocates or legislative leaders will be satisfied with the latest plan.

The Education Coalition, a loose affiliation of school groups representing both management and employees, has emerged in recent years as a critical intersection for bargaining major education issues.

The proposal calls on schools to report to parents and the community how dollars were used to support legislative priorities such as improving educational outcomes of low-income students, English learners and foster youth.

The proposed regulations also clearly mandate that the LCFF money earmarked for educationally disadvantaged must be used to increase services, not just maintain the status quo – a major criticism of preliminary regulations released in November.

To give local officials some latitude, the latest regulations establish last year’s budget as the baseline – thus the standard for showing increased services would not be as high as some school officials had feared.

“We’re pleased the administration has heard all voices and that the proposed regulations strike an appropriate balance between the need to direct funds to targeted students while maintaining the concept of local decision-making,” said Jeff Vaca, deputy executive director at CASBO.

A key issue was how the administration would calculate the magnitude of increased services – that is, the proportion of targeted funds that benefits just a district’s educationally disadvantaged. Several school representatives said the latest regulations more clearly define the proportionality issue while still giving local officials discretion in decision-making.

The state board faces a deadline to adopt new spending rules by the end of the month. The board will be asked next week to approve the rules on an emergency basis while rulemaking work would continue on a set of permanent regulations.