Changes coming to LCAP, pressure for more continues
(Calif.) Based on public feedback – and increasing legislative pressure – the Brown administration says it will take action to simplify and make clearer the disclosure mechanism designed to reveal how school districts are using state funds to improve educational outcomes for California’s six million K-12 students.
Changes to the Local Control Accountability Plan template could include requiring a greater breakdown of expenditures, especially around spending on programs and services for English learners, poorer children and foster youth.
“There’s a great deal of inconsistency around how much of a local education agency’s overall budget is reflected in the LCAP,” California State Board of Education president Mike Kirst told the Senate Education Committee Wednesday morning. “[SBE] will be considering proposed revisions at its May meeting to simplify the LCAP template, not for this school year but for the 2017-18 school year, with expected final adoption in September.”
Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula, LCAPs are intended to be drivers of parent and community input into district spending decisions as well as reliable and transparent indicators of school performance.
The components of the plan have remained somewhat in flux as parents and civil rights advocacy groups have maintained that they still lack full inclusion, aren’t specific enough in detailing how dollars benefit disadvantaged students and are too complex to be easily understood.
Some school districts have taken issue with the heft of the requirement and say the plans are overly bureaucratic.
The pressure to address those concerns and start showing results intensified this week as several legislators wanted proof that billions in additional tax payer dollars provided to schools is producing better student outcomes.
“Now that we’ve added $13 billion to the schools, people are demanding results and patience isn’t really a word they want to hear in return,” said Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego. “When will we know if taxpayers getting their money’s worth? Do we even know what that means and, if we do, when will we have an answer statewide? Give me a date.”
Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, addressed an issue that was also raised Tuesday during an Assembly education budget hearing: The question of why state education officials aren’t collecting district data that would give a statewide perspective of how the money is being used to meet state goals.
“What are we doing to look at how schools are distributing their resources?” Pan asked. “The fact is, [districts] should already have that information because they should be providing that to their local constituents. So that should not be additional information they have to gather, and that should be information we also get as well.”
Assemblyman Philip Ting, a Democrat from San Francisco, took Brown’s finance department to task during Tuesday’s subcommittee hearing, demanding that the administration answer for removing from trailer bill language a specific requirement that districts report to the state and make public on their websites expenditures of their supplemental and concentration grant funding for disadvantaged students.
Kirst, backed by long-time Brown advisor and state board member Sue Burr, told lawmakers that while the new accountability system isn’t fully implemented and may yet require tweaking, evidence of promising results does exist and is likely to grow exponentially over the next two years.
“What we’re looking for is growth so you have to set a baseline and we’ve done that with the assessment, and we’ll have graduation rates,” Kirst told the panel. “We’ll have other things that are included in the eight state priorities [under LCFF] that we know how to measure. We will have a new assessment round this spring; we’ll have a new graduation calculation this year so you’ll begin to see some indicators.”
All of these things provide state-level information about how schools and students are doing, he said, but there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of whether tax payers are getting their money’s worth.
“That’s an answer that is best given at the local level where they have not only our state data available to them but they have a lot of local data that allows them to tell the local story of what’s happening in their community,” said top CDE staffer Keric Ashley. “Things like parent survey and parent participation in programs; all of that information that is locally-driven that we don’t have at the state, that’s what fills out the story of what’s happening in schools and districts so that’s really a question that needs to be answered by 1,000 school districts.”