CTA wins: Brown lobbies to weaken own school-funding reform

Gov. Jerry Brown made a surprise appearance Thursday at a State Board of Education meeting to call for board members — most of whom he appointed — to approve loophole-ridden regulations for the implementation of the sweeping education funding changes Brown got enacted last year. To no one’s surprise, the governor got his way. Tom Chorneau of CabinetReport.com has background:

“Brown, architect of the Local Control Funding Formula which restructured the state-school fiscal relationship, had struggled in recent months over the program’s regulations as two of his own goals within the new system were challenged by key interest groups.

“The governor had sold the program last spring by arguing local officials should be put in charge of more of the spending decisions – but he also wanted more of the money to target disadvantaged students.

“The two came in conflict with civil rights groups, who criticized an initial set of regulations for not ensuring targeted money would actually go to low-income students, English learners and foster youth.”

And where will it go if it doesn’t go to these kids? You guessed it. Teachers’ compensation. Why else would the CTA and CFT back this change?

Plea for changes to strengthen rules

EdTrust-West sent the state board a letter early this week warning how weak the regulations were:

“The regulations guiding districtwide uses of supplemental and concentration funds are overly broad. These provisions risk undermining the significant progress that has been made to ensure these grant dollars will benefit the students who generated them.

“LEAs [Local Education Authorities] with more than 55% unduplicated students may use supplemental and concentration grant funds for any purpose, as long as they can describe how those services must meet the district’s goals for unduplicated students. The current template would allow such goals to be no different than those established by the LEA for all students. Thus, this proposed standard does not treat the use of supplemental and concentration funds for unduplicated pupils any differently than base dollars available to address the standard program.

“We believe this creates a significant potential loophole, as it allows a considerable portion of the dollars generated by unduplicated pupils for their specific “beyond-base-grant” needs to be spent on increasing or improving services for non-unduplicated pupils. A district could, for example, use supplemental and concentration grants to purchase tablet computers for all district students. To justify this, the LEA could argue that these investments will help meet its goals for all students, including unduplicated pupils. While improving the standard program may be an appropriate use of base grant funding, these decisions would be inconsistent with the law’s premise that the additional funds generated by unduplicated pupils should be directed, first and foremost, to improving the educational experience of unduplicated pupils and should not be treated as base funding to expand the core program.”

Make sure funds ‘actually benefit’ high-needs students

How can the reforms be salvaged? EdTrust-West had some ideas:

“We believe that stronger protections around districtwide and schoolwide use of funds may well be necessary to ensure that supplemental and concentration funding are actually used to benefit the students generating them, consistent with the premise of LCFF. These stronger assurances would include:

“1. Higher districtwide and schoolwide thresholds that capture LEAs and schools serving significant concentration of unduplicated students,

“2. Criteria for determining whether a service meets the standards for “most effective” use of funds,

“3. Stronger provisions assuring that supplemental and concentration funds can be used for districtwide and schoolwide services only if the service demonstrably provides a differential benefit to unduplicated pupils in order to address unduplicated pupil goals, and

“4. Criteria for County Offices of Education to oversee and approve LCAPs.”

It’s going to be interesting to see how this is reported — to see if reporters even understand what we’re seeing here is a teacher union power play. I’m not optimistic.

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