Q. What happened at the latest State Board of Education meeting and how can I get involved?

Eduardo Aguilar, Education Policy Associate with Children Now, provided the answer to this question. Children Now seeks to find common ground among opinion leaders, policymakers, and interest groups so that, together, they can develop and drive "win-win" approaches to helping all children achieve their full potential. We are grateful to Mr. Aguilar for his contribution.

A.  The March 12th California State Board of Education (State Board) meeting was marked by a much more subdued tone relative to the packed house sessions that preceded it in November and September. With education administrators and community leaders deep in the trenches of implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), much of the discussion was spent on highlighting examples of “what’s working” in the field as school districts transition to the new funding formula.

A key focus of the meeting centered on the how districts are developing their Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), which is at the core of LCFF’s implementation. This topic was anchored by the presentations from two Central Valley communities that were invited to share on their LCAP efforts. Both presentations offered up an interesting take on the use of the LCAP template with both communities voicing their need to make adjustments to the template to allow for a more complete document that demonstrates a clearer connection between districts’ intended goals and actions.

A highlight of the meeting was the presentation delivered by Families in Schools President and CEO, Oscar Cruz, who spoke to the importance of creating meaningful and authentic opportunities for parent engagement to promote true and long-term local accountability. This message was strengthened by the use of a helpful infographic that captured the 6 components of meaningful parent engagement. At the heart of Mr. Cruz’ message was the need to engage, equip and empower our parents to be effective advocates and partners within the LCAP development process.

Related to the topic of authentic engagement is the need to elevate and extend the opportunity to engage students more explicitly within the LCFF and LCAP processes. Several community partners along with Jesse Zhang, the student member on the State Board, touted the need for a more concrete role and opportunity for student input and involvement.

Along with the need to more effectively engage parents and students, several leading state and local education advocates made sure to bring attention to the need to provide clearer direction on how supplemental and concentration dollars must be used to support the targeted populations that generated them. Among these organizations were the American Civil Liberties Union, California State PTA, California School Boards Association, Children Now, EdTrust-West, EdVoice, PICO-CA and Public Advocates.

A step in the right direction to provide greater transparency would come from the State Board clarifying existing emergency regulations to better guide districts and schools to account for these dollars within their own accounting systems. Without clearer regulations, funds intended to help close the achievement gap will simply roll into more general school funding streams and fail to support high-needs kids. By providing more explicit guidance on establishing proactive and transparent systems for tracking LCFF dollars, school and district leaders will have the clear direction needed to establish a system that improves student outcomes.

The State Board will use collected public feedback from letters and comments made at the March 17 meeting to adopt permanent fiscal regulations in the summer or fall of this year. As LCFF is implemented at the local level, it is crucial that local stakeholders remain informed of decisions at the state level to ensure these regulations provide school districts with additional clarity and ensure the intent and goals of LCFF are realized. Here’s a resource to understand the ongoing work at the state level and what’s next: http://lcff.childrennow.org/implementation/pending-policy-decisions

LCFF presents an incredible opportunity for California schools. Chief among these is the opportunity to reestablish a level of trust between districts and the communities that they serve.

In order to not let this opportunity pass us by, education and community leaders will need to continue working together to establish a new way of getting things done that is grounded in authentic and meaningful dialogue and transparent decision making that is focused on maximizing every resource available to ensure the success of kids.

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