Gov. Jerry Brown’s school funding plan aims to provide money from a new voter-approved tax hike to support those who need it most – foster children, English-language learners and low-income students.

But how will taxpayers know whether the extra money is improving education for California’s students?

Christie Ritter on SchoolsBrown’s plan, the Local Control Funding Formula, includes an accountability measure, to try to ensure improvement in student achievements. San Diego Unified’s new budget, which was unveiled last  week, attempts to address the issue by funding smaller class-sizes for Kindergarten through third grade and restoring cuts to visual and performing arts, summer school and gifted and talented education.

There’s also money directed specifically at the struggling students the LCFF was intended to help. There will be funding aimed at boosting literacy amongst English language learners, and more support systems like graduation coaches and tutors to help at-risk high school students.

“How you spend your money shows what you care about and what you value,” San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten said when she presented her budget proposal to the school board.

The strings attached to this new money, though, allow parents, teachers and community members to monitor the district’s progress through a formal plan with specific annual goals for student performance.


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

Here’s how the whole plan is supposed to work: Through the new formula, school districts and charter schools will receive a base grant for each student enrolled, plus 20 percent more money from the state as a supplemental grant per high-need student. Districts with 55 percent or more of these students will receive an additional concentration grant of 50 percent per student. In San Diego Unified, an estimated 63 percent of students fall into one of the categories – either English learners, socioeconomically disadvantaged or in foster care, so the district will receive both the concentration and supplemental grants.

Like all other districts in the state, San Diego Unified must develop a Local Control and Accountability Plan, with input from  parents, teachers and other stakeholders. The plans will establish annual goals and provide details about how to achieve them. The plans must be aligned with district budgets and provide details about how funds will be spent to increase or improve services.

The district is developing its accountability plan now, holding five community forums over the next two months. The district must pass its budget – and its Local Control and Accountability Plan – by July 1. (The proposed budget also includes selling a further $10 million in district-owned property to plug a gap.)

But some parents and outside groups believe their efforts at holding the district accountable haven’t always been taken seriously.

Amy Redding, a parent volunteer who leads the District Advisory Council for Compensatory Education, already has a formal advisory role for the district. She complained at a school board meeting earlier this month that her advice was limited to a three-minute public comment on a particular agenda item. (Full disclosure: I’m a DAC parent representative, and a member of the PTA.)

“A wise client would never ask their doctor or lawyer to limit their advice to one- to-three minutes, and they would include them in the conversation,” Redding said.

Indeed, some activist groups are forming a coalition to make sure that San Diego Unified and other school districts listen to stakeholders now, while the formal accountability plans are being developed.

San Diego United Parents for Education is joining forces with the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, the San Diego PTA, Educate Our State, the San Diego League of Women Voters and the San Diego Chamber of Commerce Talent Development Committee to work on accountability for school funding.

Sean Karafin, a policy adviser with the Taxpayers Association, said the coalition will be giving recommendations to school districts, meeting with school officials, submitting letters and also speaking to school boards at their meetings.

Because the supplemental and concentration grants in Brown’s plan are based on the total enrollment of high-need students, school districts are required to collect income information from families in order to determine funding. The effort to have families fill out the Income Eligibility Survey Forms began in the fall and is continuing. Some families have been reluctant to fill out the forms with this personal information, but the district is required to submit the information to the state by March 21.

Ron Rode, executive director of the office of accountability for San Diego Unified, said it’s a challenge to get parents to turn in the cards, and that there may be phone calls and even home visits to families who have yet to turn them in as the deadline approaches. The income data is critical.

“Every card means dollars,” said district CFO Jenny Salkeld.

    This article relates to: Active Voice, Education, News, School Finances, School Leadership, School Performance

    Written by Christie Ritter

    Christie Ritter is a freelance writer for Voice of San Diego, author of four books and a former newspaper reporter. She is a graduate of Clairemont High, UCLA and SDSU. You can email her at christieritter@gmail.com, or follow her on Twitter: @swisscritter.

    4 comments
    Christie Ritter
    Christie Ritter

    San Diego Unified is holding meetings to hear community input. Come out and tell them what you think:

    The "Vision 2020 Forums: What Kinds of Schools Do We Want" series offer parents, staff, students, and community members an opportunity to give input to the superintendent and the board members on priorities for our students and schools.
    Meeting schedule

    Friday, Feb. 7, 5-7 p.m., Sub-District D, Memorial Preparatory for Scholars and Athletes, 2850 Logan Ave. (92113)
    Tuesday, Feb. 18, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Sub-District B, Patrick Henry High School, 6702 Wandermere Dr. (92120)
    Monday, Feb. 24, 7-9 p.m., Sub-District C, Mission Bay High School, 2475 Grand Ave. (92109).

    Mark Giffin
    Mark Giffin subscribermember

    "But how will taxpayers know whether the extra money is improving education for California’s students?"
    Schools are getting 10 billion in the new budget
    http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-more-state-school-dollars-20140109,0,4231198.story?track=rss#axzz2q7C0TplX
    The funding of the teachers retirement CALSTRS needs a 75%increase of 4.5 billion from the current 6 billion annual payment making the annual payment 10.5 billion.
    I asked Randy Ward on his post to VOSD ...."How much of any new monies from the state will in turn go towards shoring up the teacher pension funds?"
    He chose not to address it.
    One would think The education community owes the Taxpayers, parents and teachers an explanation of how this will affect budgets going forward.
    http://calpensions.com/2013/02/04/calstrs-4-5-billion-rate-hike-for-full-funding/State budget plan includes $10 billion more for schoolshttp://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-more-state-school-dollars-20140109,0,4231198.story?track=rss#axzz2q7C0TplXAn improving economy and a voter-approved tax increase will pay faster dividends for California schools than expected, resulting in a $10-billion funding boost over last year under the governor's proposed budget. The increase is especially welcome fo...Calpensionshttp://calpensions.com/2013/02/04/calstrs-4-5-billion-rate-hike-for-full-funding/A new report says CalSTRS needs $4.5 billion more a year to fully fund pensions over the next three decades, a 75 percent increase in the $6 billion total annual payments now being made by teachers, school districts and the state. There is no cheap f...

    Amy Redding
    Amy Redding subscribermember

    I want to let your readers know that the statements made by the chair of the GATE DAC and me, Amy Redding, at the January 14th meeting resulted in a significant and positive change at the next board meeting. On January 21st, Trustee Evans proposed that advisory leaders be included in the board conversation, rather than being relegated to public comment. This change will allow advisors, whose job it is to advise the board on our committee's issues, to discuss in detail with the board the agenda items that fall under our purview. This opening of the dialogue will lead to a more rigorous conversation that will hopefully result in better informed decision making. In the very least, a more rigorous conversation at board meetings will bring issues out into the public eye.

    Since seeking parent input is a cornerstone of the LCFF legislation and there are concerns about school districts across the state honoring this, I wanted to take a moment to recognize the assistance of the San Diego Unified staff in helping the DAC collect input concerning LCFF from parents, teachers, and other stakeholders. LCFF funding input falls, in part, under the purview of the DAC as it is the committee overseeing funds that come into the district to assist low income students. The DAC designed a survey to collect input from School Site Councils regarding LCFF funding priorities. We will be presenting the data to the board, the district, and our membership in February. The district has been a most helpful partner in this DAC endeavor. The district gave input on the survey and then formatted and launched it. They did most of the outreach, and they provided opportunities for members to fill out the survey. Without their assistance, the DAC would not have been able to reach out to so many to collect LCFF input. I know the district is as interested in the data collected as we are and I am confident we will be utilizing it as we write the LCAP.

    James Weber
    James Weber subscriber

    What happened to all that lottery money?