Discussions begin on how to handle new state formula

Parents, students, teachers and community members last week discussed a new funding formula for California schools and what districts will have to do to show the funding is getting to the students who need it.

The California Endowment's Student Success Express ended its series of 12 forums in Del Norte County seeking input from the community about the state's new Local Control Funding Formula, also known as the Fair School Funding Law.

Endowment representatives and officials with the Del Norte County Unified School District spoke at the event.

Local parents Angela Reese and Chris Howard also spoke about the new funding formula. Courtesy of the California Endowment, Reese was one of hundreds of California parents who attended the State Board of Education's meeting on Nov. 7.

"After tonight, you'll be considered stakeholders in our community," Reese said. "The Fair School Funding Law (means) more money, more local control and a set of new priorities. There will be much more local control over how money is going to be spent."

The Local Control Funding Formula, which was signed into law on July 1, allocates education funding to districts based on their percentage of low-income students, English language learners and foster children.

State education spending is expected to increase $18 billion over the next eight years, according to the California Endowment's School Success Express agenda packet.

The State Board of Education is currently grappling with how the new dollars can be spent, according to the California Endowment. The Board is developing an accountability plan for districts to show that the funding is getting to the students it is intended for.

The Board is expected to vote on proposed regulations regarding the Local Control Funding Formula and the Local Control Accountability Plan in January.

Del Norte County Unified School District is expected to receive the template in March, said Superintendent Don Olson. The Board of Trustees will have to develop and submit a Local Control Accountability Plan to the California Office of Education by July 2014, he said.

Under the new formula, which started this school year and will be fully implemented in the 2020andndash;21 school year, districts will receive a per-student base grant, according to the California Department of Finance. Districts will then receive an extra 35 percent of the base grant for each of its English language learning, low-income or foster youth students.

Another grant equaling 35 percent of the base grant will be allocated to districts whose English language learners, low-income or foster youth students make up half its enrollment, according to the Department of Finance. This extra funding will be granted for each student above the 50 percent threshold.

With 63.69 percent of its students qualifying for free and reduced-price meals, Del Norte County Unified School District's base revenue for the 2013andndash;14 school year is $6,808 per student, or $21.6 million total, Olson said. The district is expected to receive $10,740 per student, or $31.5 million, when the Local Control Funding Formula is fully implemented in 2020andndash;21, he said.

"It's putting money where it's most needed," Olson said. "Low income students, English language learners and foster students in general need more services and programs."

In its Local Control Accountability Plan, Del Norte County Unified School District will need to address eight priority areas that were identified by the state. These include student achievement, implementation of the Common Core State Standards, guaranteeing well-maintained schools and up-to-date instructional materials and student engagement. The district also has to address school climate, including reducing the suspension rate, parent involvement and other areas of study such as the arts and physical education.

California schools are expected to adopt the Common Core State Standards in the 2014andndash;15 school year. With local schools in their second year of implementing the Del Norte Engaged Learning Model, which will incorporate Common Core, Olson said the district is ahead of the game.

Last week's public forum kicked off the community-input phase of the new funding formula. Participants broke off into groups and brainstormed ways to get parents more involved in local schools and discussed what is missing in terms of education in Del Norte County.

California Endowment Program Manager Castle Redmond said representatives will compile the information they received in each of the 12 communities and report it to the State Board of Education.

"We want to make sure, especially in our 14 Building Healthy Community sites, that their voice is heard," he said. "We heard from rural and urban areas."

The Endowment's School Success Express tour visited communities in San Diego, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Sacramento, the Coachella Valley and the Central Valley. Even though those communities are vastly different, the concerns of parents and residents in those areas are similar, Redmond said.

"We heard a lot of the same things like different ways of engaging parents, keeping kids at school and engaged in school, not suspending kids," he said. "Social and emotional health development. It wasn't just about academics."

The district will continue to reach out to the community as it develops its Local Control Accountability Plan, Olson said.

"We'll hear from school site councils, the district's parent advisory committee, the Del Norte Teachers Association, the (California School Employees Association) and from the community," he said. "We'll include input from all stakeholders."

The Del Norte Teachers Association is the local teachers' union. The California School Employees Association represents the district's classified staff.

Del Norte and the adjacent tribal lands is among 14 other communities working with the California Endowment's Building Healthy Communities Initiative.

For more information about the Local Control Funding Formula, visit the California Department of Education's Website at www.cde.ca.gov/fg/aa/lc.

The State Board of Education's meeting on Nov. 7 can be viewed at www.cde.ca.gov/be.