Budget and Policy Priorities

May 4, 2021

The Hon. Gavin Newsom
Governor, State of California
State Capitol, First Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Hon. Toni Atkins
Senate President pro Tempore
State California, Room 205
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Hon. Anthony Rendon
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol, Room 219
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: School Year 2021-2022 Budget and Policy Priorities

Dear Governor Newsom, Senate pro Tem Atkins and Assembly Speaker Rendon:

The California Association of Suburban School Districts (CALSSD) appreciates the opportunity to provide comments as more schools re-open and plan for school year 2021-22. Education system leaders and communities look forward to more students returning for in-person instruction, acceleration of learning and supporting social emotional and mental health and wellness of students. Suburban schools are eager to look to the future, not the past, to re-envision the education system to build more equitable learning environments.[i]

Suburban schools serve a diverse student population of 2.6 million students in California. A recent report from the California Education Lab highlights the diversity of students across suburban districts in California: 52% of students are Latinx, 24% are White, 10% are Asian American, 5% are Black or African American, 4% are multi-racial and 3% are Pacific islander or Filipino. As further noted in the report: Almost half of suburban districts serve a student body where more than 55% of students are included in at least one of the state’s unduplicated student subgroups resulting in additional state funding to support student needs. But the needs of students and thus the funding needs of districts, even in suburban districts, are often greater. In one-quarter of suburban districts, nearly 75% of all students are eligible for free and reduced-price meals, and in 15% of suburban districts the rates of student homelessness are more than double than the statewide rate, indicating financial hardship which may negatively impact student learning. In about 10% of suburban districts, more than one-third of students are English Learners who may require extensive instructional resources. Finally, across California suburban districts, there are great differences in students’ performance on standardized assessments, high school course-taking patterns, and college enrollment.[ii]

Given the diversity of students and their experiences during the pandemic, schools are engaging parents and students as they plan instructional programs for the 2021-22 school year. As they do so, districts urge state policymakers to act swiftly to clarify guidance and requirements related to physical distancing and safety mitigation measures, including those for students and for employees. This will affect logistics and scheduling for schools to accommodate all students for full five day in-person learning.

A number of suburban districts offered in-person instruction throughout 2020 and the default going forward is in-person, but there continue to be families who want a virtual learning option. Many schools and districts are expanding independent study options to meet capacity needs for these students. We have had informal estimates of up to 20% of families in some districts that may chose virtual learning in summer 2021 and/or the 2021-22 school year.

As the May Revision details are finalized, CALSSD also provides budget and fiscal policy recommendations. State revenues continue to be strong and outpace projections; the following are prudent state investments that will address pressing budget and policy challenges facing local educational agencies:

  • Pay off deferrals.
  • Provide relief from the employer pension rate increases.
  • Use additional state or federal funds for Special Education. CALSSD supports funding for special education services for preschool age children and to meet the additional funding necessary for compensatory education services related to COVID-19.
  • Increase the LCFF Base Grant. As noted above, suburban districts are diverse. Some receive concentration funds, some are on the cusp and go back and forth, some have lower rates of Unduplicated Pupils. They all see a need to increase the Base Grant amount so they can provide a quality core program to all students. This is especially important at the present time. Because of the use of Title 1 formula for allocation of federal COVID-19 relief, a number of suburban schools are receiving a smaller share, and this compounds their concern over the LCFF Base Grant amount. All districts have had to address costs and spend funds on COVID-19 related safety procedures such as PPE, physical distancing, cleaning, HVAC, and technology needs.
  • Fund additional student mental health and social emotional learning efforts including expansion of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) training on school level implementation.
  • Funding for professional development for teachers and other school staff. Opportunities for professional learning and collaboration among educators and other school staff is more important as schools address learning acceleration and the return to in-person instruction.
  • Teacher recruitment and retention continues to be a challenge. School districts have seen an increase in retirements during the pandemic, exacerbating the need for recruitment and retention support. The issues of equity and diversity have heightened schools’ efforts to recruit and retain a more diverse workforce.

CALSSD has also identified five policy issues to support the restart of schools in the 2021-22 school year:

  • Provide a hold harmless in 2021-22 for unduplicated pupil counts. During the pandemic, districts actively sought to reach families to get information on unduplicated pupil status because the traditional methods were difficult to implement while students (and parents) were not on campuses. The changes in nutrition program rules also meant that families were not required to complete meal applications which have been one the ways schools obtain information on family income status.
  • Adopt policy measures to address the challenge of finding substitute teachers for summer and 2021-22 school year. CALSSD recommends the state exempt retired teachers from the 180 separation from service requirement. In March 2020, PERS retirees were exempted from the separation from service requirement in order to meet the need to fill positions related to COVID-19 response and recovery. A similar need exists now to ensure students have experienced, credentialed teachers as they return to in-person instruction in the post-pandemic school year.
  • Close the Digital Divide. CALSSD appreciates the leadership from state policymakers to get internet connectivity and devices for students. While progress has been made, there remain areas of the state where connectivity is still not available and households that still lack reliable, affordable internet at the speeds necessary for educational purposes.
  • Routine Restricted Maintenance Account calculation. CALSSD urges the legislature to adopt language excluding the federal COVID-19 relief and any pension rate buy down from the total amount on which districts calculate the 3% RRMA. This was done in past years and we urge a consistent approach to these special allocations and the pass-through amounts on pension rates.
  •  Address the great increase in unemployment insurance rates. Districts report increases in these rates of significant percentages.

Thank you for the opportunity to share the recommendations of suburban district leaders. If we can be of further assistance, please contact us via e-mail at andrea@ballfrostgroup.com and jeff@ballfrostgroup.com.

Sincerely,


Andrea Ball
Legislative Advocate
California Association of Suburban School Districts


Jeffrey Frost
Legislative Advocate
California Association of Suburban School Districts


[1] Distance Learning Curriculum and Instructional Guidance Project Draft (State Board of Education May Agenda Item 2, Attachment 1) (p. 9)

[1] Reed, S. (2021, March). Beyond the White Picket Fence:  A Picture of Suburban Schools in California. (p. 5; p. 14)

 

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California Association of Suburban School Districts Statement on School Reopening Proposal

For Immediate Release
March 1, 2021

California Association of Suburban School Districts Statement on School Reopening Proposal

Sacramento – The California Association of Suburban School Districts (CALSSD), a statewide coalition of suburban districts with more than 500,000 students in TK-12, issued the following statement on the school reopening proposal announced today by Governor Newsom and legislative leaders Senate President pro Tempore Atkins and Assembly Speaker Rendon:

Modesto City Schools Superintendent Sara Noguchi, Ed.D., lead district for CALSSD said:

“We’re pleased to see state leadership in moving legislation to support schools to offer in-person instruction and to accelerate student learning, especially for students in greatest need. Suburban school districts want to return to in-person teaching and learning while protecting student and staff health. We have been working with stakeholders to bring more students back to schools and to provide new supports that will advance the academic and social-emotional learning of our students. These resources are critical to these efforts.”

The California Association of Suburban School Districts (CALSSD) advocates for policies and funding to improve education and opportunities for students in suburban schools, member districts include:

Carlsbad Unified School District * Compton Unified School District * El Dorado Union High School District * Elk Grove Unified School District *Folsom Cordova Unified School District * Fremont Union High School District *Glendale Unified School District * Irvine Unified School District * Laguna Beach Unified School District * Las Virgenes Unified School District * Madera Unified School District * Modesto City Schools * Oceanside Unified School District * Ontario-Montclair School District * Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District * Poway Unified School District * Rocklin Unified School District * Roseville City School District Rowland Unified School District * San Juan Unified School District * Santa Barbara Unified School District * Santa Clara Unified School District * Tustin Unified School District * Vista Unified School District

For more information, contact Andrea Ball at andrea@ballfrostgroup.com

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California Association of Suburban School Districts joins in coalition commenting on latest legislative proposal for In-Person Instruction and Student Learning Grants

For Immediate Release
February 21, 2021

California Association of Suburban School Districts joins in coalition commenting on latest legislative proposal for In-Person Instruction and Student Learning Grants

Sacramento – The California Association of Suburban School Districts (CALSSD), a statewide coalition of districts that represents districts with more than 500,000 students in TK-12 suburban schools, joined other education associations, school districts and county offices of education to send Legislative leaders comments on SB/AB 86, the latest legislative proposal on school reopening for in-person instruction and addressing learning loss experienced by students during distance learning.

In a coalition letter sent to Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and members of the California Legislature, education system leaders recognized the continued efforts to bring more students back to school campuses for in-person instruction and to support student learning and urged changes to the legislation so that it does not create additional barriers to reopening schools.

In additional comments, Modesto City Schools Superintendent Sara Noguchi, Ed.D., and lead district for CALSSD said:

“We appreciate the continued efforts by policymakers and the momentum to get more students back for in-person instruction. We’re joining education colleagues in sending this letter to ensure that should the bill advance, it doesn’t create hurdles to local efforts to reopen schools and accelerate student learning.”

Read the letter here.

The California Association of Suburban School Districts (CALSSD) advocates for policies and funding to improve education and opportunities for students in suburban schools, member districts include:

Carlsbad Unified School District * Compton Unified School District * El Dorado Union High School District * Elk Grove Unified School District *Folsom Cordova Unified School District * Fremont Union High School District * Glendale Unified School District * Irvine Unified School District * Laguna Beach Unified School District * Las Virgenes Unified School District * Madera Unified School District * Modesto City Schools * Oceanside Unified School District * Ontario-Montclair School District * Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District * Poway Unified School District * Rocklin Unified School District * Roseville City School District Rowland Unified School District * San Juan Unified School District * Santa Barbara Unified School District * Santa Clara Unified School District * Tustin Unified School District * Vista Unified School District

For more information, contact Andrea Ball at andrea@ballfrostgroup.com

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California Association of Suburban School Districts Letter on School Reopening & Accelerating Student Learning

The Honorable Gavin Newsom
Governor, State of California
State Capitol, First Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Hon. Toni Atkins
Senate President pro Tempore
State California, Room 205
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Hon. Anthony Rendon
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol, CA 95814

Re: Reopening Schools for In-Person Instruction and Accelerating Learning

Dear Governor Newsom, Senate pro Tem Atkins and Assembly Speaker Rendon:

The California Association of Suburban School Districts (CALSSD) appreciates the opportunity to provide comments to advance reopening of schools for in-person instruction and to support student learning acceleration. CALSSD represents districts across the state with a diverse student population of more than half a million TK-12 students. Since the beginning of the pandemic and over the course of the last eleven months, suburban schools have worked ceaselessly on COVID-19 response and recovery to provide instruction and learning, nutrition services and child care that is vital to students, families, staff, and our communities. We urge you to act soon to allocate funds to districts to support ongoing opening plans and so that educators, students, and families can plan for the remainder of this school year, summer 2021 and the 2021-22 school year.

The impact of the pandemic and the shift to remote learning has affected communities across the state. Student learning, social-emotional and mental well-being have been extremely impacted. This is especially the case in in those communities hit disproportionately by COVID-19 — communities of color, and low-income communities. This makes the reopening conversation more time sensitive than ever before and why statewide guidance, standards and action are critical.

Many suburban school districts have been providing small group support, some were able to open schools under the prior elementary waiver process and/or because their county moved into a less-severe Tier. The recent slowing in COVID-19 rates provides more opportunities for in-person programs to open soon. School system leaders are eager to open for in-person instruction and to do so with safety and mitigation procedures in place. As more schools plan to open and expand in-person instruction and to think about the coming summer and fall, we provide the following recommendations:

Clear standards and requirements for in-person instruction based on evidence and experience.

  • Provide clear, consistent guidelines, based on evidence and the experience of those schools that have been providing in-person instruction for safety mitigation and when schools reopen.
  • The January 14, 2021 guidance provides that elementary schools can reopen when COVID-19 adjusted case rates are 25 per 100,000 with comprehensive safety and mitigation practices and equipment in place. Schools in California that have been open for in-person instruction without causing outbreaks demonstrate soundness of this approach.
  • Establish a statewide standard by which schools will reopen so that it does not have to be determined in each school district. The current system creates a patchwork of conditions under which each district must assess public health conditions and craft individual reopening plans. With more than 1000 school districts in the state, this approach lacks consistency and equity to our students.
  • Clarify that physical distancing for students may be less than 6 feet, as was provided under earlier guidance. Again, schools that have been open under the earlier state guidance which used “6 feet as practicable” for student distance, have shown it can work. We agree that adults should continue at the 6 feet physical distance.

Expedite Access but Don’t Predicate Reopening on Vaccines

  • We appreciate leadership of the state in advocating for additional supplies and attempts to improve vaccine distribution and administration systems, but vaccinations should not be a requirement for school opening.
  • The changes in vaccine priorities and lack of transparent information on how and when those working in education will be vaccinated has created confusion. While some health agencies have started to vaccinate educators, it has been left to local agencies to set priorities and lack of consistent information has caused frustration. School system leaders must be able to communicate with confidence to their communities the plans and access for vaccines.
  • We support access for educators and urge the state to do all it can to increase supply, but it should not be a condition for opening.

COVID-19 Testing Requirements Based on Science and in Conjunction with Local Health Agencies

  • The testing frequencies outlined in the latest guidance from CDPH, would require weekly on-site testing of staff and students, much greater frequency, and numbers than in earlier guidance. The logistics — demands on space, facilities, staff, and funds are beyond the proposed amount of funding in the Governor’s proposal. Many districts would not have capacity to sustain this high frequency.
  • We urge the state to revise these requirements.

Early Action on Expanded and Accelerated Learning Funds

School system leaders are planning the remainder of this school year, for summer 2021 and the next school year at the same time they are working on reopening. We urge state leaders to act on the allocation of funds to local educational agencies so that expanded academic, social emotional and other support services and programs can be crafted.

  • Funding should be allocated to all districts based on Local Control Funding Formula and consideration should be given to increasing the LCFF base funding levels given the need for expenditures on items where the impacts are on all students and staff and are unrelated to supplemental and concentration grant factors.
  • Per the recommendation by the Legislative Analyst Office, schools should have multiple years to expend these funds.
  • Schools are looking at a variety of approaches, engaging staff, students, and families in these efforts. Some of the key features being considered:
    • Small cohorts and ratios of teacher to students; co-teaching models
    • Incorporate student voices in planning programs and services
    • Rethink traditional summer school: Focus on social-emotional learning and academic learning; offer non-traditional experiences such as outdoor camps
    • Professional learning opportunities for teachers
    • Stipends for teachers and staff

Thank you again for your leadership on these critically important issues. If we can be of further assistance, please contact us via e-mail at andrea@ballfrostgroup.com and jeff@ballfrostgroup.com.

Sincerely,

 

Andrea Ball
Legislative Advocate
California Association of Suburban School Districts

 

Jeffrey Frost
Legislative Advocate
California Association of Suburban School Districts

Copy:
Hon. Tony Thurmond, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Hon. Nancy Skinner, Chair Senate Budget Committee
Hon. Jim Nielsen, Vice Chair Senate Budget Committee
Hon. Connie Leyva, Chair Senate Education Committee
Hon. Scott Wilk, Vice Chair Senate Education Committee
Hon. John Laird, Chair, Senate Budget Subcommittee #1
Hon. Phil Ting, Chair Assembly Budget Committee
Hon. Vince Fong, Vice Chair, Assembly Budget Committee
Hon. Patrick O’Donnell, Chair Assembly Education Committee
Hon. Kevin Kiley, Vice Chair Assembly Education Committee
Hon. Kevin McCarty, Chair Assembly Budget Subcommittee #2
Ana Matosantos, Cabinet Secretary, Office of the Governor
Ben Chida, Chief Deputy Cabinet Secretary, Office of the Governor
Jim DeBoo, Executive Secretary, Office of the Governor
Keely Bosler, Director, California Department of Finance
Brooks Allen, Executive Director State Board of Education
Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary California Health and Human Services Agency
Dr. Naomi Bardach, Safe Schools for All Team, California Health & Human Services Agency
Paula Villescaz, Assistant Secretary, California Health & Human Services Agency
Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, State Public Health Officer, California Department of Public Health
Dr. Erica Pan, California Department of Public Health

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California Suburban School Districts React to Governor Newsom’s Proposed Budget

For Immediate Release
January 8, 2021

 

California Suburban School Districts React to Governor Newsom’s Proposed Budget

Sacramento – On behalf of the California Association of Suburban School Districts (CALSSD), the following school district leaders offered reaction to Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget released today.

“The Governor’s school reopening grant plan is well-intentioned but poses significant implementation challenges. We look forward to examining the details of the Governor’s proposed budget and learning more about how the vaccination and school reopening plans are intended to be implemented, given that the costs of taking on new health-related responsibilities will be extraordinarily high. The requirement for new collective bargaining agreements in particular makes participation in this grant program a challenge. Districts and labor partners spent significant time and effort reaching agreements earlier this year. The grant program includes new criteria, higher COVID-19 rates and real increases in COVID-19 testing. We look forward to the state accelerating vaccinations for those working in our schools in order to return to in-person learning as quickly as possible while protecting the health of our students, staff, and communities.”

Dr. Sara Noguchi, Ed.D., Superintendent Modesto City Schools

 

“We appreciate the Governor’s focus on providing additional funding for mental health services, summer school and targeted learning loss efforts. Meeting the needs of students that have suffered learning loss as a result of school closures and the dramatic reduction to in-person learning is a top priority at each district in the California Association of Suburban School Districts.

“Additionally, we are glad that the Governor proposed $250 million to support teacher and staff recruitment. Even before the COVID crisis, California was facing a serious teacher and staff shortage. Concerns about COVID-19 risks, the stresses of shifting to distance learning, and the aging of our teacher population are expected to result in a huge bubble of teacher retirements. Ensuring that our schools are staffed with talented educators is fundamental to our mission of preparing all students for successful futures.”

Ron Carruth, Superintendent El Dorado Union High School District

 

“We applaud Governor Newsom for proposing $4.6 billion for extended learning time and additional interventions to address learning loss and accelerate learning for students who have fallen behind. We encourage the Governor and the Legislature to approve flexible use of these funds so districts can tailor the interventions most effectively to address local priorities.

“We are also happy to see the Governor’s proposal to provide additional funding for student mental health and especially the funding to schools to promote partnerships and augment grants between school and community mental health services are an important investment in our students’ overall well-being and social and emotional growth and development. This increased investment at a time that many of our students are facing extraordinary stress and anxiety will be money well spent.”

James Hammond, the Superintendent of Ontario-Montclair School District

 

“Given the impact of the pandemic on Californian’s health and to our economy, we are relieved that state revenues are in better shape than expected when the current budget was enacted and pleased to see the Governor proposed $85.8 billion to fund public education. However, schools are facing extraordinary challenges in meeting student and community needs: addressing student learning loss, revamping school facilities and practices to allow for the safe return to in-person instruction, and new public health responsibilities related to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

Meeting the needs of students that have suffered learning loss as a result of school closures and the shift to distance learning is a top priority at each district in the California Association of Suburban School Districts.”

Dr. Armina Gharpetian, Board President, Glendale Unified School District

 

The California Association of Suburban School Districts (CALSSD) is a statewide coalition of districts that advocates for policies and funding to improve education for students in suburban schools.

Member districts include:

Carlsbad Unified School District * El Dorado Union High School District * Elk Grove Unified School District * Folsom Cordova Unified School District * Fremont Union High School District * Glendale Unified School * District Irvine Unified School District * Laguna Beach Unified School District * Las Virgenes Unified School * District Madera Unified School District * Modesto City Schools * Oceanside Unified School District * Ontario-Montclair School District * Palo Alto Unified School District * Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District * Poway Unified School District * Rocklin Unified School District * Roseville City School District * Rowland Unified School District * San Juan Unified School District * Santa Barbara Unified School District * Santa Clara Unified School District * Tustin Unified School District * Vista Unified School District

Modesto City Schools, Dr. Sara Noguchi, EdD Superintendent, serves as the Lead District for CALSSD

For more information, contact Andrea Ball at andrea@ballfrostgroup.com

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Coalition Support of Early Action to Eliminate K-14 Deferrals

December 23, 2020

The Honorable Toni G. Atkins
Senate President pro Tempore
State Capitol, Room 205
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Honorable Anthony Rendon
Speaker of the Assembly
State Capitol, Room 219
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: Early Action to Eliminate K-14 Deferrals

Dear Pro Tempore Atkins and Speaker Rendon:

The undersigned K-14 education organizations support early action to eliminate the $12.5 billion in current year deferrals and provide $900 million, 2.31 percent, in a statutory cost-of-living adjustment.

The Budget Act of 2020 included $1.9 billion of Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) apportionment deferrals in 2019-20, growing to $11 billion LCFF apportionment deferrals in 2020-21. These deferrals allowed LCFF funding to remain at 2019-20 levels in both fiscal years, but suspended the statutory LCFF cost-of-living adjustment in 2020-21. While the budget did not impose cuts, the large payment deferrals require districts to rely heavily on reserves and/or short-term borrowing and the costs associated to address cash flow issues. These challenges and additional borrowing costs could be mitigated with the elimination of the current year deferrals.

While the most recent budget news from the Legislative Analyst’s Office 2021-22 Fiscal Outlook and recent cash flow reports from the Department of Finance are encouraging, it is unclear whether the economic performance is sustainable for the medium or long term. The higher than projected revenue numbers are largely due to the resilience of the stock market and the strong earnings for California’s high net worth residents — a group that provides about a third of all the state’s tax revenue. High unemployment in California — among the nation’s highest at 8.2 percent — has been balanced by robust revenue from personal income taxes and capital gains, which increased by 22 percent or $11 billion in Quarter 1 and the first portion of Q2. A sharp drop in the stock market could quickly cloud the unexpectedly sunny forecast.

Eliminating the deferrals will improve cash flow for schools and community colleges, thereby reducing the need for internal or external borrowing while also removing future pressure on Proposition 98 funding. Further, it allows the legislature more options to address economic down turns by replenishing the tools in its tool kit (such as deferrals) as this COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve.

For these reasons, on behalf of our students, schools, and community colleges, we urge the legislature to take early action to eliminate current year deferrals and provide a statutory cost-of-living adjustment.

Sincerely,

Carol Kocivar Legislative Advocate California State PTA
Pamela E. Gibbs, J.D. Executive Director, Governmental Relations Los Angeles County Office of Education
Michael Hulsizer Chief Deputy for Governmental Affairs Kern County Superintendent of Schools
Jeffrey A. Vaca Chief Governmental Relations Officer Office of the Riverside County Superintendent of Schools
Andrea Ball Legislative Advocate Orange County Department of Education
Amanda M. Dickey, Esq. Director III – Government Relations Santa Clara County Office of Education
Caitlin Jung Legislative Counsel School Employers Association of California
Tim Taylor Executive Director Small School Districts’ Association

cc: The Honorable Gavin Newsom
Kimberly Rodriguez, Office of Senator Toni Atkins
Megan Baier, Office of Senator Toni Atkins
Misty Fuesahrens, Office of Assembly Member Rendon
Monica Henestroza, Office of Assembly Member Rendon
Joe Steppenshaw, Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee
Elisa Wynne, Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee
Christian Griffith, Assembly Budget Committee
Erin Gabel, Assembly Budget Committee
Keely Bosler, Department of Finance
Jeff Bell, Department of Finance
Jessica Holmes, Department of Finance

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