Gov. Brown cites 51 percent increase in public education spending

Gov. Jerry Brown delivers the State of the State address

Gov. Jerry Brown delivers the State of the State address

In case you were otherwise occupied yesterday when Gov. Jerry Brown was delivering his State of the State address, here’s what he had to say about education.

With respect to education, the strong economic recovery and the passage of Proposition 30 has allowed us to increase spending on public schools and community colleges from a low of $47.3 billion in 2011, to $71.6 billion this budget year. That is a 51 percent increase in overall spending, with significant sums allocated under the Local Control Formula to provide for the unique challenges that face low-income students, English learners and those in foster care.

This pattern of educational spending reverses the historic practice of assuming that all students encounter similar circumstances. They do not. The Local Control Formula, now in its fourth year, recognizes this fact with extra funding to enable educators to overcome the barriers that confront non-English speaking families and those with low and very modest incomes.

I am proud of how California has led the country in the way it is returning control to local school districts. For the last two decades, there has been a national movement to micromanage teachers from afar, through increasingly minute and prescriptive state and federal regulations. California successfully fought that movement and has now changed its overly intrusive, test-heavy state control to a true system of local accountability.

Brown signs high school exit test waiver, allowing 5,000 to graduate

Gov Jerry Brown LAUSD

Gov. Jerry Brown

Governor Jerry Brown today signed Senate Bill 725 into law, allowing close to 5,000 high school seniors across the state to graduate without passing a now-cancelled high school exit exam.

The governor signed the bill without comment, his office said.

Brown’s signature brings to a close a problem that began in May, when the California Department of Education suspended administration of the California High School Edit Examination (CAHSEE), which was to have taken place in July.

“Students who’ve been accepted into college should not be prevented from starting class this fall because of a test cancellation they could not control,” said Deborah Hoffman, Brown’s press secretary. The Governor signed the bill, she added, “to ensure these students begin their college careers.”

Education officials cancelled the July test in part because state lawmakers were considering whether to continue using the test as a graduate requirement even though it is not aligned with material being taught under new Common Core standards.

The cancellation left thousands of high school seniors in limbo, unable to graduate and move on to college. The number included 492 seniors in LA Unified.

The University of California and California State University had agreed to enroll students who had qualified for admission but had not passed the exam because they couldn’t take it. However many other colleges and universities had not.

The exam assessed students’ grade-level competency in the state content standards for reading, writing and math.

CA lawmakers retooling bill to help CAHSEE-less students graduate

GRADUATION CAHSEEState politicians and educators are scrambling to cope with the fallout after the abrupt cancelation of an exam by the California Department of Education left over 5,000 high school students across the state — 492 of them in LA Unified –unable to graduate, despite having completed all other necessary course work.

The California High School Exit Exam, known as the CAHSEE, was required for students graduating in 2015 and before. It was meant to test students’ mastery of English and mathematics.

With the introduction of the new Common Core curriculum, the exam no longer tested what students were to have learned, so “the $11 million-a-year contract to administer the test was not renewed, and therefore the July exam was not offered as in past years,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a statement.

Unfortunately for those students across California who had counted on taking the July test to graduate, they were left with no possibility of completing their high school graduation requirements. Many had been accepted into colleges but would have been unable to attend because they hadn’t taken the final test.

Politicians piled on to condemn the decision. State Attorney General Kamala Harris was especially harsh.

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Seven education bills await action by Gov. Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown

Seven education bills are currently awaiting the signature or veto of Gov. Jerry Brown – and before too many more stack up, we thought a review was in order.

For more check out Edsource’s EdTracker, a tool that follows the ins and outs of education legislation in Sacramento.

“Willful defiance” bill
AB 420
 would limit the authority of a superintendent of a school district and a principal to suspend or expel a student for the act of “willful defiance.” It is meant to curb the number of suspensions and expulsions in the state for what critics say is a vaguely-defined infraction.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California is the bill’s sponsor and says the “willful defiance” infraction “disproportionately affects students of color, LGBTQ students, and students with disabilities,” according to the group’s website. Brown vetoed an earlier version of the bill, saying, “I cannot support limiting the authority of local school leaders,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

If passed, the bill would be a moot point for LA Unified, which in 2013 became the first school district in the state to ban defiance as grounds for suspension, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Bill to mandate kindergarten attendance
AB 1444 would make kindergarten attendance mandatory in the state. Currently, kindergarten is optional, but students starting in the 2016-17 school year must have completed one year of kindergarten before entering first grade if the bill becomes law. The bill is sponsored by the California Teacher’s Association (CTA).

A posting on the CTA’s website states: “CTA believes in providing students with a quality education that begins the very moment they get to our schools. Making kindergarten mandatory is critical so that all children can be better prepared for career or college by the 12th grade.”

Other groups, such as the Private & Home Educators of California, oppose the bill, saying it takes away a level of parental rights. A posting on the group’s website states: “Advocates of extending government control of all children from birth will be able to use passage of AB 1444 as an incremental step toward establishing seamless, cradle-to-grave government-controlled education and development programs.” Continue reading

Brown’s Vergara appeal not so hard to understand


Governor Jerry Brown

While editorial boards at most of California’s major newspapers all reacted favorably to Judge Rolf Treu’s ruling in Vergara vs. California, and a USC poll showed that a strong majority of California voters oppose the state’s tenure and layoff policies for public school teachers that the court ruling struck down, Gov. Jerry Brown nonetheless appealed the decision.

Was it so surprising that he did?

Not necessarily, from the point of view of his campaign contributions for reelection.

Teacher unions, including those who joined Vergara as defendants, have been supportive of Brown’s effort to win another four-year term.

The records show that they contributed nearly $114,000 to his campaign this year, led by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), a national union, and the California Teachers Association (CTA), each of which gave him $54,400 early in the year. The amount represents a maximum-allowed contribution of $27,200 for the primary and the the general election.

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A few words on public education from Governor Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown

In his State of the State address today, Gov. Jerry Brown spent a few minutes talking about public education in California. Here’s what he had to say:

“Last year, I spoke of the principle of subsidiarity, a rather clunky word that nevertheless points to a profoundly important principle, namely that in our federal system there are separate layers of government, each with its own distinct responsibilities. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a “central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level.”

 No better example of this can be found than in your enactment last year of the Local Control Funding Formula. This was a major breakthrough in the way funds are allocated to California’s schools so that our laws explicitly recognize the difficult problems faced by low-income families and those whose first language is other than English. As a result, those with less are going to receive more and that is good for all of us.

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Just In: CA Ballot Initiative to Target Sex Abusers in Schools

imgres-1A new proposed statewide ballot initiative that would allow school districts to fire employees accused of abusing children or selling drugs to children has been submitted for certification and could go before voters a year from now.

LA School Report has learned that the initiative, called “Stop Child Molesters, Sexual Abusers, and Drug Dealers from Working in California Schools Act,” was submitted to state officials by a Sacramento law firm that specializes in campaign and election law — Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, LLP.

The proposed initiative contends that state laws “do not enable school districts to expeditiously and permanently protect innocent students and staff from school employees who perpetrate acts of child molestation, sexual abuse, drug dealing, and other egregious misconduct.”

The measure was filed on Tuesday through a letter to the state Attorney General’s office and it comes just weeks after Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed AB 375, a bill intended to streamline the teacher dismissal process. AB 375, in part, grew out of an earlier bill from Senator Alex Padilla of Los Angeles, which was introduced in the wake of the Miramonte Elementary school sexual abuse scandal but died in the legislature last year.

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Anger, Frustration Evident as LAUSD Officials Meet Community

Board member Marguerite LaMotte: 'We're as angry as you are.'

Board member Marguerite LaMotte: ‘We’re as angry as you are.’

One parent wanted more counselors. Another wanted more security personnel. A student came forward with a friend and said, “You’re spending all that money on iPads. We’d prefer you spend it on nurses and librarians and can you please fix the bathrooms.”

This was Tuesday night, in the auditorium of Burroughs Middle School in Hancock Park. Parents, students and teachers took their concerns to a microphone, suggesting ways to slice up a $7 billion budget that includes $230 million in new revenue from Prop 30 taxes. District officials and three LA Unified Board members were there to listen.

It was democracy in action, ordinary citizens speaking to power, as part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula plan for getting districts more money. But it was sad, too, as everybody seemed to know there is only so much a district can do and so many demands for so many needs.

“A lot of anger, a lot of frustration, the reality of six years of non-stop keeping schools open and everything running with fewer and fewer resources,” Megan Reilly, the district’s chief financial officer, said in an interview yesterday.

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Gov. Brown’s Veto Leaves Teacher Dismissal in Limbo*

Assembly member Joan Buchanan, left, and State Senator Alex Padilla, right

Assembly member Joan Buchanan, left, and State Senator Alex Padilla, right

Governor Jerry Brown’s veto of AB 375, a bill that would have amended California’s teacher dismissal process, doesn’t mean the effort is dead.

“The governor still wants to do something,” LA Unified’s chief lobbyist, Edgar Zazueta, told LA School Report. “I do see there will be one, if not several, efforts to do this next year. Hopefully we’re able to find somewhere in the middle, where more stakeholders can embrace final product.”

Zazueta added that Brown “always wants to make sure that all the stakeholders are on board. With 375, it was unbalanced. None of the folks who do dismissals were part of process.”

Gloria Romero, who just left California Democrats for Education Reform to start her own organization, the Foundation for Parent Empowerment, also sees a pathway forward, even if it remains uncertain who’s leading the effort.

“The stars are aligned,” she said. “There will be a very bright public spotlight on this. The legislature will have to act. The question is, who carries it this time?”

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Brown Facing Pressure to Veto ‘Flawed’ Teacher Dismissal Bill

Gov. Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown

Governor Jerry Brown is facing rising opposition to a bill designed to make it easier to fire teachers accused of abusing students. Critics say it doesn’t, and that could make it harder for him to justify signing it into law. The deadline for consideration is Sunday.

Over the last few weeks, school district superintendents, education groups and newspaper editorial boards across the state have expressed their concerns, pointing out what they perceive as numerous shortcomings in the measure, AB 375, authored by Joan Buchanan, a Bay Area Democrat.

Richard Carranza, Superintendent of San Francisco Unified, wrote in SF Gate, “This bill is a classic case of good intentions to protect student safety gone awry” and pleaded with the governor to veto the bill.

In a commentary for the Modesto Bee, Cindy Marks, President of the California School Boards Association, called AB 375 “deeply flawed,” saying, “I’m unaware of any school board or superintendent who has taken a position in support of the bill. It appears no one who has investigated and removed a teacher believes AB 375 is good for schools.”

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Brown Signs AB 484, Ending Old Standardized Tests in California*

Via Governor Jerry Brown's twitter feed

Via Governor Jerry Brown’s twitter feed

The old California Standardized Tests are a thing of the past.

Governor Jerry Brown just signed Assembly Bill 484, which immediately suspends the old tests and funds a trial run this year of the new Smarter Balanced Assessments, which will be taken on computers and are aligned with the new Common Core curriculum.

“I’ve said from the beginning, California needs tests that measure how ready our students are for the challenges of a changing world,” State Superintendent Tom Torlakson said in a statement.

A number of groups, including Ed Voice, Educators 4 Excellence, Teach Plus, and Parent Revolution, had urged Brown to veto the new law on the grounds that it would leave school districts with a year of missing test data, which is often used to gauge the effectiveness of teachers, administrators and schools.

“At this critical juncture in our transition to Common Core, the public needs a thoughtful, rational middle approach that both gives teachers, students and parents space to adapt to new standards, and also maintains transparency for all our stakeholders,” Ama Nyamekye, executive director of Educators 4 Excellence, said in a statement. Unfortunately, AB 484 does not deliver on this important second task. By signing this bill, Governor Brown has created a black hole of information for students, parents and teachers.”

Superintendent John Deasy had also been deeply critical of the bill, on the grounds that it only funded either the math or English parts of the new Smarter Balanced Assessments. Deasy had been urging lawmakers to fund both tests.

Deasy now says that LAUSD will cover the costs of the test that the state doesn’t pay for and that he will try to find a way to use the Smarter Balanced testing data to gauge student performance.

*This adds statement from Educators 4 Excellence.

Previous posts: Coalition Calls on Gov. Brown to Veto Testing Bill, AB 484; CA Has a Plan for Using Test Scores — Even With No Tests (Updated); Superintendent Deasy Not Happy With Latest Testing BillCalifornia Could Face Year With No Meaningful Testing Data

Local Groups to LA Unified Board: Let Schools Decide Spending

LCFFA broad coalition of more than 40 community and advocacy groups is jumping into LA Unified’s prolonged spending debate, urging the board to allow individual schools, rather than centralized administrators, to decide how to spend the billions of dollars coming into the district from Gov. Jerry Brown‘s Local Control Funding Formula program.

Organized by the United Way under the acronym CLASS — Communities for Los Angeles School Success — the coalition sent a letter Friday to board President Richard Vladovic, with copies to his six colleagues, urging him to seek input from teachers, administrators and students and to give them more control over spending priorities.

“Our hope is that the final adopted budgets will truly empower local communities to make decisions that meet their needs,” said the letter, a copy of which was given to LA School Report.

The coalition, which includes the Los Angeles Urban League, Teach Plus, Alliance for a Better Community and Educators4Excellence, expressed particular concern for underserved students, those whom the LCFF initiative was designed to help most — English learners, children from foster homes and students from low-income families.

Ryan Smith of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and one of the organizers of the coalition, said that Vladovic has so far ignored efforts by CLASS to discuss local concerns and spending plans.

“It’s important for us that the district listen to community groups and adopt what they have to say,” said in an interview with LA School Report. “If not, then we have a problem.”

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CA Has a Plan for Using Test Scores — Even With No Tests (Updated)

Gov. Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown

While a bill awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature would end statewide testing for a year – he’s expected to sign it – state officials plan to use older test results to assure that California receives its annual Title I allocations.

To comply with federal regulations that states must provide annual test results to qualify for the money, the California Department of Education has decided to use the higher of two scores — a school’s 2012-13 API results, which were issued last month, or a three year average of the most recent APIs.

“We knew that we needed something in the law that said what are we going to do, given the fact that we won’t have English language arts and math scores for one year,” Keric Ashley, Director of Analysis, Measurement, and Accountability Reporting Division for the department of education told LA School Report.

The bill would give California school districts time to acclimate to the new Common Core State Standards curriculum and the computer-based Smarter Balanced assessments that will be used in 2015.

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Deasy, Board Plunging Back into Turbulent Budget Waters

60860834Meeting tomorrow for the second time in the new school year, the LA Unified school board will plunge back into a thorny debate over how to spend millions of new dollars flowing into the district from the state.

It might not be pretty.

Superintendent John Deasy is expected to respond to the board’s June directive to draw up a spending plan that focuses on rehiring, specifically to return the district to pre-recession school staffing levels. But Deasy’s recommendations (see powerpoint here) may not be what the board is looking for.

He is expected argue that new money should be used, instead, to close a sizable budget gap, with any leftovers going to schools with high concentrations of low-income and English learning students, and that the board’s demand to add staff and lengthen the school year could cost more than $1 billion.

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More Praise For Gov. Brown’s Funding Formula


Governor Jerry Brown pitches his formula last month in LA — UTLA president Warren Fletcher in background

Superintendent John Deasy told LA School Report that the passage of Governor Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula was “probably the most important education public policy decision in 40 years.”

“This is beyond phenomenal,” he said. “I feel great.”

The LA Times editorial page also praised Brown this morning, saying, “with his decisive and, yes, stubborn insistence on fixing what was so badly broken, Brown will have helped the state’s neediest children for decades to come.” The Local Control Funding Formula “could well become the great legacy of his administration.”

There are some strings attached to the new formula, notes SI&A Cabinet Report — including more stringent reporting requirements for groups of different kinds of students within schools (special education, low-income, etc.) — which will likely affect some LAUSD schools.

Previous posts: LA Unified Wins Big Under State Budget CompromiseBrown Soft-Sells School Formula in LADeasy Joins Governor’s Funding Formula OffensiveGov’s “Weighted” Funding Formula Will Transform LAUSD

LA Unified Wins Big Under State Budget Compromise

RB BudgetState lawmakers have reached an agreement with Governor Jerry Brown about how to overhaul state education funding that — while altered somewhat from Brown’s original proposal — will still be of substantial financial benefit to LAUSD.

“I applaud Governor Brown and our legislators for their work on the compromise announced on the Local Control Funding Formula,” said Superintendent John Deasy in a written statement.

The compromise language is designed to give more money all school districts while still making sure districts like LAUSD with a large concentration of low-income and English language learning students get a big boost.

Last month, Deasy said that the original Brown plan would hand LAUSD an extra $188 million in the first school year alone. The compromise version is expected to give the district roughly the same amount of money.

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LA Times: Better School Funding Formula from Brown

Brown at recent LA press event, with Deasy to the far right

Governor Brown speaking at recent LA press event, with Superintendent Deasy to the far right

Last week’s visit from Governor Jerry Brown in support of his proposed new funding formula garnered lots of media attention and the enthusiastic support of LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy (who’s depending on the $188 million bump in funding for LAUSD that would come from the Brown overhaul).

But Brown hasn’t yet persuaded lawmakers in Sacramento … or the LA Times editorial page: “The concept is spot on,” according to the Times, “but in this case the details matter too.” In particular, the Times thinks that the Brown formula isn’t generous enough to smaller districts with smaller numbers of poor students, creating funding gaps over time as large as $2,000 per kid between adjacent districts.

To read the full piece, go here:  Fairly funding California’s schools

Chart: At Least We’re Not in Illinois

Census Bureau via Wall Street Journal

The LA Times reported earlier this week that California has slipped another notch in public spending on K-12 education — from 23rd in 2008 to 35th in 2011 — part of a nationwide dip in spending reported by the Census Bureau.

At least we’re not in Illinois, where education funding dropped the most (7.4 percent) over the same time period. Still, particularly shocking was this tidbit: “The New York City school district spends twice as much per pupil on instructional salaries as does Los Angeles Unified.”

Things are likely to get better thanks to last year’s ballot measure to hike taxes for public education, and Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed formula revamp could make things even better for districts like LAUSD with lots of bilingual and poor students — if it’s approved.

Brown Soft-Sells School Formula in LA

Gov. Brown addresses reporters and photographers

Governor Jerry Brown continued to promote his Local Control Funding Formula proposal at a Friday morning press conference at East LA’s Humphreys Elementary.

Joining him was an All-Star cast that included LA Chamber of Commerce CEO Gary Toebben, United Way CEO Elise Buik, School Board member Bennett Kayser, former State Senator and City Council candidate Gil Cedillo, UTLA President Warren Fletcher, and LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, who (in what must be an extremely rare occurrence) introduced Fletcher to the podium as “my union president.”

The Governor presented his plan as a small but important change in how funds are allocated to districts like LA.  Deasy described its passage as a make-or-break $188 million game changer. His chief intergovernmental relations staffer noted that there were some LA-area legislators who hadn’t yet gotten behind the plan.

The Brown proposal would divert more money to school districts like LAUSD with a higher concentration of low-income students and English Language Learners.

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