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  • 03/21/2023 2:40 PM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)


    California ethnic studies classes are sparking controversy as mandate looms

    Photo of Jill Tucker

    Jill Tucker

    March 20, 2023Updated: March 20, 2023 2:12 p.m.


    Elina Kaplan, president and co-founder of Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies (right) and Lia Rensin, work on the organization’s website during a meeting at Kaplan’s Foster City home on March 3.

    Lea Suzuki/The Chronicle

    The angry emails poured into central office inboxes at San Mateo Union High School District. More than 800 missives from inside and outside the community complained about the district’s ethnic studies courses, saying the curriculum promoted left-wing dogma aimed at turning teens into angry activists.

    Superintendent Randall Booker didn’t believe that was true, but told The Chronicle the complaints stemmed from fear and misunderstanding about a course that older generations had never heard of and included topics that were taboo in public schools for decades.

    In the wake of the pushback, Booker defended the district’s ethnic studies class at a February school board meeting. He felt the class was important — not just because it’s crucial for students to learn about the past. What he was seeing too frequently in the present —  the white supremacy stickers, swastikas and the n-word on campuses and students using bigoted language on social media — alarmed him. 

    “We are fighting hate in real time,” he told the school board.

    To help quell the outrage, the district scheduled a school board study session earlier this month to delve into what is taught in ethnic studies classrooms and how to improve lesson plans. Meanwhile, officials plan to continue to roll out the course across the district.

    The controversy in San Mateo County over the purpose of ethnic studies and how to teach it is likely just a preview of battles to come across the Bay Area and the state.

    “Most of (the students) have not experienced discrimination. When you emphasize that, you are setting in their mind there is discrimination,” said parent Carrie Cavigioli, who is concerned about the ethnic studies courses in San Mateo Union High School District, saying she doesn’t want the courses to focus on who’s oppressing who.

    Cavigioli, who describes herself as ethnic Chinese, said that while discrimination exists, the courses place an “overemphasis on everything negative.”

    A new state law will require all high school students to take a semester-long course to graduate, starting with the class of 2030, but there is no mandatory curriculum, allowing the districts to develop their own approach.

    The legislation reflects research, including a 2021 Stanford University study, showing ethnic studies had a significant positive impact on student outcomes, including increased high school graduation and attendance rates, as well as an increased likelihood of enrolling in college.

    Student Adriana Bunac, a Pacifica high school senior, found the ethnic studies she took as a ninth grader enjoyable and informative.

    “I learned more about my Filipino culture in that class, and no other class has talked about my ethnicity,” she said, adding racism was also a big topic.

    “I liked that we talked about racism and how it was wrong because it taught my peers and I that we did have a voice,” she said. “After the class, more people started to use their voice and advocate for those who faced injustices.”

    Teacher Jonathan Krupp is looking forward to helping more students feel the same way when he steps into the first ethnic studies classes taught at Pacifica’s Terra Nova High School this fall.

    He’s also well aware he’ll be walking into a potential political minefield.

    “It's absolutely essential to creating a new generation of students that will be aware of what’s going on in the world,” he said. “But I can already envision some parents pushing back really, really hard, saying, ‘Don’t you dare think about turning my child into an activist.’ ”

    Teachers and administrators across the Bay Area and the country say they feel caught in the middle of a national debate on race, with the potential for protests or the loss of their jobs if they violate policies or laws about what they can say in class.

    In Florida, the law bans any class discussions on race that cause students discomfort. In Iowa, where instruction on racial issues is restricted, a recorded conversation caught the district superintendent telling a teacher it was unclear whether teachers could tell students that slavery was wrong.

    To a large degree, California has avoided the divisive conversations and restrictive laws about what teachers can say about race or racism in schools. But the ethnic studies requirement is dividing the state, with no consensus on how to teach it and to what end.

    While both sides agree that the course should focus on understanding the history of marginalized groups, that’s generally where the similarities end.

    On one side are those who see the class as a way to foster pride for young people in their identities and an appreciation for other cultures.

    On the other side are groups that believe the course should also focus on the ongoing impact of white supremacy, racism, patriarchy and other versions of oppression, while helping students to transform the world around them.

    Elina Kaplan, co-founder of the Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies, working with Lia Rensin during a meeting, said, “I think kids can learn about anything and everything. ... We are focused on ethnic studies curriculum that is free of ideological agendas, but encourages students to build bridges.”


    Lea Suzuki/The Chronicle

    Elina Kaplan co-founded Alliance for Constructive Ethnic Studies, launching battles, including one in San Mateo County, for a course she calls “constructive ethnic studies,” which means the course isn’t politicized or focused on telling students what to think, but how to critically think about racism, white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, color blindness and other race-related topics.

    “I think kids can learn about anything and everything. It’s not about what we teach, it’s how we teach,” Kaplan said. “We are focused on ethnic studies curriculum that is free of ideological agendas, but encourages students to build bridges.”

    The lifelong Democrat has also helped organize a network of similar-minded people from across the political spectrum to challenge the use of the “liberated” ethnic studies curriculum in California classrooms, which has more of a focus on oppression, racism and activism and is more like  university-level ethnic studies than what the critics say should be taught in high schools.

    Those supporting the liberated ethnic studies model fight back against Cavigioli’s perspective, saying systemic racism and white supremacy are real and students need to face it and address it in their community and across the world.

    “The purpose of Ethnic Studies is to eliminate racism and intersectional forms of oppression,” according to the Coalition for Liberated Ethnic Studies, an organization founded by teachers in 2021. “This purpose must be upheld both in and outside of the classroom.”

    The liberated ethnic studies supporters say they are the counterweight to right-wing legislators and their base.

    “Lawmakers in 42 states have introduced legislation that requires educators to lie to their students about the role of colonialism, white supremacy, and patriarchy in the history of the United States,” wrote Allyson Tintiangco-Cubales, ethnic studies professor at San Francisco State University, along with eight co-authors in a 2022 Convergence Magazine article.

    “To achieve racial justice, we must teach about racial injustice — and about the resistance and social movements that have combated these acts of violence for generations,” she said in the piece. 

    Representatives from the coalition, as well as those from the Liberated Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum Consortium, did not respond to requests for comment about critics’ concerns.

    In Orange County, where communities are already choosing their sides as they roll out ethnic studies, parent Barbie George doesn’t want her children to feel oppressed, she said.

    “I don't want my little girl to think her best friend is her enemy or her oppressor or bad in some way,” she said. 

    Such thinking aligns with many across the country who don’t want students to feel guilty or distressed by race-related coursework.

    That issue was part of the first statewide debate over how to teach ethnic studies in California as the state Board of Education in 2019 was selecting a state model curriculum for the subject. The initial draft was largely written by university ethnic studies professors and reflected the activist origin of the college-level courses founded at San Francisco State University in the late 1960s.

    A backlash was nearly immediate, with critics concerned about the pro-Palestine bent as well as what they considered left-wing dogma. A few years later, following rewrites, the final draft emphasized critical thinking and included multiple points of view.

    The curriculum, however, is only a recommendation, with districts and teachers following their own path.

    As the state requirement nears, fights continue to erupt at local levels as districts choose a curriculum and write lesson plans. In San Mateo County, Booker said the district didn’t adopt the state or liberated curriculum, but rather a version created by district teachers.

    Kaplan believes it nonetheless leans toward the “liberated” perspective, citing a lesson plan that includes asking students to expound on why color blindness — a belief that the way to end racism is to ignore racial differences — is harmful.

    Instead, she said, it should ask students to discuss perspectives on color blindness, which others say ignores systemic racism.

    Kaplan said confronting racism is an important part of ethnic studies. 

    Booker agrees, given what he continues to see happening on his campuses.

    A week ago, an antisemitic message was found in a high school boys' bathroom, Booker said, yet another distressing public display of bigotry.

    But he sees hope for the future, especially among this generation of young people learning about racism and how to address it.

    “The students are horrified. They can’t believe this is going on in 2023. They want to take action. They want to mobilize,” he said. “They’re done with this. They’ve had it with hate.”

    Reach Jill Tucker:

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    Jill Tucker

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    Jill Tucker has covered education in California for 22 years, writing stories that range from issues facing Bay Area school districts to broader national policy debates. Her work has generated changes to state law and spurred political and community action to address local needs.

    She is a frequent guest on KQED’s “Newroom" television show and "Forum" radio show. A Bay Area native, Jill earned a master’s degree in journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder and a bachelor’s degree from the UC Santa Barbara. In between, she spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in Cape Verde, West Africa.

  • 03/14/2023 11:35 AM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)

    Advocates propose an alternative to refocus budget on Black students


    MARCH 14, 2023
    A high school student listens to a classmate's presentation.

    Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to increase funding to high-poverty schools represents what critics say is a broken promise to tackle a stubborn achievement gap for Black students.

    Black in School, a coalition of Black education and civil rights groups, has come up with a counterproposal that would provide additional funding for Black students. The group says the alternative would be compatible with Proposition 209, which bans affirmative action, and the Newsom administration’s effort to hold districts and schools accountable for spending.

    Newsom’s plan, which he calls the “equity multiplier,” would send $300 million to about 800 schools with concentrated poverty. However, an EdSource analysis found those schools enroll only 6.6% of California’s Black students, which the Black in School coalition calls a “perverse outcome” for a policy they have advocated for to address the longstanding low performance of Black students statewide.

    It’s not what the advocates were seeking from Newsom, said Margaret Fortune, the president and CEO of Fortune School, a group of charter schools in Sacramento serving primarily Black students. Their plan was “an apple, and this is an orange,” she said.

    “I thought the governor dropped the ball,” said Tyrone Howard, director of the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools.

    California hasn’t shied away from taking “unapologetic” action to improve the outcomes for groups, such as English learners, he said. He worries there is a reluctance in the state to engage in any sustained effort focused on Black students, but he said “bold and customized” solutions are exactly what these students need.

    Data indicates persistent racial disparities in test scores and other metrics that the state tracks across poor and wealthy districts. Advocates say that money is critical to identifying and addressing the systemic causes.


    Critics Say Newsom’s Proposal For Low-Performing Students Fails Most Black Students

    An EdSource analysis of the wealthiest 10% of schools in the state found that 50.7% of Black students met or exceeded English test standards compared with 73.3% of white students. In math, 32.6% of Black students met or exceeded math test standards compared with 58.7% of white students.

    The differences were even starker at the state’s poorest schools. In English, 16.8% of Black students met or exceeded test standards compared with 31.7% of white students. In math, just 6.1% of Black students met or exceeded compared with 14.4% of white students.

    Complexities of the Local Control Funding Formula are complicating efforts to resolve differences between the Newsom administration’s plan and the advocates who want money more closely tied to helping Black students. The 10-year-old funding formula requires that districts measure the performance of eight racial and ethnic groups on a half-dozen metrics, including test scores, graduation rates and chronic absences, and then spend supplemental funding for “high-needs students” to create improvement plans for all low-performing groups.

    The challenge for Newsom and the Black leaders is that any funding formula the state imposes must steer clear of Proposition 209’s ban on affirmative action. Racial and ethnic groups are the only groups that are tracked that are not targeted for additional funding. The current funding formula directs extra funding to high-needs students: low-income, English learners, foster and homeless.

    Low-income students and Latinos have been able to see substantial gains in test scores under the Local Control Funding Formula, said Bruce Fuller, a professor at the Berkeley School of Education. During the same period, Black students have seen flat results, Fuller’s research into Los Angeles schools shows.


    Newsom’s Big Bet On Fixing California’s Poorest Schools And Narrowing Achievement Gaps

    “If resources and accountability have driven results with [those] groups, why wouldn’t we take the same approach with African American students and Native American students?” Fortune said.

    Newsom’s additional funding for the equity multiplier in this budget is part of a larger plan to overhaul how the state can hold districts and schools accountable for students’ performance, with particular attention to racial disparities. All districts and schools with student groups in the lowest ranking on any metric on the California School Dashboard would be required to set improvement goals and allocate funding needed to achieve them, and then measure the progress.

    Newsom would designate the “equity multiplier” schools for priority assistance from the state and provide them the additional $300 million to help the low-performing student groups. Black public school students, who number about 300,000 statewide, have persistently scored the lowest among racial and ethnic groups on the dashboard’s metrics. The Newsom administration assumed that they would be concentrated in the equity multiplier schools, which include charter and alternative county schools, but that appears not to be so. By EdSource’s analysis, they were only slightly overrepresented.

    “The accountability provisions are moving in the right direction,” said Adonai Mack, senior director of education at Children Now. “But the resources also have to be there. I don’t think we can separate the two.”

    To rectify that, the Black in School coalition proposes amending the funding formula to provide additional funding for any group not already funded that scores below the state average on any two metrics on the dashboard. The only unfunded groups tracked are racial and ethnic categories. Black and Native American students would qualify, based on this year’s dashboard results.

    Focusing extra resources to help the lowest-performing racial and ethnic groups improve their test scores would not violate Proposition 209, the advocates claim. This year Black and Native American students would benefit from this proposal, but other groups could benefit in the future, depending on their performance, Mack said.

    But Fuller said he is concerned that conservative groups wouldn’t hesitate to sue the Newsom administration for funding aimed at specific racial groups. He worries the proposal might get into trouble legally if it appears to be reverse-engineered to benefit Black students.


    Legislative Analyst Opposes Newsom’s Plan For More Funding To High-Poverty Schools

    “I sort of worry that the advocates are pooh-poohing the governor’s concern about a lawsuit,” he said. “I think that is a serious threat.”

    Newsom has skirted the issue of race in the equity multiplier by focusing on schools with high concentrations of poverty. But a recent report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office noted that these schools already receive funding targeted at high-poverty schools from both the federal and state government.

    Advocates wanted to see funding that covers all Black students — not just those who are classified as low-income, foster or homeless students who already receive additional funding from the state. Black in School estimates that an additional 81,617 Black students and 8,807 Native American students would be eligible for this funding.

    Advocates note that the Reparations Task Force headed by the state attorney general has endorsed their approach. A preliminary report this June recommended funding Black students through the state’s funding formula.

    Mack said he’s glad that California is having this conversation about the systemic problems Black students face through the Reparations Task Force, but that it’s “very wild and interesting” to see that progress on this issue has hit a wall during this budget cycle.

  • 03/10/2023 3:30 PM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)

    Biden requests $90B for Education Department in FY24 budget

    High-poverty schools and special education services would receive the largest K-12 funding portions under the plan.

    Published March 9, 2023

    Kara ArundelSenior Reporter

    Anna MerodReporter

    President Joe Biden released his FY 2024 spending plan, which includes a proposed 13.6% increase in overall funding for the U.S. Department of Education, on Thursday. Alex Wong via Getty Images

    Listen to the article7 min

    President Joe Biden released an ambitious spending plan Thursday for FY 2024 with $90 billion for the U.S. Department of Education — a 13.6% or $10.8 billion increase over current budget allocations. 

    The proposal, which needs congressional approval, aims to improve academic success, the teacher pipeline, career readiness and global engagement, according to a press call Thursday with Education Department officials. The plan’s two largest spending categories for K-12 are for high-poverty schools, with $20.5 billion for Title I, and for pre-K-12 special education services, at $16.8 billion.

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    Tackling teacher and staff shortages in K-12

    Other initiatives include $500 million for a new demonstration program to expand access to free preschool and $578 million to increase the number of school-based counselors, psychologists, social workers, and other health professionals in K-12 schools, as well as boost mental health supports in colleges.

    Two days ahead of the two-year anniversary of the passage of the American Rescue Plan, which provided the largest one-time fiscal investment in education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic with $121.9 billion in funding, Biden’s latest annual budget proposal aims to continue addressing academic recovery efforts and closing achievement gaps — particularly through the $2.2 billion increase in Title I investments.

    In a joint statement, Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, chair and vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, respectively, said they hoped to move through the budget approval process in a bipartisan manner.

    But the plan will surely meet GOP resistance on Capitol Hill as Republicans have indicated an unwillingness to increase revenue with new taxes. ”Mr. President: Washington has a spending problem, NOT a revenue problem,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., tweeted Thursday.

    Even amid a divided Congress, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a press call Thursday that it’s not time for the Education Department to lower expectations.

    “I’ve always believed every student deserves high expectations, and the same should go for Congress,” Cardona said. “We cannot scale back our aspirations for the education of our children.”

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    The budget’s $500 million proposal to fund a new initiative for districts to expand free preschool in school and community-based settings “puts universal preschool within our reach,” said Roberto Rodriguez, the Education Department’s assistant secretary for planning, evaluation and policy development, during the Thursday press call. There’s also a request to provide $13.1 billion — an increase of $1.1 billion — for Head Start’s early education services for young children from low-income families.

    “We know there is no greater area in education that returns on investment than investing in early childhood education,” Rodriguez said. “This new investment builds on the president’s plan for a federal-state partnership that would support universal free preschool across the country.” 

    Spending priorities

    The budget proposal would also help students with disabilities by providing a 17% increase for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, Rodriguez said, adding that the “pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on children and students with the greatest needs.”

    IDEA Part B grants to states would cover nearly 13% of the national average per pupil cost of special education services and provide an estimated average of $2,170 per child for about 7.5 million children ages 3-21, according to a budget summary.

    Additionally, the budget requests $932 million in IDEA Part C grants to support early intervention services for infants and families with disabilities — a nearly $400 million increase over current spending. 

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    As more evidence shows signs of the teacher shortage worsening since the pandemic, the budget proposal aims to invest $3 billion in educator preparation, development and leadership, according to the Education Department. That includes $132 million for the Teacher Quality Partnership program — an increase of $62 million from FY23 — and $30 million for the Hawkins Centers of Excellence program — an increase of $15 million — to expand the number of prospective teachers and improve diversity of the teaching profession. 

    Another $304 million is requested to address special education teacher shortages, while $200 million would go toward Teacher and School Leader Incentive Grants.

    National Association of Secondary School Principals CEO Ronn Nozoe said in a statement that Biden’s proposed investments are critical steps in addressing the student mental health crisis and growing school leader and teacher shortages. 

    “School leaders have been burning the candle at both ends to support students’ academic and social development, and it’s great to see that President Biden has their backs,” Nozoe said. 

    FY 2024 begins Oct. 1. Other notable education-related budget requests include:

    • Expanding investments in community schools: To help schools provide wrap-around services, such as afterschool programs, adult education opportunities and health and nutrition services, the budget proposal calls for $368 million to support community schools, a $218 million increase from the FY23 enacted funding. Rodriguez said the budget would double community school funding for the third year in a row, if approved.

    • Supporting multilingual learners: The budget requests $1.2 billion for the English Language Acquisition program, an increase of $305 million, to help students learning English become proficient in English and academically successful. Aiming to take on teacher shortages among bilingual teachers, the budget proposes $90 million to hire these educators and $10 million in boosting the bilingual teacher pipeline through postsecondary fellowships. 

    • Fostering diverse schools: To address racial isolation and concentrated poverty in schools, the budget requests $100 million to fund a grant program supporting voluntary community efforts promoting racial and socioeconomic diversity in their local schools.

    • Improving career and college pathways: The budget would provide $1.47 billion for Career and Technical Education State Grants, an increase of $43 million. Additionally, it would invest $200 million in the Career-Connected High Schools initiative by giving high school students more access to industry-backed credentialing, dual enrollment and work-based learning opportunities.

    • Enforcing civil rights: The budget plan also dedicates $178 million to the Office for Civil Rights, a 27% increase above fiscal 2023. OCR addresses students’ complaints of discrimination in federally funded K-12 schools and colleges and will likely be in the spotlight this year as the administration rolls out its proposed rule governing Title IX, which bans sex-based discrimination, including sexual violence, in schools.

  • 03/06/2023 1:00 PM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)

    Legislative analyst opposes Newsom’s plan for more funding to high-poverty schools

    Focus on transparency, not more money in an "equity multiplier," audit says


    MARCH 2, 2023


    The Legislature’s nonpartisan adviser is recommending that lawmakers reject $300 million in new state funding to address low performance and racial disparities in the state’s poorest schools. Members of the Legislative Black Caucus are supporting the funding to help Black students improve learning.

    Instead of relying on more money, “We find that the key issue is increasing transparency to ensure existing funding actually targets the highest needs schools and student subgroups,” the Legislative Analyst’s Office wrote in a recent report.

    Gov. Gavin Newsom is calling the additional funding an “equity multiplier.” It would be a part of a larger effort to address the underachievement of racial and ethnic groups in all schools and districts. Together the pieces would make up the biggest change in the Local Control Funding Formula since the Legislature passed the equitable funding and school accountability law a decade ago.

    The Legislative Analyst’s Office is also recommending holding off on a proposed additional $250 million for literacy coaches for about 300 additional high-poverty schools. The analyst says the Legislature should study how effective coaches are before doubling down on top of the $250 million in this year’s budget.

    Both initiatives, totaling $550 million for high-poverty schools, would be the key element in the legislative analyst’s alternative to Newsom’s proposal to shave a third of a $3.6 billion arts and instructional materials block grant in the current budget. Some districts argue they have already committed the funding.

    Budget cuts are needed for next year because state revenues for education are projected to come up several billion dollars short. The forecast would worsen in the event of a recession.

    While opposing the equity multiplier money, the LAO said it does agree with other parts of Newsom’s plan and credits the governor for focusing more attention on those schools. The legislative analyst pointed to a state audit and research by the Public Policy Institute of California that revealed that much of the targeted funding either could not be tracked or was spent on districtwide purposes and didn’t reach high-needs schools.

    Not mentioned in the report, however, is that eliminating the $300 million targeted to poor schools could undo a compromise that Newsom reached with Assemblymember Akilah Weber, D-La Mesa, and members of the Legislative Black Caucus. They had advocated spending at least that much in new annual funding to improve learning opportunities for Black students, who have historically tested as the lowest-performing among all ethnic and racial student groups.


    Newsom’s Big Bet On Fixing California’s Poorest Schools And Narrowing Achievement Gaps

    Newsom disagreed with Black Caucus’ idea out of concern the funding would violate Proposition 209, the voter initiative that prohibits affirmative action programs in public education. Newsom instead is proposing to direct $300 million to address the needs of all of the lowest performing student groups in about 800 high-poverty schools; they enroll a slightly higher concentration of Black students than are enrolled statewide.

    The governor’s proposed budget also would direct school districts to use state funding to close achievement gaps among all student racial and ethnic groups. Some districts have questioned whether they can use state funding to do that because funding under the Local Control Funding Formula specifically targets low-income students and English learners. However, the funding formula does require that districts track the progress of eight racial groups on a number of metrics and commit to actions in district plans for improvement, called the Local Control and Accountability Plans or LCAPs.

    The legislative audit agrees with Newsom that targeting funding for low-performing racial groups is consistent with the intent of the funding formula. If needed, Newsom should ask legislators to amend state law to make that clear, the auditors said.

    LCAPs already require addressing racial disparities at the district level. Newsom is proposing to extend the requirement to underperformance of racial groups at the school level. Schools would have to commit to specific actions and fund them. There would be a mid-year report using available data to document any progress. If, after three years, there was no demonstrable improvement, schools would have to change strategies.

    Focus on staffing inequalities

    Acknowledging that monitoring school-level spending can be burdensome and difficult to standardize across districts, the legislative auditor is suggesting focusing on staffing as a proxy for improvement.


    Critics Say Newsom’s Proposal For Low-Performing Students Fails Most Black Students

    The state should require districts to publicly report the share of teachers in every school who are fully credentialed and properly assigned, the share of teachers with less than three years of experience and the student-to-teacher ratio, according to the audit recommendations. They could be required to include other staff, like counselors.

    In addition, the Legislative Auditor’s Office suggests that districts with low-performing schools be required to address staffing disparities across schools. Research by the Learning Policy Institute and others cite fixing disparities in teacher shortages, turnover and qualifications as fundamental to narrowing achievement gaps.

    Mushrooming LCAPs?

    The audit report implies that implementing Newsom’s plan will be challenging and suggests two fixes:

    LCAP creep: Many school districts and charter schools have complained for years that reporting requirements have turned LCAPs in many districts into overwhelming documents that turn off parents and the public. Requirements to add extensive documentation on spending and goals for student groups in schools will likely add to complaints.

    Recognizing that, the LAO calls on the Legislature to streamline the LCAP and to move some of the required accountability data to other platforms. It suggested, for example, that the state create an interactive portal where users could review LCAP expenditure data at various levels of detail.

    Overlapping assistance: The state’s system of support for improvement relies on county offices of education to help districts and review their LCAPs. Districts with low-performing student groups receive more intensive assistance from their local counties, regional county offices with expertise in areas like chronic absenteeism or literacy, called geographic leads, and a state agency, the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence.


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    The governor’s plan would add a new level of county support from designated “equity leads,” whose first priority would be racial disparities in the 800 or so equity multiplier schools. The audit report questions whether another layer would be more effective. To avoid creating confusion and duplication, the auditor recommends clearer, narrower responsibilities and making clear that all addressing racial achievement should be a focus of all county offices and support agencies.

    As the Legislature’s nonpartisan analyst, Legislative Analyst’s Office reports receive broad attention during the budget process.

    Responding to the report, H.D. Palmer, spokesperson for the California Department of Finance, said the administration would stick with its proposal. “While the Analyst’s report reflects a different approach, the governor’s proposal reflects the administration’s continuing focus on providing equitable pre-K-12 educational opportunities through ongoing support for a Local Control Funding Formula Equity Multiplier, accompanied by further investment to support literacy coaches in high-need elementary schools.”

    However, Derick Lennox, senior director of governmental relations and legal affairs with the California County Superintendents, said that his organization agrees with the LAO’s conclusion that the equity leads would duplicate current efforts within county offices of education.

    “Dramatic interventions are needed to support equity and reduce racial disparities,” he said. “We hope the final budget will support the expansion of that work across all counties.

    “My overall takeaway from the LAO’s report is a sense of optimism that any technical issues in the governor’s accountability proposal are fixable,” he said, “and that there is a reasonable path forward to implementing the equity multiplier and many of the accountability changes.”

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