Welcome to the March 2023 edition of What We’re Watching in California Education, a newsletter that we hope will offer you insight into public education conversations happening at our state Capitol.
All bills in the 2023-2024 legislative cycle have been introduced, including the education omnibus trailer bill. This year’s budget and proposed bills show promise in closing opportunity and achievement gaps for California’s underserved students. Here are the toplines:
LCFF Accountability Proposals in the Governor’s Budget: This year’s budget includes proposals aimed at increasing equity for all California students. In this issue, we take a look at the proposed changes to the Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP) in order to increase Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) accountability.
The Equity Multiplier Explained: How effective is the Governor’s Equity Multiplier, which would increase LCFF funding to low-income schools? See which legislators and organizations have weighed in on the topic.
Legislation We’re Watching: Among the bills introduced in the Senate and Assembly, a few have caught our eye. Keep reading for information on legislation that would support translation services for Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), provide support for Opportunity Youth, create a student loan forgiveness tax exemption, and more.
Strengthening Accountability for LCFF Funds
Though the State General Fund is facing a $22.5 billion deficit this year, the 2023-2024 budget does not include any proposed cuts to the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). In fact, new proposals in the budget aim to increase LCFF accountability, mainly through the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), the document that school districts and local educational agencies (LEAs) use to show how they are using LCFF funds.
Under the proposal, when student groups show red on any California Dashboard indicator, LEAs would be required to specify Focus Goals for how they plan to improve outcomes for those students. They would also need to modify LCAP goals and supporting actions when investments have not proved to be effective over a three-year period of implementation.
Given the push for more accountability in the LCAP process, GO Public Schools has signed on in support of Senate Bill 609 (Caballero), which requires the California Department of Education to post links to all approved LCAPs on the California Dashboard. This bill addresses a basic need for meaningful engagement; families and community members need consistent access to LCAPs and to understand how goals relate to performance measures. Paired with the proposed changes to the LCAP in this year’s budget, we can achieve more transparent and equitable tracking of LCFF dollars and ensure they are reaching the intended student groups. SB 609 has passed the Senate Education Committee and has been referred to the Appropriations Committee. There, it will be heard as part of the Consent Calendar, a group of bills that have minimal fiscal costs and are non-controversial.
The LCFF Equity Multiplier stems from AB 2774 (A. Weber, 2021-2022), which would have secured LCFF funding for Black students, the lowest-performing student group in our state. When AB 2774 was pulled from consideration, the Governor’s office made an agreement with Assemblymember Akilah Weber and the Legislative Black Caucus to include funding in the 2023-24 budget. The Governor has proposed $300 million in LCFF add-on funding to “accelerate learning gains and close opportunity gaps.” Eligibility is based on free meal eligibility and would reach about 6% of Black students in the state.
There have been mixed responses to the proposal, which remains a topic of discussion in the legislature:
Members of the Legislative Black Caucus are in support of the Equity Multiplier and hope that the funding will help Black students improve learning.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO, a nonpartisan government agency) recommends that the legislature reject the funding, arguing that the focus should be how schools and LEAs are using existing funding to close achievement gaps.
The Education Trust – West put out an Equity Alert, and would support the Equity Multiplier if amended to more meaningfully address Black student achievement.
The Black in Schools Coalition put forth an alternative option, proposing amendments to provide additional funding for any group that does not already receive funding through LCFF, who also scores below the state average on any two metrics on the Dashboard.
Legislation We’re Watching
SB 445 (Portantino) would require LEAs to provide a translation of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), by a qualified translator, within 30 days of a guardian’s request. This bill would empower parents and guardians to advocate for their students, a key component in potentially closing academic performance gaps for students with disabilities, as well as students who are English learners. Signing onto this effort follows the inspiring work of GO’s West Contra Costa’s Special Education Community-Led Committee, which engages community members and empowers families in the IEP process. Check out their Parent’s Guide to Special Education in English and Spanish! SB 445 has passed the Senate Education Committee with amendments and has been referred to the Appropriations Committee.
ACR 16 (M. Fong) highlights the importance of creating pathways to success for California’s opportunity youth: young people, aged 16-24, who are neither employed nor enrolled in school. Opportunity youth are disproportionately youth of color, and are more likely to experience poverty, homelessness, and food insecurity. Passing this resolution means that the legislature recognizes the importance of creating pathways to success for California’s Opportunity Youth and that they need to develop a plan to reduce economic inequities they face. ACR 16 has passed the Senate Education Committee and will be added to the Consent Calendar.
Other bills we’re keeping our eye on:
SB 220 / AB 25: exempts student loan debt relief from state taxation
AB 263 (Jones-Sawyer): requires the Student Aid Commission to convene a working group to research and develop recommendations for the creation of a pilot program that would establish free cost of higher education
SB 274 (Skinner): removes the authority to suspend or expel K-12 students for “willful defiance,” regardless of grade of enrollment
SB 691 (Portantino): requires LEAs to screen all pupils K-2 and to provide pupils at risk of dyslexia with evidence-based literacy instruction, progress monitoring, and early intervention
AB 274 (Bryan): exempts any grant, award, scholarship, loan, or fellowship benefit from consideration as income when determining CalWORKS eligibility or grant amounts
AB 278 (Reyes): requires all schools that enroll pupils in grades 9-12 to have a Dream Resource Center, which would offer support services to immigrant students
In addition to the legislature, GO has been vocal in advocacy campaigns aimed at other important statewide bodies, including the State Board of Education and the California Practitioners Advisory Group. We have signed onto letters on the following topics:
Recommendations for implementation and use of school climate surveys, and the local indicator self-reflection tool for school climate, to improve outcomes
Recommendations for sufficient oversight of comprehensive support and improvement (CSI) plans
Proposed revisions to the 2023 Accountability Work Plan to strengthen accountability in data reporting
Proposed revisions to the California Dashboard to increase equity for all students
We’d love to hear your thoughts on What We’re Watching in California Education. Please let us know what you liked and what you hope to see in future editions.
Darcel Sanders, Chief Executive Officer