Welcome to the September 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.
California students and educators will be experiencing substantial change in the coming year, with reforms coming from the State Board of Education, U.S. Department of Education, and the California Legislature. Here are the toplines:
LCAP and Dashboard Accountability: The State Board of Education discussed proposed revisions to the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) template and accountability for the California Dashboard.
Upcoming Changes to Financial Aid Applications: Read about upcoming changes to the applications for Federal Student Aid and the Cal Grant program. Additionally, share your insights for GO’s upcoming financial aid guidebooks!
GO Statewide Advocacy Updates: 7 pieces of legislation that GO is supporting have passed the Senate and the Assembly! Keep reading for an update on bills we’re supporting, and how they will advance educational equity, funding accountability, and college access and affordability.
LCAP and Dashboard Accountability
The State Board of Education (SBE), during their September 13th meeting, discussed revisions to be made to the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) template and instructions for the 2024-2025 school year. The 2023-2024 education omnibus budget trailer bill (SB 114) outlines the revisions, including:
- Requiring local educational agencies (LEA) to address and reduce disparities in opportunities and outcomes between pupil groups
- Requiring schools to identify and address student subgroups that received the lowest performance level on one or more state indicators on the California Dashboard
- Including focused goals for each school receiving Equity Multiplier funding to address low-performing student subgroups on the California Dashboard
- Adding required actions to address the needs of long-term English learner (LTEL) students
- Requiring LEAs to change actions that have not been proven effective over 3 years
The Board also discussed the implementation of the 2023 California Dashboard Work Plan. The plan is aligned with the 11 California School Dashboard Principles, which are the recently adopted guidelines for considering changes to the state and local indicators reported on the Dashboard. These principles allow families and educators to meaningfully access school and district information.
The SBE also considered other changes to the Dashboard, including revising indicators such as the English Learner Progress Indicator (ELPI), Graduation Rate Indicator, and College/Career Indicator; changing the eligibility criteria for Differentiated Assistance; and linking to additional data, outside of the Dashboard, for the California Science Test (CAST) and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).
The Board’s approval of the proposed changes means that these proposals will be implemented on the 2023 Dashboard by the December 15th reporting deadline.
Upcoming Changes to Financial Aid Applications
Following the passage of federal and state legislation, there are significant changes coming to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the California Dream Act Application (CADAA), as well as the Cal Grant this year. The FAFSA Simplification Act calls for the biggest changes to the application process since 1997, and the Cal Grant Reform Act makes significant changes to the state’s largest financial aid program.
FINANCIAL AID APPLICATIONS (FAFSA & CADAA)
- For the past eight years, applications for Federal Student Aid (FSA) have opened on October 1st. However, to account for the changes, the launch date will be delayed this year until late December, and the state priority deadline will be delayed until April 2, 2024. Future years’ applications will return to the October 1st opening date and March 2nd priority deadline
- The number of questions on the new form has been reduced from 108 to 46
- There is considerable new terminology in the revamped FAFSA AND CADAA applications, including “contributors” (replacing “student” and “parent”), “Financial Aid Direct Data Exchange” (FADDX, the new name for the process of reporting financial information from the IRS), and “Student Aid Index” (SAI, replacing Expected Family Contribution or EFC)
- All contributors completing the FAFSA will be required to create an FSA ID and consent to the FADDX, regardless of immigration status
- Students may now add up to 20 colleges and universities to the FAFSA and CADAA
- The U.S. Department of Education anticipates that nearly 15% more students will be eligible for the Pell Grant, and the maximum award amount for 2024-25 is $7,395
FSA is calling the updated application the Better FAFSA, and the updates could result in an improved experience for students and families applying for financial aid. The new changes point to a more streamlined application, expanded eligibility, and reduced barriers for some underserved student groups.
- Given the delayed opening of financial aid applications, the deadline to submit applications for Cal Grant awards will be April 2nd, 2024. Future years’ applications will return to the March 2nd state priority deadline
- Cal Grant awards will be streamlined into only two types of awards: Cal Grant 2 for community college students, and Cal Grant 4 for students at four-year institutions
- New requirements include a 2.0 GPA requirement for 4-year students, and no GPA requirement for California Community College (CCC) students
- The California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) estimates that an additional 150,000 students will be eligible for Cal Grants, including 109,000 California Community College students.
A more comprehensive breakdown of the upcoming changes will be included in GO’s 2023 A Parent’s Guide to Financial Aid, which will be published this winter to coincide with the launch of the FAFSA and CADAA. Until then, you can access last year’s guide here, and we want to hear from you!
PARENTS AND FAMILIES: Please fill out this survey to share your thoughts and perspectives about financial aid and how best to support students with applications.
GO will also be publishing the inaugural An Educator’s Guide to Financial Aid Completion, which will examine and share best practices that lead to an increase in financial aid applications.
SCHOOL LEADERS AND COMMUNITY-BASED ORGANIZATIONS: Please fill out this survey to share tools, strategies, and best practices to support financial aid application completion.
We are accepting submissions through November 17, 2023.
GO Statewide Advocacy Updates
September 14th was the last day for the state Senate and Assembly to pass bills before adjourning for the Interim Study Recess. We will continue to monitor bills of interest once the Legislature reconvenes on January 3rd, 2024, the second year of this 2-year legislative cycle. As of adjournment, 7 pieces of legislation that GO is supporting successfully passed through both houses.
APPROVED BY GOVERNOR NEWSOM
- ACR 16 (M. Fong) highlights the importance of creating pathways to success for California’s opportunity youth, who are aged 16-24 and are neither employed nor enrolled in school
ON THE GOVERNOR’S DESK
- AB 368 (Holden) would expand the College and Career Access Pathways (CCAP) partnership program
- AB 789 (Berman) would establish a common set of standards for satisfactory academic progress (SAP)
- AB 1479 (Garcia) would establish a program and funding for evidence-based, Tier 1 social-emotional, behavioral, and mental health student support
- AB 1540 (M. Fong) would incorporate the AB 540 affidavit within the California Dream Act Application (CADAA)
- SB 274 (Skinner) would remove the authority to suspend, or recommend for expulsion, K-12 students for “willful defiance,” or solely based on absence
- SB 609 (Caballero) would require the State Department of Education (CDE) to ensure that school LEAs have posted a link to approved Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP) on the California Dashboard
The Governor has until October 14th to sign or veto bills. If he has not taken action by the deadline, the bill will become law without his signature.
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