ASCD California


  • 07/21/2022 4:33 PM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)

    Will California’s $4.1-billion bet on ‘community schools’ transform K-12 education?

    Eugenia Plascencia teaches a math class at Social Justice Humanitas Academy in San Fernando in 2021. Humanitas is a community school, a model that could take hold at many more California K-12 campuses in the coming years.

    (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)


    JULY 20, 2022 5 AM PT

    When students returned to the Social Justice Humanitas Academy campus in August 2021, many could barely focus on their high school assignments. They walked out of class. They refused to do work. Drug use and the number of students hospitalized because of suicidal thoughts were on an alarming incline.

    Teachers and staff at Humanitas saw the crisis before them — and turned to their long-established playbook for solutions.

    “Our philosophy is to meet kids where they’re at,” Principal Jeffrey Austin said, “and take them far as we possibly can.”

    Teachers led group discussions about how hard it had been to be separated from friends for 16 months. They focused instruction on addressing learning gaps, even if it meant students were not on track to meet state standards. Teachers called parents regularly and learned of lost jobs and lost loved ones. Many students missed class because they were working, so the school shifted class schedules to accommodate them.

    By the end of the school year, students were staying in class and drug use declined, Austin said. Graduation rates at the Los Angeles Unified school in San Fernando remained high, just shy of 100%.

    Humanitas’ strength is rooted in its 11-year stature as a “community school” — a model that could take hold at many more California K-12 campuses in the coming years. California is making a mega-bet — with an unprecedented $4.1-billion investment over seven years — that converting hundreds of campuses in high-poverty neighborhoods into schools like Humanitas offers the best chance to save children’s pandemic-damaged education and address entrenched inequities.

    This plan dramatically expands the traditional definition of a public school, overhauling campuses into neighborhood centers that seek to comprehensively meet the needs of students. Healthcare, mental health services, tutoring, pediatric care and other social supports converge on campus. Teachers and staff strive to make learning more culturally relevant and to foster a climate in which students have a sense of belonging and parents are a part of decision-making.

    Social Justice Humanitas Academy in San Fernando is a community school that integrates academics, health and social services, youth development and community engagement to meet students’ needs.

    (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

    Community schools have lofty aspirations to topple barriers that prevent students from learning, such as hunger, anxiety and depression, racism and housing insecurity. Advocates say community schools could vastly improve educational outcomes at a time of declining enrollment, a youth mental health crisis and intensified learning deficits brought on by long, pandemic-forced school closures.

    This is the dream, at least. The challenge is pulling it off.

    This high-cost experiment is no quick fix, experts say. As waves of exhausted educators leave the profession amid the pressures of dealing with the most intense student needs in a generation, will school staff have the stamina to do the ambitious planning and work to establish the community school stronghold?

    “It’s an important moment, and a serious moment, with this amount of money,” said Deanna Niebuhr, California policy director for the Opportunity Institute who has worked to establish community schools. “It’s not clear that this will work. But we believe it’s our best chance for real change in education.”


    Surgeon general warns of emerging youth mental health crisis in rare public advisory

    Dec. 7, 2021

    In May, 268 districts across the state were awarded $649 million in grants — from $200,000 for schools in the early stages of planning to tens of millions for districts further along or seeking to expand. The L.A. Unified School District, which already has 31 community schools, received $44 million.

    Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration has dedicated $166 million to a network of at least five regional technical assistance centers, co-led by the Alameda County Office of Education and the UCLA Center for Community Schooling, that will guide districts and monitor progress.

    There are relatively few schools nationwide that follow this robust model — an estimated 5,000, according to the Coalition for Community Schools. And though research is somewhat sparse, some studies have found that well-run community schools lead to better attendance, fewer discipline problems and chronic absences, and better communication with families.

    “Good community schools recognize that even with all the support services, it is very unlikely that families who may have a distrust of public systems will access those services without the school first building a relationship with them,” said Hayin Kimner, a senior research fellow at Policy Analysis for California Education.

    Humanitas: Their story

    On paper, Jennie Rosenbaum’s job sounds clear-cut: She is a site coordinator, helping weave social-emotional learning into instruction and school culture. In practice, she’s a force on campus. She often works in the courtyard, a visible presence for when a student needs to speak with an adult. She strategizes with counselors and brings staff and students together to raise issues about what’s needed at school. She searches for opportunities — like college access programs — for all students, not just those who have top grades or are the most outgoing.

    Rosenbaum’s role illustrates another tenet of community schools: breaking down job-related silos that can prevent educators from working together to support students.

    EduCare coordinator Jennie Rosenbaum in the courtyard where she works with high school students at Social Justice Humanitas Academy in San Fernando.

    (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

    EduCare coordinator Jennie Rosenbaum walks the halls of Social Justice Humanitas Academy, a community school in San Fernando.

    (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

    Once while helping a senior apply for college financial aid, Rosenbaum noticed how the girl, who had recently immigrated to the U.S., couldn’t focus enough to set up an account password. The student confided that her family had run out of food. Rosenbaum consoled the teen and spoke with a counselor who provided the girl with grocery store gift cards and ongoing emotional support.

    “If you don’t have those strong relationships in place, the student isn’t going to share that they need help,” Rosenbaum said.

    The school partners with EduCare, a nonprofit that connects the school to social service and funds Rosenbaum’s job. Organizations like Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services provide individual, group and family therapy. Through these partnerships and others, the school has connected families with temporary shelter, food and legal assistance.

    Every Humanitas student has a peer mentor, and each teacher “adopts” three or four pupils who are struggling academically or otherwise and checks in with them regularly.

    One balmy afternoon last school year, math teacher Eugenia Plascencia fist-bumped and tapped elbows with ninth-graders as they entered her classroom, asking each how they were doing. The walls were covered with posters that quoted Malcolm X, celebrated being “unapologetically queer” and asserted that “Black Trans Lives Matter.”

    If a student seems really tired or is being disruptive, Plascencia will privately ask, “What’s up? What do you need right now?”

    “Instead of getting them into trouble, we get them support,” she said. Humanitas has made efforts to move away from punitive practices and toward restorative justice, which compels students to accept responsibility for their behavior and repair relationships with those they’ve hurt.

    Humanitas — founded in 2011 by a group of Sylmar High teachers seeking to create a small autonomous campus within L.A. Unified — served 519 students in 2020-21, and all but a handful are Latino. Ninety-three percent were identified as economically disadvantaged. The school consistently outperforms its L.A. Unified counterparts.

    Eugenia Plascencia teaches her math students last year. 

    (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

    On Common Core-aligned state assessments in 2019, 72% of students met or exceeded standards for English language arts, compared with the district average of 53%. Math scores have varied since 2015, ranging from 65% of students meeting or exceeding standards in 2014 to 40% in 2021. Still, Humanitas students surpassed the L.A. Unified average each of those years. Scores in all subjects dipped in 2021, when school was mainly virtual.

    Johnny Martinez, a father of six, has been with Humanitas since its inception. His oldest son was part of the school’s first class of graduates, and his youngest is an upcoming 11th-grader. The Pacoima native is one of several parents serving on the governing council, where he votes on staffing and budget decisions. “They respect my point of view,” said Martinez, who runs a construction business.

    Johnny and Ana Martinez hold their grandson Isaiah and are flanked by their children, pictured from left: John, Joceline, Aden, Francisco and Patricia. All of the Martinez children have attended Social Justice Humanitas Academy in San Fernando. 

    (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

    His Humanitas graduates have gone on to USC, Cal Poly and Cal State Northridge. He’s grateful that his kids went to a high school where teachers don’t give up on students.

    “Around here, if you have big dreams and hopes for your kid, rumor has it that Humanitas is where you want to send them,” Martinez said.

    What’s next?

    Advocates caution that becoming a community school is a long-term commitment that may be difficult to sustain without well-coordinated funding.

    In an ideal scenario, community schools cut down on social services costs by partnering with organizations that have access to other funding streams, Kimner said. But any financing strategy should consider districts in areas of the state with fewer health and human service organizations, said Alex Briscoe, head of the California Children’s Trust.

    At Humanitas, services change yearly based on available state, federal and philanthropic funding. If a partnering organization’s grant runs out, or if it goes out business, staff must scramble to fill that gap. And they have to be scrappy; Humanitas is funded in the same way as other L.A. Unified schools, which requires “a lot of moving nickels and dimes around,” Austin said.

    The ethos-driven aspects of the model may be harder to implement and measure, experts said. For example, how do you evaluate whether there are healthy relationships between staff and students?


    Nearly half of LAUSD students have been chronically absent this year, data show

    March 31, 2022

    Ensuring that curriculum is culturally and linguistically relevant to students will be a heavy lift too, said Cora Watkins, director of L.A. Unified’s community schools initiative — and could require changes in teacher credentialing programs.

    And all this comes amid pandemic burnout and workforce shortages.

    “People in education are so exhausted and overwhelmed,” said L.A. County Office of Education Supt. Debra Duardo, a champion of the model. “Adding anything can feel like you’re asking people to do more than they can possibly do.”

    Austin said one of Humanitas’ early mistakes was asking too much of teachers. At one point, there were 17 committees teachers could join.

    “It’s a lot of work,” said Plascencia, who gets to work at 7:30 a.m. and often leaves at 5 p.m. “For some people, getting here is very refreshing.... Other people are like, ‘They’re asking me to do a lot of emotional labor.’ But it makes my job so much more meaningful.”

  • 07/18/2022 8:40 AM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)

    Analysis of Covid funding reveals California districts have spent little so far to address learning loss

    Vague funding categories yield lack of clarity on how much of money was used


    JULY 15, 2022


    First grade students at Lockeford Elementary in Lodi.

    One year after Congress passed record funding in Covid relief, a new analysis reveals that California school districts so far have spent little of it on efforts to address learning setbacks caused by the pandemic. This despite data that indicates that learning slowed, especially among the youngest students, and gaps in achievement between Black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian peers widened during distance learning in 2020-21.

    As Thomas Kane, the faculty director of the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, wrote in a recent article in The Atlantic, “The achievement loss is far greater than most educators and parents seem to realize.”

    The analysis by the California School Boards Association, released earlier this month, represents the first comprehensive look at how the state’s school districts have used a total of $40 billion in federal and state funding dedicated to helping them cope with Covid. It covered reports for spending through March 31.

    While the report clearly lays out how much money districts collectively have spent, it’s less clear on what they specifically spent it on.  In part, credit Congress for that.

    The spending categories that Congress set are broad and include the catch-all wording “other evidence-based interventions” for the learning loss money and “other activities necessary to maintain operations” for all other rounds of funding. Most districts appear to have listed most of the money they spent in that all-but-the-kitchen-sink category, which could include raises and bonuses to retain staff.

    As a result, it’s unclear from the statewide data whether many districts directed earlier rounds of Covid funding to learning loss strategies, or whether, consumed by staff shortages, the omicron surge last year and students’ mental health needs, they have yet to make it a funding priority.


    Congress apportioned Covid aid based on eligibility for Title I funding, tied to a district’s poverty rate. The amount per student varied from several hundred dollars to more than $11,000. To find out what every district, county office and charter school received, go here.

    Congress requires all districts to file quarterly spending reports. Poring over those, school boards association researchers were able to track the shift in priorities, from buying cleaning supplies and computer purchases in the pandemic’s initial phase, to Covid testing and instructional support in 2021-22 after schools reopened, to more recent attention to mental health and, to an extent, learning loss.

    The analysis reveals whether districts are on track to meet spending deadlines. For the most part, they are; 89% of districts have spent almost all of the first round of federal funding, whose spending deadline is Feb. 1, 2023.

    The school boards association report said that Congress intentionally included open-ended categories in recognition that financial conditions and needs greatly varied among states and districts. Indeed, Covid proved unpredictable during the past two years, with sudden surges of the omicron and delta variants forcing districts to alter their spending plans, said Troy Flint, spokesperson for the school boards association.


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    “Flexibility is a crucial feature of these spending packages, not a bug,” the report said.  And it noted that especially small districts don’t have the staff to do both time-consuming outreach to parents for their spending priorities, as required by Congress, and to regularly update spending for multiple, often intertwined, funding sources.

    But the result is also a lack of transparency, said Vince Stewart, vice president for policy and programs at the advocacy nonprofit Children Now. “We get it; schools have been dealing with a lot, and there was a concern to minimize additional reporting. But with billions and billions of dollars, we should be able to show how it is helping kids.”

    The only way to know for certain how funding was used and who received the money would be to examine itemized spending receipts of each district and charter school, an undue burden for interested members of the public.

    The California Department of Education is required to monitor federal spending and to do spot audits of districts’ spending. But in her own audit of the state’s effort, State Auditor Elaine Howle criticized the department for not doing more audits and for not examining spending more closely. The department audited fewer than 1% of districts and charter schools in 2020-21. Howle called on the department to investigate districts that categorize the bulk of spending as “other activities,” but the department, in its response, disagreed that should become a priority.

    Stewart also called on the department to do more. “There’s nothing to stop the state from saying we want more details than the federal government requires,” he said. “Money is being spent within the categories, but the state could ask, ‘How is what are you spending on benefiting students?’”

    “It’s advisable for school districts to go beyond the minimum reporting requirements to show that the money was spent wisely,” Flint said. “That’s part of good community engagement.”

    Three rounds of federal funding

    The federal government funded two-thirds of California’s K-12 Covid aid and the state about a third. Altogether, this unprecedented multiyear crisis response equals about a third of total state funding this year for TK-12 education.

    It started with $1.6 billion that Congress appropriated in March 2020;  the latest is $7.9 billion that the Legislature approved last month as part of the state budget for 2022-23. The three primary rounds of federal relief over the course of 12 months were called the Elementary and Secondary School Relief Fund or ESSER I, II and III. Congress also allocated two rounds of discretionary funding to governors — $700 million to California — through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund.

    Congress used the Title I formula, tied to a district’s poverty rate, to distribute Covid relief, so the amount per student varied widely from several hundred dollars per student to more than $11,000 per student in Los Angeles Unified (go here to look up what every district received).

    Many superintendents acknowledged in the school boards’ survey that they have had difficulty spending all the Covid money. They reported that they could not find enough qualified candidates to hire; 91% of those surveyed said filling vacant or new positions were moderately or very challenging barriers to using the money. And many employees who said they felt burned out from teaching during Covid declined offers to work longer days or summer programs, they said.

    Superintendents also cited the challenges of one-time funding, which limits districts’ ability to hire permanent staff, with the possibility of layoffs a few years later when funding ends. But some superintendents are rethinking their strategy now that they can count on blending multiple rounds of funding with later spending deadlines to extend hires. The $7.9 billion Learning Recovery Emergency Fund in the 2022-23 state budget can be spent through 2027-28, for example.

    The big prize

    The $15 billion authorized by Congress in 2021 through ESSER III is also known as the American Rescue Plan and was the single biggest infusion of Covid relief. Districts must commit to spending 20% of that total — $3 billion — to address learning loss. Permitted uses are broad: mental health supports, social and emotional learning, purposes associated with community schools, summer enrichment learning and tutoring.

    By March 31, school districts had spent only a sixth of the $15 billion in federal Covid relief that Congress authorized a year earlier. And they had spent but a 10th of the $3 billion Congress designated to address setbacks in learning caused by the pandemic.  So far, only 5% had been spent on tutoring, a priority of some parents and student advocates, and, as of this month, the Biden administration.

    Some districts may have stockpiled the American Rescue Plan funding, which can be spent through Jan. 31, 2025, and used Covid money with earlier deadlines. That’s what Jessica Gunderson, the new co-chief executive officer of the Partnership for Children and Youth, which advocates for summer and after-school programs, suspects is paying for programs this summer.

    The school boards association’s analysis found that districts had spent only 4% of learning loss funding on summer learning as of March 31. Yet Gunderson said she has seen noticeably more districts offering summer enrichment programs this year.

    While some districts continue to offer only remediation, more are approaching summer creatively, through partnerships with community groups for fun activities that kids need following a stressful year. Some districts are sending kids to camps, like the University of the Pacific’s Summer High School Institute, which 240 Lodi Unified students are attending, or the STEM-focused Camp Galileo, which operates at school sites in the Bay Area.

    The next quarterly Covid spending reports may capture some of this activity — or not, depending on how precisely districts fill them out.

    The school boards association’s report is the first of three it plans to release. The second will report how districts have spent $6.6 billion in state Covid funding approved in March 2021. The final report will be the results of a survey of about 200 superintendents and business officers. The data does not include spending of charter schools.

  • 06/29/2022 7:47 PM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)

    JUN 27 2022


    Hanna Melnick

    Emma García

    Melanie Leung-Gagné

    In 2021, California made major new investments to advance its commitment to early childhood education through universal preschool. One important investment was extending state funding for transitional kindergarten (TK), previously just for older 4-year-olds, to all 4-year-olds by 2025–26. To ensure the quality of new preschool investments, California must recruit and prepare a sufficient number of qualified teachers in TK and other early childhood programs—a challenge in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, when school districts and early childhood programs are facing significant staffing shortages.

    In 2025–26, more than 300,000 students are likely to enroll in TK. To meet this demand, districts will need to hire between 11,900 and 15,600 additional lead TK teachers by 2025–26.

    This report provides estimates for how many TK teachers California will need through 2025–26 and discusses potential pathways to support a diverse, well-prepared workforce, both in TK and in other early childhood programs. We also offer recommendations that state policymakers could follow to stabilize, support, and expand the broader early childhood workforce and build pathways for racially, linguistically, and culturally diverse educators.

    Projecting the Need for TK Teachers: Summary of Findings

    Specifically, the study finds the following:

    • In 2025–26, more than 300,000 students are likely to enroll in TK.
    • To meet this demand, districts will need to hire between 11,900 and 15,600 additional lead teachers by 2025–26.
    • California will need at least 16,000 to 19,700 assistant TK teachers by 2025–26.
    • Growth in TK teacher demand is not linear over time, with particularly sharp increases in 2023–24 and 2025–26.
    • County differences in TK uptake rates and population size translate into varying hiring expectations, as TK uptake has historically varied greatly across counties, and the five largest counties (Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino) account for more than half of the total estimated increased demand by full implementation.

    Building a Qualified, Diverse TK Workforce

    These estimates show that California has a substantial, urgent need for new lead and assistant TK teachers. To meet this need, California must develop new teachers and draw upon educators currently in the workforce. Yet California has different requirements for lead TK teachers and other early childhood educators, which will create challenges in moving experienced early educators into the TK workforce. Teachers working in state-funded and private preschools must have at least a Child Development Associate permit, which requires 12 units of early childhood education (ECE) and 50 days of work experience but does not require a degree. By contrast, lead TK teachers must have a Multiple Subject teaching credential, which requires a bachelor’s degree and completing an accredited teacher credentialing program. By August 2023, TK teachers must additionally have 24 units of early childhood coursework, a Child Development Teaching permit, or equivalent experience. The state is also currently considering the adoption of a revised ECE Specialist Credential specific to the needs of children in preschool through grade 3. To work as an assistant TK teacher, an individual needs to hold a high school degree and (at minimum) pass an assessment demonstrating basic skills and pedagogical knowledge. However, there are no requirements for early childhood coursework or experience for assistant TK teachers.

    To build this new qualified, diverse TK and preschool workforce, California can draw on several potential pools of educators or candidates:

    • Current Multiple Subject credential holders, including current elementary teachers and out-of-state credential holders, can teach while earning the 24 units of ECE required to teach TK by August 2023.
    • Current early childhood educators with a bachelor’s degree and recent graduates of ECE bachelor’s degree programs are good candidates for fast-tracked paths into lead TK teacher positions, since they have experience working with young children, already meet several requirements needed to earn a credential, and may be attracted by the support and compensation offered for teaching TK.
    • Current early childhood educators without a bachelor’s degree have experience working with children and are good candidates for apprenticeship programs and degree pathway programs that lead efficiently to a bachelor’s degree and, eventually, a teaching credential.
    • New candidates that districts might tap to fill assistant TK teacher positions and teach in other ECE programs include recent high school graduates, parents of school-aged children who are reentering the workforce, career changers, and more. Districts might additionally build dual-enrollment pathways that allow students to take ECE-related coursework for college credit while in high school, and support pathways to a bachelor’s degree and a teaching credential.


    California will need to take steps to produce an adequate supply of effective early educators in the short and long term. State policymakers can take the following six steps to stabilize, support, and expand the broader early childhood workforce and build pathways for racially, linguistically, and culturally diverse educators.

    1. Clearly map out and communicate career pathways into TK and other ECE programs.
    2. Develop high-quality pathways into teaching TK that are tailored to the needs of experienced early educators.
    3. Provide grants to institutions of higher education to develop new credentialing programs for preschool to 3rd grade educators.
    4. Set appropriate requirements for assistant TK teachers to ensure these educators are prepared to support learning and development.
    5. Make new investments in the broader early educator workforce beyond TK.
    6. Collect new data to monitor ECE workforce needs, including how many teachers are currently teaching TK or what background they have.

    Building a Well-Qualified Transitional Kindergarten Workforce in California: Needs and Opportunities by Hanna Melnick, Emma García, and Melanie Leung--Gagné is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

    This research was supported by the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Packard Foundation, and the Ballmer Group. Core operating support for LPI is provided by the Heising-Simons Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Raikes Foundation, Sandler Foundation, and MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett. We are grateful to them for their generous support. The ideas voiced here are those of the authors and not those of our funders.

  • 06/29/2022 2:12 PM | Cheryl Casagrande (Administrator)

    Gov. Newsom strikes deal on state budget: big increase for K-12, plan to expand Cal Grant, too

    13% increase in the funding formula to cope with staff shortages, inflation


    JUNE 28, 2022


    Newsom got much of what he proposed in the May budget revision, with enough to satisfy legislative leaders, too.

    The article was updated June 28 to correct information about the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program.

    Meeting each other halfway, Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders have agreed to raise TK-12 general funding by nearly 13% for school districts and charter schools for the fiscal year that begins July 1. That was a key sticking point in the 2022-23 state budget that they settled over the weekend when they began releasing 29 budget “trailer bills” they are expected to vote on this week.


    Senate Bill 181 details spending for K-12 and community colleges. New spending and programs are in blue text. Search “Sec. 38.” for the Local Control Funding Formula; “Sec. 39.” for changes in average daily attendance funding; “Sec. 58.” for the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program; “Sec. 88.” for the Golden State Pathways Program; “Sec.129.” for school construction; “Sec. 134.” for the flexible block grant; “Sec. 137.” for the literacy coaching grant.

    Senate Bill 182 details how the $7.9 billion in one-time funding for the Learning Recovery Emergency Fund will work for K-12 and community colleges.

    In a big development for higher education, the deal also includes a long-awaited, though tentative, expansion of the Cal Grant, the state’s main financial aid program. The changes, contingent on available revenue, would make an additional 150,000 students eligible for aid starting in 2024-25 — including about 109,000 community college students who’d become newly eligible for awards to cover nontuition expenses like food and housing.

    For school districts facing staff shortages and inflationary costs, the deal would produce a $9 billion boost to the Local Control Funding Formula. It provides districts the bulk of their discretionary money, with extra funding tied to the percentage of English learners and low-income, foster and homeless children they enroll. Newsom had offered a 9% increase in his May budget revision; the Legislature’s counter-offer was for 16%.

    Despite ominous signs of market instability and $6 per gallon gas prices that could set off a recession and slice tax revenue, the final budget would keep  the same revenue projection in the May revision and the Legislature’s proposal: a record $110 billion for Proposition 98, the formula that determines how much state revenue goes to community colleges and TK-12 schools. Instead, Newsom and the Legislature fought over how much spending should be in one-time spending, which could be pared back in a downturn, or ongoing funding.

    The deal on the funding formula, reflecting that disagreement, led to other funding compromises on home-to-school transportation, community schools and relief for school districts hit with double-digit attendance and enrollment losses. With an unparalleled surge in state revenue during the past two years, schools are projected to receive $35 billion more than the Legislature appropriated a year ago. There was at least something for almost everyone.

    “Everybody will probably be able to point out things they aren’t happy about in this budget, but unless you’re fresh out of school, you’re unlikely to ever see a better one,” said Bob Blattner, a Sacramento-based school consultant. He cited additional funding for student transportation. “Districts have spent decades trying to fix the broken funding model for student busing — this budget delivered it.”

    Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, called it a “historic budget for the pre-K to 12 system” during an Assembly hearing Monday. “We are listening to districts suffering from” declining enrollment, school transportation costs, pension expenses and inflation, he said.

    Budget highlights include:

    Enrollment compromise: Districts would have the funding option of a three-year rolling average of student daily attendance. This method would spread out the financial hit of future enrollment drops in most school districts. Districts that experienced a double-digit drop in attendance and high chronic absenteeism in 2021-22 because of surges in Covid infections would be able to use pre-pandemic attendance figures for one more year. In return, they must be able to document that they adequately provided independent study for students who were quarantined. The combination of the three-year averaging and “hold harmless” funding for 2021-22 would cost $2.6 billion, according to the Assembly budget summary.

    Learning Recovery Block Grant: The $7.9 billion in one-time funding from the state general fund, usable through 2027-28, would be distributed by the number of students eligible for supplemental money under the Local Control Funding Formula. More restrictive than the Legislature had sought, the money could be used for intensive tutoring, additional learning time, accelerated learning strategies, early literacy intervention, mental health and counseling services and other learning supports. The block grant includes $650 million for community colleges.

    Expanded Learning Opportunities Program: The $3 billion in additional funding, for a total of $4.4 billion in funding moving forward, would enable schools to offer 9-hour days – typically a 6-hour instructional day plus 3 hours of expanded learning  – and summer or intersession for K-6 schools statewide. Per student funding would be $2,750 per “high-needs” student in those districts with at least 75% low-income, English learners, foster and homeless children. Once that funding is allocated, the remaining funding will be distributed to districts with fewer than 75 percent “high-needs” students, estimated at $1,250 per student. All districts will be allocated funding and must offer the program to “high-needs” students.

    Flexible block grant: Although called an “Arts, Music, and Instructional Materials Discretionary Block Grant,” the $3.6 billon in one-time funding could be used for operational costs, including paying for increases in districts’ pension payments for teachers and classified staff though CalSTRS and CalPERS.

    Community schools: Newsom had proposed an additional $1.5 billion on top of the $3 billion funded in the current budget; the Legislature proposed no funding. The compromise would be $1.1 billion.

    Reading coaches: In May, Newsom proposed $500 million over five years to hire literacy coaches and reading specialists for low-income elementary schools; the Legislature proposed nothing. The compromise would be $250 million, targeted for the highest poverty schools, with $25 million set aside to train literacy coaches in evidence-based literacy strategies.

    School transportation: School districts had received no new funding for eight years. Additional funding was a top priority of the Legislature. Those districts that have been favored under the existing, outdated formula would now receive an annual cost-of-living increase. All other districts would be reimbursed 60% of their expenses, plus annual COLAs. The cost to the budget would be $660 million in 2022-23. The state would also spend $1.5 billion for zero-emissions vehicles  over the next 5 years.

    School facilities: There would be $4.2 billion for school modernization and new construction, including $1.3 billion allocated from the last state bond and $2.9 billion from the state’s general fund over the next two years.

    Teacher residencies: The $184 million in new funding for teacher residencies, which are effective in training and retaining new teachers, would create new a new residency program, for school counselors.

    Career pathways: With $500 million from the state’s General Fund, the budget would establish the Golden State Pathways Program to fund partnerships bringing together low-performing or low-income school districts with higher education institutions and employers. The focus would be on career opportunities and regional employment needs in computer science, health, education, including early education and child development, and STEM, with attention to  climate resilience.

    Higher education

    The budget agreement was celebrated by students and community college leaders who for years have been advocating for changes to the Cal Grant program, which critics say is overly complex and leaves too many students without aid.

    Under the reformed Cal Grant program, there would no longer be a GPA requirement for community college students seeking awards. They currently need a 2.0 GPA to be eligible for those awards, something that is often a major barrier, particularly for older students who have trouble tracking down high school transcripts.

    The budget deal would also simplify the Cal Grant program by consolidating it into just two awards: one for community college students and another for four-year students.

    It was previously unclear if the final budget would include Cal Grant reform. Newsom last year vetoed a bill making similar changes and his budget proposals this year didn’t include a Cal Grant overhaul. The apparent compromise on Cal Grant expansion will only kick in if there is enough revenue available in 2024-25 to support the changes.

    The budget deal is “the right first step to transform” the Cal Grant, the Fix Financial Aid Coalition said in a statement. The coalition includes 35 organizations including the statewide student governments for the community college system, the University of California, and California State University.

    “The inclusion of the Cal Grant Equity Framework in the final budget represents a victory for those who would otherwise be unable to afford a higher education in California,” the coalition added.

    Eloy Ortiz Oakley, the chancellor of the state’s system of 116 community colleges, called students “clear winners in this budget,” noting that the budget deal “charts a course for future Cal Grant expansion that will help make state financial aid more equitable for community college students.”

    Proponents of the Cal Grant expansion cautioned that the governor and lawmakers must follow through with funding in 2024, even if there is a recession before then.

    The 2022-23 budget would include $500,000 for the Student Aid Commission to begin implementing the Cal Grant changes, which proponents viewed as an indication that lawmakers and Newsom are serious about the changes.

    Other higher education investments include 5% base funding increases in 2022-23 for both UC and CSU — a $200.5 million increase for UC’s general fund and $211.1 million increase to CSU’s general fund. That was disappointing news to the 23-campus CSU system, which was seeking a larger funding increase amid high inflation and the state’s budget surplus.

    In a statement, CSU interim Chancellor Jolene Koester said significant investments are needed for staff compensation, deferred maintenance and to close equity gaps in student achievement.

    “Considering the state’s unprecedented funding surplus, it is disappointing that additional support to address these important priorities was not allocated,” Koester said.

    Koester added, though, that the system is “appreciative” of Newsom’s pledge of ongoing funding increases in future years through the multiyear compacts that he has announced for CSU and UC. Under the compacts, the university systems will get 5% annual funding increases over the next five years in exchange for them making progress on goals such as increasing graduation rates, enrolling more students and making college more affordable.

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