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California School Fiscal Services

Providing comprehensive business office and consulting services to K-12 traditional schools and charters



My Word: Transparency desperately needed on school funding

Posted on April 20, 2017 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (2614)

Check out this opinion piece from Ted Lempert, president of Children Now and Ryan J. Smith, executive director of The Education Trust–West..  They suggest that LCAP should be reported out at the site level rather than the entire district.  Some very interesting food for thought about what the word "transparency" truly means.  


Gov. Jerry Brown fundamentally changed how we fund our K-12 education system when he signed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) into law in 2013. Since doing away with the archaic system that sustained inequitable school funding, California has been pushing dollars and decision-making to the district level, and providing more funding for the students that need it most.

Despite these improvements, the success of the funding formula is in jeopardy unless the alarming lack of transparency into how schools are spending this money and whether the investments are improving student outcomes is fixed.

Our organizations pushed for the funding formula and continue to believe in its benefits and potential to close opportunity and achievement gaps for our 6.2 million students. Since LCFF’s passage, we have seen promising changes around the state — a boost in community engagement, more equitable funding of districts and increased efforts to reduce chronic absenteeism and improve school climate, among others. However, since LCFF’s passage, we and many others have tried every possible way to build fiscal transparency into the system to no avail.

Currently, LCFF requires districts to report how the districts overall – not the schools specifically – are spending their dollars. Without school-level expenditures, we cannot tell if districts are spending these additional dollars to serve the schools and students that generated them — English learner, low-income, and foster youth students.

These dollars are intended to increase or improve services for those students, but the lack of transparency on actual expenditures makes it nearly impossible to gauge the impact of those investments, or even determine if they’re actually occurring.

Recent research — including a study conducted by The Education Trust-West (ETW) — underscores these concerns. ETW’s research found that while funding has become more equitable across California school districts, there is little evidence to prove this funding has translated into more opportunities or success for students in low-income schools.

That is why Assemblymember Shirley Weber has introduced AB1321. It will give us the ability to determine why this is happening and the information necessary to fix it.

Transparency and accessibility are core to LCFF. When the governor introduced the formula in his January 2013 budget proposal, he stated that it would “greatly increase transparency… empowering parents and local communities to access information in a more user friendly manner and enhance their ability to engage in local school financial matters.” AB 1321 brings such transparency to every district, ensuring LCFF in practice truly embraces the intended principles of the original LCFF legislation by creating a consistent and direct method for districts to report their actual spending, by type of funding at the school and district level.

Parents, local communities and others should not have to hire research teams and data analysts to get the information they need to understand how school funds are being used.

Waiting any longer to fix this transparency problem will be to the detriment of our students and will stifle the very districts we expect to be innovating and transforming communities by depriving them of sufficient information and direction from the state.

To be clear, districts face an enormous amount of often-competing pressures, ones that will only continue in the wake of pension reforms and economic changes. Ensuring LCFF works, given these pressures, will take a great deal of work — but it is work our students and our state deserve.

California took bold action once before in the name of equity, fairness, and the pursuit of closing achievement gaps when it shifted to LCFF, and policymakers must now approve AB 1321 for the same reasons.

Ted Lempert is president of Children Now and Ryan J. Smith is executive director of The Education Trust–West.

LCAP workshops

Posted on March 2, 2017 at 8:40 PM Comments comments (2393)

As we all know, the new LCAP template has been released and we are required to use it starting with our 2017-18 LCAP.  A series of trainings are available all over the state to assist us in making this transition.

LCFF and LCAP Workshops

Posted on September 27, 2016 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (3497)

Two different LCFF and LCAP workshops are coming up that are sponsored by FCMAT.  Be sure to reserve a spot if you need some training on how to complete these documents.  They are the bread and butter of what we do so keeping up to date is very important.  

Mastering the Basics:

This four-hour workshop will cover the LCFF and LCAP for school districts and charter schools, with detailed instructions on the FCMAT LCFF Calculator and the minimum proportionality percentage (MPP)

Beyond the Basics

New LCFF/ LCAP Resources from CASBO

Posted on May 20, 2016 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (3327)
Be sure to check out the new PowerPoint templates from CASBO to assist school districts and charters in communicating their LCFF/LCAP information to their stakeholders. You can find the materials at:

What is IGNITE?


IGNITE is a public awareness and education campaign with a number of complementary goals:


IGNITE will provide CASBO members and the general public with the information needed to navigate the complicated issues of school finance in California, breaking down those issues in a manner that is easily readable and understandable.

IGNITE is about igniting a movement that engages CASBO members in a collective effort to educate their communities, state and locally-elected leaders about the future of education funding.

By educating CASBO members, local communities and state/local decision makers about current and future funding issues, IGNITE will lay the groundwork for a statewide conversation that avoids the mistakes of the past and leads to increased funding for public schools to help them reach their goals related to student achievement and success.

CDE Launches Local Control and Accountability Plan Survey

Posted on March 11, 2016 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (2210)

The California Department of Education has launched a new online survey to improve Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs). The survey will let anyone who is interested – students, parents, educators, community members and others – help make the plans easier to use, understand, and review. The survey will be open until Friday, March 25. The survey is available at

Navigating the legal threats posed by LCAPs

Posted on March 4, 2016 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (2447)
Happy Friday! 

I think we all knew that it was only a matter of time before the lawyers entered the LCAP process.  This is an important article to read so you can see the level of scrutiny that particular watch dog groups place on this document.  Supplemental and Concentration funds are really no different than all of those restricted resources that were eliminated when Revenue Limit funding was replaced by LCFF.  Despite the "0000" resource code, the accountability for S/C funds is formidable!  This just underscores the high need for the business and instructional sides to work closely together.  That's the whole idea here! 



by Tom Chorneau

(Calif.) Two prominent attorneys who tend to face-off from opposite sides of most public school issues have found common ground on one thing – that districts face significant legal threat over the development and execution of local performance plans.


Already Los Angeles Unified was sued over its method for calculating the base cost of services to disadvantaged students, and with administrators getting started this spring on the third update of their Local Control Accountability Plans, even more scrutiny from outside groups is expected.


“This coming year is going to be critical,” said Sloan Simmons, partner at Lozano Smith. “Districts may for the first time start to have data upon which they can measure success of their LCAP initiatives and whether they are meeting their programmatic and spending goals. For districts that perhaps don’t meet intended goals, they can determine what needs to be adjusted in their LCAPs so that funds are benefitting the target groups as intended.”


Legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown ushered in the Local Control Funding Formula almost three years ago giving schools billions in additional dollars to expand educational services to low-income students, English learners and foster youth. Although there’s a general understanding that local educational agencies are still adjusting and transitioning to the new rules, there’s also some pressure from parents, advocacy groups and lawmakers to show results.


Last week at a hearing of the Senate Education Committee, members of California’s State Board of Education and Department of Education were asked pointedly when taxpayers can expect to see a return on the LCFF “concentration” and “supplemental” grants invested in schools.


The answer, said board president Mike Kirst, is likely two years off – maybe longer as the state continues to struggle with reinventing how it will measure school and student performance under the newly-adopted Common Core State Standards and added complications from adoption of the nation’s new education law, the Every Child Succeeds Act.


It is unlikely that public interest law firms and advocacy groups will wait that long before raising questions about whether districts are meeting their LCAP goals.


“We continue to see districts that fail to even identify what their school-wide and district-wide actions and services are that they are spending supplemental and concentration grants on,” said John Affeldt, managing attorney at Public Advocates.


“You’ve got to separately identify each distinct action or service supported by supplemental and concentration spending,” he explained. “Instead we see a lot of summary explanations that simply say things like ‘we invested in programs to support our English learners’ – that’s not good enough.”


At issue in the L.A. Unified case is whether the district properly included special education spending when they calculated the baseline of services at the outset of the new funding system. The question is critical because that base dictates how much the district must spend on the targeted populations for years to come.


Public Advocates along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California argue that LAUSD incorrectly lowered the base by counting services required by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as part of their LCFF effort. School officials have said they calculated the base correctly because a large number of their special education students also fit into one of the three student pools targeted by the LCFF.


The suit has been set aside by the court while the California Department of Education pursues an administrative remedy.


Both Sloan and Affeldt acknowledge that the L.A. case is unique, although the question of how districts set their base spending and also how they arrive at the required “unduplicated” count of targeted students is central to any legal risks.


In a client brief this month, Sloan and a colleague suggested that LEAs utilize a complex but thorough seven-step process for making the unduplicated count.


Once that’s accomplished, however, the legal thicket is really only beginning as the focus moves to perhaps the more important question of how the LCFF grant money is being used and whether services have been enhanced.


Affeldt noted that the education code calls for the concentration and supplemental grants to provide “increased or improved” services to the targeted students.


Affeldt noted that the education code calls for the concentration and supplemental grants to provide “increased or improved” services to the targeted students.


“That means a growth in the quantity or the quality of services,” he said. “So if you are investing, say in teacher salaries – that’s not automatically an increase or an improvement in services. Same thing if you are using the grants to pay for higher health care costs. What you are typically doing there is just spending more dollars on the same services.”


Sloan said that LCFF regulations give some guidance on what is a ‘permissible service,’ which also may be applied on a districtwide basis. That list includes – but is not limited to – services associated with the “delivery of instruction, administration, facilities, pupil support, technology and other general infrastructure necessary to operate educational instruction and related services.”


While that definition seems fairly broad, both Sloan and Affeldt say there’s a qualifying test put into the rules – whether the services are being “principally directed” to any or all of the three targeted student groups.


Affeldt noted that the coalition group that includes his law firm, the ACLU and a number of advocacy groups representing disadvantaged youth pressed the state board to include the “principally directed” language in the regulations.


He said that the “principally directed” term only comes into play for spending that is district-wide or school-wide in nature and not specifically targeted – such as a program to improve services to English learners only. “Principally directed,” he explained, means that the spending is being done primarily to help the targeted students.


“Are unduplicated students a fore-thought in the decision to spend the funds that way – not an after-thought, or even an equal thought,” he said. “You have to be able to say that the reason we are picking this strategy is because we think this is the next best use of dollars to help our unduplicated students.”


Sloan said the question of what is and what is not a service that is “principally directed” will emerge as a key legal question in the years to come. He points out that the term is not defined in the LCFF regulations and that school groups opposed including the term in the regulations because, among other things, it would lead to unnecessary confusion, disagreement and possibly litigation.


“This said, there are indications of the meaning of principally directed both in terms of common and legal usage of the word “principally” and stated intent of the drafters of the LCFF regulations,” he explained. “The common sense interpretation that principally directed means ‘chiefly or primarily’ directed.”


Another component of this discussion is the set of performance rubrics that the state board has yet to formalize. Called for in state law, the rubrics are primarily intended as a tool for state and county offices of education to evaluate whether districts are meeting the educational goals spelled out in their LCAPs.


The work on the rubrics is not expected to be finished until the fall; thus it might be argued that any challenge to districts before then on LCAP fidelity is premature. That is, the rubrics might be needed to fully determine if a program or service has been successfully “principally directed.”


But according to Affeldt, community groups and parents don’t need the rubrics to begin scrutinizing district LCAPs.


"Districts should use the rubrics to evaluate whether their LCAP investments are achieving desired outcomes," he said. "That should be done with LCAP Annual Updates every year too. The rubrics should reveal performance and growth outcomes under all the state priorities and subgroup gaps in a way, hopefully, that explains what’s working and what’s not and why. That information should then feed back into revised LCAP plans going forward.”



Changes coming to LCAP, pressure for more continues

Posted on February 25, 2016 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (2541)
I think it's fair to say that everyone would like to see the LCAP simplified!  Something to look foward to in the 2017-18 school year!

by Kimberly Beltran

(Calif.) Based on public feedback – and increasing legislative pressure – the Brown administration says it will take action to simplify and make clearer the disclosure mechanism designed to reveal how school districts are using state funds to improve educational outcomes for California’s six million K-12 students.


Changes to the Local Control Accountability Plan template could include requiring a greater breakdown of expenditures, especially around spending on programs and services for English learners, poorer children and foster youth.


“There’s a great deal of inconsistency around how much of a local education agency’s overall budget is reflected in the LCAP,” California State Board of Education president Mike Kirst told the Senate Education Committee Wednesday morning. “[SBE] will be considering proposed revisions at its May meeting to simplify the LCAP template, not for this school year but for the 2017-18 school year, with expected final adoption in September.”


Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula, LCAPs are intended to be drivers of parent and community input into district spending decisions as well as reliable and transparent indicators of school performance.


The components of the plan have remained somewhat in flux as parents and civil rights advocacy groups have maintained that they still lack full inclusion, aren’t specific enough in detailing how dollars benefit disadvantaged students and are too complex to be easily understood.


Some school districts have taken issue with the heft of the requirement and say the plans are overly bureaucratic.


The pressure to address those concerns and start showing results intensified this week as several legislators wanted proof that billions in additional tax payer dollars provided to schools is producing better student outcomes.


“Now that we’ve added $13 billion to the schools, people are demanding results and patience isn’t really a word they want to hear in return,” said Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego. “When will we know if taxpayers getting their money’s worth? Do we even know what that means and, if we do, when will we have an answer statewide? Give me a date.”


Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, addressed an issue that was also raised Tuesday during an Assembly education budget hearing: The question of why state education officials aren’t collecting district data that would give a statewide perspective of how the money is being used to meet state goals.


“What are we doing to look at how schools are distributing their resources?” Pan asked. “The fact is, [districts] should already have that information because they should be providing that to their local constituents. So that should not be additional information they have to gather, and that should be information we also get as well.”


Assemblyman Philip Ting, a Democrat from San Francisco, took Brown’s finance department to task during Tuesday’s subcommittee hearing, demanding that the administration answer for removing from trailer bill language a specific requirement that districts report to the state and make public on their websites expenditures of their supplemental and concentration grant funding for disadvantaged students.


Kirst, backed by long-time Brown advisor and state board member Sue Burr, told lawmakers that while the new accountability system isn’t fully implemented and may yet require tweaking, evidence of promising results does exist and is likely to grow exponentially over the next two years.


“What we’re looking for is growth so you have to set a baseline and we’ve done that with the assessment, and we’ll have graduation rates,” Kirst told the panel. “We’ll have other things that are included in the eight state priorities [under LCFF] that we know how to measure. We will have a new assessment round this spring; we’ll have a new graduation calculation this year so you’ll begin to see some indicators.”


All of these things provide state-level information about how schools and students are doing, he said, but there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of whether tax payers are getting their money’s worth.


“That’s an answer that is best given at the local level where they have not only our state data available to them but they have a lot of local data that allows them to tell the local story of what’s happening in their community,” said top CDE staffer Keric Ashley. “Things like parent survey and parent participation in programs; all of that information that is locally-driven that we don’t have at the state, that’s what fills out the story of what’s happening in schools and districts so that’s really a question that needs to be answered by 1,000 school districts.”

Lawmakers ready next step in LCFF rubric training

Posted on February 2, 2016 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (3372)
Sign me up!  Let's all watch for the dates and times of this upcoming training and plan to attend.  This is an important one to watch.  

FEBRUARY 02, 2016

by Alisha Kirby

(Calif.) With the state board of education still months away from adopting an evaluation tool to assess district plans for student achievement, legislators are laying groundwork for the next step in the process: Teaching evaluators how to use it.


Senators Carol Liu, D-Pasadena, and Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, have introduced SB 871, which would require the recently established California Collaborative for Educational Excellence to create a pilot program aimed at training district and county office of education personnel how to use the rubric.


“This bill will just further ensure that we are on track; that the system is set up and that the infrastructure is okay,” Liu, who also chairs the Senate Education Committee, said in an interview. “And it will make sure that we are tracking our student outcomes so that there is continual growth and support.”


In 2013, California changed the way it funded schools by adopting what it calls the Local Control Funding Formula, which allocates additional resources to schools with more disadvantaged students, including English learners, foster youth and those from low-income families.


As part of the LCFF, school districts, charter schools and county offices of education must create Local Control Accountability Plans that detail how they plan to increase student achievement for all students, and how the additional funds are benefitting their disadvantaged students.


Once adopted, the evaluation rubrics will allow districts to assess the progress made toward the goals outlined in their LCAPs.


Under the LCFF, county offices of education are charged with reviewing district LCAPs, and the state schools superintendent with reviewing county plans as well as any district plans deemed lacking. The California Collaborative for Educational Excellence is the oversight committee charged with assisting districts that require further assistance.


The California State Board of Education is required to develop and adopt an evaluation rubric by Oct. 2016.


“Three years have gone by and we still need to have evaluation rubrics in place, and we know the board of education is coming closer to giving us that,” Liu said. “We are just concerned with jumpstarting this whole thing.”


Under SB 871, the Collaborative for Educational Excellence would be required to establish a pilot program to provide professional development for how districts, county offices and charter schools should implement the evaluation rubric and create a continuous system that improves student outcomes. The pilot would run between fiscal years 2016-17 and 2017-18.


What could conceivably be involved in the program is still up for discussion, according to Collaborative spokesman Joshua Daniels, who said that the oversight group is still in its infancy and will continue to hire and train staff members in the coming weeks.


“I think it’s probably too soon for any details, but we are excited to work with the districts that volunteer to be part of the pilot program,” Daniels said in an interview. “We feel confident that we can implement this bill. It begins to flesh out what the CCEE can do, and we’re looking forward to getting going.”


SB 871 was introduced last month and is currently in the Senate Education Committee. The California Collaborative for Educational Excellence is scheduled to discuss the bill at its board meeting Feb. 4.