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California School Fiscal Services

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



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Latest CASBO Job Openings

Posted on April 28, 2017 at 12:55 AM Comments comments (11589)

Yes, it's that time of year again....interview season...

Here are the latest CASBO job openings.  Remember, if you are looking for a CBO position, be sure to send a copy of your current resume to SSC and let them know you are interested in opportunties.

As always, if you need help preparing for interviews, just let me know.

2016 Special Education Report

Posted on April 23, 2017 at 9:15 PM Comments comments (2959)

An excellent report on special education excellence in California Charter Schools.  

Everyone can learn something from reading this report.  Carve out a few minutes and add it to your "to do" list.

My Word: Transparency desperately needed on school funding

Posted on April 20, 2017 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (2612)

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.

Local control formula closing funding gap but not equity gap, report says

Posted on April 10, 2017 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (6083)

Ed Source



Four years after its passage, the Local Control Funding Formula has narrowed and, by some measures, reversed the funding gap between the lowest- and highest-poverty districts in California.

But an infusion of funding hasn’t translated yet into improved opportunities for low-income students and English learners ­– and may not achieve that goal without tighter disclosure rules and more innovative approaches to distributing districts’ resources, a student advocacy organization said in a report published Thursday.

“We need more clarity on where money is going. Without transparency, community stakeholders, policymakers and the broader public are left to wonder whether this massive public experiment and investment is paying off,” said the Education Trust–West in “The Steep Road to Resource Equity in California Education.”

The funding formula gives additional money to school districts based on their numbers of English learners, foster youth and low-income students. A district whose “high-needs” students make up about 90 percent of enrollment, such as Fresno Unified, will get about a third more funding in “supplemental” and “concentration” dollars under the formula than districts like Dublin Unified, with 15 percent high-needs students.

The formula is working as intended to close funding disparities, the report found. Funding for the quarter of districts with the highest concentrations of poverty got $334 per student more in 2015-16 than the quarter of districts with the lowest rates of poverty. That’s a reversal from the low point of the Great Recession, 2012-13, when the highest-poverty districts got $829 per student less than those with the lowest poverty levels. The comparison is all the more striking because it includes local sources of money, such as parcel taxes and money from local foundations. It also includes high-wealth “basic aid” districts, like Palo Alto, that are funded through local property taxes and receive more money than they would from the state.

A table in the report of the state’s largest districts shows that per-student funding for Elk Grove Unified, with 58 percent high-needs students – about the state average – increased 41 percent since 2010-11, compared with 59 percent for Santa Ana Unified, with 94 percent high-needs students.

But the report, using limited data, said the money hasn’t yet translated into visible improvements for high-needs students statewide. The percentage of students in high-poverty high schools with access to math and English language arts courses qualifying for admission to California State University and the University of California stagnated or declined since pre-recession levels, although access to calculus and physics courses did increase. Access to all of these courses was significantly lower than in wealthier high schools.

The state does not collect data on how districts use supplemental and concentration money. The latest data on course access and numbers of counselors and librarians in low- and high-poverty schools were from 2014-15, the second year of funding under the formula. There have been significant funding increases in the past two years that were not accounted for in the report.

But Ryan Smith, Education Trust–West’s executive director, said that the complaints he continues to hear from parent and community leaders across the state back the report’s early-year findings that “district leaders aren’t spending money in the best interest of kids who generate the funds.”

This week, the nonprofit law firm Public Advocates filed a complaint against Long Beach Unified, alleging the state’s third-largest district either failed to explain how it had spent more than $40 million in supplemental and concentration money for high-needs students or had misallocated the funding. Referring to that action, Smith said, “We believe (the funding formula) can be the lynchpin to close the opportunity and achievement gaps. But rather than go down the road where every district is sued for not spending money on the kids, we are raising a yellow flag now.”

Education Trust–West’s report coincides with a push to pass funding transparency legislation that it and Children Now, another student advocacy organization, are cosponsoring. Assembly Bill 1321, by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, would require districts to specify how they are spending their supplemental and concentration dollars at the district and the school levels. Some districts already are doing this on their own. The bill would require uniform state codes to track these expenditures across districts.

The current law requires that districts show they are improving or increasing services for high-needs students in proportion to the extra money they’re getting, but they’re not required to itemize supplemental and concentration spending. And Gov. Jerry Brown, the architect of the funding formula, opposes requiring more detailed accounting at the school level. He and his appointed State Board of Education maintain that improvement strategies must radiate from the district to be effective and that administrators and school boards should be held accountable for improvement under local control.

Smith said that approach may make sense for a small district but not an urban district with hundreds of schools and a disconnected central office. “Parents engage at their school site, not L.A. Unified’s district office, to get their information and become involved,” he said.

The report calls for protecting districts’ flexibility over funding decisions and guarding against revisions to the formula that would increase base funding for general operations, at the expense of supplemental and concentration dollars. Education Trust–West and critics of the current formula do agree districts’ rising pension costs – a state-mandated expense not foreseen when the formula was created – and rising special education costs could easily consume more than half of base revenues in coming years. Those districts with declining enrollments will see a reduction in state revenue.

In a sober assessment, the report acknowledged, “With these cost pressures, districts will have very few new, incremental dollars available to increase and improve services” for high-need groups.

“This means thinking beyond the supplemental and concentration grants,” the report said. Districts should use the entire budget, integrating disparate sources of funding, to expand their strategies for high-need students.

The report highlights San Jose Unified, which it said uses an exemplary approach to equitable funding. The district, whose schools vary greatly in demographics and wealth, has directed significant staff and resources to high-poverty schools and given principals flexibility over allocating money. Members of the state board and other observers point to other districts’ equity-focused strategies and say San Jose’s strategy is far from unique.

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.

2016-17 First Interim Certifications

Posted on February 11, 2017 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (1165)

2016-17 First Interim Certifications have been released and the number of qualified districts has increased to 28.  Take a look at this chart and compare 2016-17 to first interim of 2007-08.  Who else remembers the start of the Great Recession?  

Also, remember that at first interim, the Governor's budget had not yet been released with gap funding percentages greatly reduced in 2017-18.  It is likely to expect  second interim qualified certification will rise given the 2017-18  gap funding drop from 72.99% of 23.67%.

CCSA annual conference

Posted on February 9, 2017 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (2)

Happy New Year

Posted on January 11, 2017 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (4627)

I saw this and thought it was a nice reminder for those of us that lean toward perfectionist....

Happy New Year!

CalPERS cuts earnings forecast; school districts to pay more for pensions

Posted on December 28, 2016 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (125)
The impact of this should be front and center on our radar.  

John Fensterwald
December 21, 2016

School districts, already bracing for record pension contributions for school employees, will face additional costs they hadn’t expected as a result of a decision Wednesday by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.


The CalPERS board voted to lower the expected rate of return on its investments from 7.5 to 7 percent. That action will force local governments, school districts and the state to make up the difference by annually paying billions of dollars more into CalPERS to keep the nation’s largest public employee pension fund afloat.


The board acted because the pension fund remains underfunded and vulnerable to further erosion without more money. Since investments aren’t generating what the board had counted on and the board isn’t planning to revise its investment strategy for two years, it’s turning to employers and, to an extent, employees for larger contributions.


The decision puts the earnings forecast closer to what financial advisers say CalPERS can realistically expect over the next three decades. It will also put pressure on the board of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System to follow the lead and consider reducing its identical 7.5 percent earnings forecast on investments when its board of directors meets this spring.


CalPERS serves hourly school employees, including bus drivers and clerks, while CalSTRS serves teachers, administrators and other school employees who have a teaching credential. Since CalPERS members make up a smaller portion of school staff and generally get smaller pensions, potential changes to CalSTRS contributions rates would have bigger repercussions. However, only the Legislature has the authority to set CalSTRS district and employee contribution levels, and it’s too soon to say what, if anything, might happen in 2017. Legislators would look to Gov. Jerry Brown for a signal.**


The CalPERS board accepted a board committee’s recommendation to phase in the lower rate of return over three years, starting next year for the state and in 2018-19 for school districts and local governments. CalPERS projected that a drop of 0.5 percent in the rate of return would increase pension contributions by school districts and local governments by 20 percent.


Dennis Meyers, an assistant executive director of the California School Boards Association, estimated that the lower investment forecast would add $400 million to $600 million to school districts’ costs. Combined with already scheduled cost increases to CalPERS and CalSTRS, higher pension costs will consume every dollar of projected revenue increases for 150 to 200 school districts in coming years, he told the CalPERS board committee during a hearing Tuesday. Those are districts get little supplemental money for English learners and low-income students under the Local Control Funding Formula.


School employees hired since the Legislature passed the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act four years ago will share a portion of the higher CalPERS contributions, but school employees hired before then won’t pay more. Districts will bear the increase.


The Legislative Analyst’s Office in November wrote that the 2012 pension reform act would add $6 billion in combined annual CalSTRS and CalPERS pension expenses for K-12 and community colleges by 2020-21, when the costs are fully phased in. CalSTRS pension contributions will increase about 2 percentage points of payroll annually between now and then. For CalPERS, the increase will be closer to 1.5 percentage points each year. The impact of CalPERS’ assumed lower investment return will gradually add another 2 percentage points to payroll costs, according to School Services of California, a school consulting firm.


Meyers and representatives of other government organizations didn’t oppose the CalPERS board’s decision in testimony Tuesday. They acknowledged that higher contributions would be needed in the mix of options to sustain the system long-term.


During the recession, the value of CalPERS’ investments fell $100 billion to about $160 billion, and the fund has not fully recovered. CalPERS’ assets are at only 68 percent of what’s needed to fully fund future obligations.


The Dow Jones Industrial stock average neared 20,000 this week and other indexes were at record highs, adding irony to the timing of the board’s vote. But Ted Eliopoulos, CalPERS chief investment officer, said the board should expect less than a 7.5 percent return and more market volatility in coming years. Investment earnings for the past two years ­– 0.6 percent during the last fiscal year and 2.4 percent the year before – were far below the 7.5 percent goal, known as the “discount rate.”


CalPERS’ other challenge is that it is selling $5 billion more from its investment portfolio than it is taking in from contributions from employers and employees, and that amount is increasing about $1 billion annually. Larger contributions will reduce that gap, advisers said.


The CalPERS board reaffirmed the 30-year, 7.5 percent earnings target two years ago, but its financial advisers concluded market conditions have changed since then. They’re now forecasting annual earnings averaging 6.2 percent over the next decade, followed by better than average returns for the following 20 years. The odds of hitting the revised 7 percent target would be 50-50, they said. Lowering the rate more would require even higher contributions from employers and the state; board members indicated that, for now, a half-percent reduction is an acceptable compromise.


For years, critics have called for CalPERS and CalSTRS to assume a lower investment return – or face financial shortfalls that will force higher costs on the next generation of Californians. Joe Nation, a former state legislator and a public policy professor at Stanford University, said that the board’s action didn’t go far enough. The discount rate should be closer to 6.25 percent, he said.


“If CalPERS only takes baby steps, its problems will never be solved,” he said. “I understand the political pressure, but this guarantees pain in the long run will be higher.”


An assumed 7 percent forecast will make CalPERS among the most conservative of the nation’s large pension funds. But several board members acknowledged that further, unspecified actions would be needed.


“This is not the end of the conversation,” said state Controller Betty Yee, a board member. “We have an opportunity to stabilize the system.”


No one said which of the available options – dicier investments with higher returns, even higher employee or employer contributions, or lower employee benefits – would be the most palatable and realistic.

Send special ed funding directly to districts, not regional agencies, report says

Posted on November 29, 2016 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (2239)
Wouldn't that be something if Brown actually followed through with this recommendation.  This will be interesting to watch as it unfolds.


The state should dismantle its system for distributing special education funding for California’s 718,000 students with disabilities and send the money – billions of dollars – directly to local school districts, according to a much anticipated report that’s expected to draw the attention of Gov. Jerry Brown and state education leaders.


The recommendations, made by researchers at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California and released Tuesday, would upend the way special education finance has worked in the state for nearly 40 years and potentially put out of business 133 regional special education agencies known as Special Education Local Plan Areas, or SELPAs.


State money for special education would be folded into the Local Control Funding Formula, completing Brown’s goal of creating a unified funding system for all children. Funding earmarked for students with disabilities would continue to be spent for general special education, but districts would have “no firm restrictions on use,” the report recommended. Districts would have more flexibility to respond to individual needs earlier, before formally designating students as having disabilities.


“We recognize some may find this option threatening,” said the PPIC report’s authors, led by Laura Hill and Paul Warren. “Nevertheless, we view it as a critical step towards a more integrated system of special and general education.”


If Brown and the Legislature were to adopt the recommendations, school districts would face new challenges to ensure students are properly identified as needing services, provide the necessary services, and report data on the demographics of students in special education to state and federal governments.


State Board of Education President Michael Kirst called the recommendations “bold and provocative.” He is to participate in a panel discussion on the proposal at noon Tuesday at PPIC’s Sacramento office.


Special education has long been an island in education. Because of financing complexities and federal and state special education mandates, Brown left special education out of the Local Control Funding Formula law in 2013. The $12 billion special education budget in California in 2014-15 – a mix of district, state and federal funds – inadequately served students, according to the final report of the Statewide Task Force on Special Education this past year.


The rights of students with special needs and their families are dictated by complex federal laws. And the academic performance of students – the majority of whom are not intellectually impaired but must overcome speech and language disorders or learning disabilities – lags their peers. The Statewide Task Force on Special Education issued a call for training teachers to co-teach with special education teachers to meet the needs of many students in one classroom.


The task force cited the same major financing problems that the PPIC report identified.


Inequitable funding: SELPAs are funded based on outdated 20-year-old formulas. There are wide disparities, with the top fifth of SELPAs getting 40 percent more funding per student than the bottom fifth.


Inadequate funding: In order to discourage overidentifying students with disabilities, SELPAs are funded based on districts’ overall student enrollment, not the percentage of special education students – a formula PPIC wouldn’t change. However, Brown has put more money into the Local Control Funding Formula and kept special education funding flat over the past decade, PPIC said. And funding has not responded to the increase in students with severe disabilities, such as autism.


PPIC estimated that raising per-student funding to the level of better-funded SELPAs and addressing higher costs generated by rising caseloads would cost between $670 million and $1.1 billion annually.


Poor accountability: “California does not hold SELPAs accountable for student success in any formal way,” PPIC wrote. The state doesn’t set performance goals for special education, and SELPAs aren’t required to track student performance, the report said. Each SELPA has its own formula for distributing state and federal funding. “We were unable to find budget and administrative plans on the internet for more than half of the state’s multidistrict SELPAs,” the report said.


Districts would be held more accountable by incorporating special education into school districts’ three-year spending documents, known as Local Control and Accountability Plans, the report said. Districts would be asked to set goals and chart the progress of students receiving special education services. Parents would be better able to share their perspectives, the report said.


The task force did not recommend the demise of SELPAs. In a paper last month, the task force’s co-executive directors, Vicki Barber, former director of the El Dorado County SELPA, and Maureen O’Leary Burness, former director of four different Northern California SELPAs, suggested that fixing the current system would be the preferable option.


“Troubling issues would have to be addressed to avoid unintended consequences” of moving toward direct district funding, Barber said in an interview Monday. She said SELPAs negotiate contracts for services, spread the costs of serving students with very expensive needs, and provide expertise and administrative services. Most of the state’s districts have fewer than 2,500 students and would struggle to provide these functions on their own, she said.


PPIC said the possible roles of SELPAs, without directly funding them in the future, would need to be redefined and clarified. Under the new approach, districts presumably could choose to keep funding reconstituted SELPAs for some functions, create new multidistrict agreements or contract services with providers of their choice.


Kirst had encouraged PPIC to do the study, which was funded by the Dirk and Charlene Kabcenell Foundation and the Stuart Foundation.


Cid Van Koersel, program director for WarmLine Family Resource Center in Sacramento, a federally funded parent training and information center for special education, said parents don’t know much about how special education is financed.


“Ninety percent of the time, families have never heard the word ‘SELPA,’” Van Koersel said. But she said they do know the services they want and need, and she wondered what would happen if the SELPA funding system disappeared. The local planning areas fund programs through county offices of education, she said, including programs for students who live in districts that are too small to provide services.


“What about the SELPA-run preschool for children with autism?” Van Koersel asked. “Who is going to provide that program?”