California School Fiscal Services
|Posted on July 16, 2014 at 10:25 AM|
One of the elements of the LCFF that I find challenging centers around the Grade Span Adjustment and the requirement of schools to make progress towards 24:1 in grades K-3. Understand, I am in complete favor of reducing class sizes, and believe the actions are a win-win for all parties involved. However, for a school district to have to calculate these averages in April and then staff accordingly for the following year with just rough estimates of enrollment seems futile. We could have all the historical information possible and run the most accurate projections with various proven methods, but estimating Kindergarten enrollment is not an exact science, and knowing that with a few drops here and there, some unexpected additions, and a few surprised retentions, our calculations could change just enough to put us over target and warrant an additional hire or two. So with the fear of losing funds, Districts are can feel forced to almost over-staff to ensure the targets are met. This wouldn't be the worst plan except there are also expectations for employee raises, restoration of programs, new support staff, etc. in addition to reducing class sizes (in all grades, not just K-3), and there aren’t enough dollars to do it all. I believe in the notion that school districts can do anything, just not everything, and this GSA requirement is forcing our hand too much. As every district is facing these same challenges, hiring the best candidates possible is more difficult than ever. We started recruiting in March knowing that everyone was going to be seeking the best of the best, and we still found ourselves feeling the pool of really qualified teachers is diluted. And no matter how strong the planning, projections and hiring are in April, May and June, I would bet numerous districts will face some unpleasant surprises surrounding their enrollment and their GSA calculations in August, and lead them to hire staff, possibly after the start of the year. I think it could be argued that hiring a less than qualified teacher and/or rearranging classes and creating combos, after the school year has started no less, just because the school average looks like it might exceed the target by 0.25% for example, is not in the best interest of students. I’m not in favor of trying to negotiate alternative language with our CBA, as I truly believe that class sizes need to be reduced. I think our upcoming audit process will help shed more light on this issue and perhaps create more hope and ease, or possibly more despair. Bottom line – it seems as though the threat of losing all your district GSA funds for missing a target at a single school is too punitive.
Matt Torres, Ed.D
Fruitvale School District
7311 Rosedale Highway
Bakersfield, CA 93308-5738