The Silicon Valley Voice

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Santa Clara Unified Talks Budget as They Enter a Unique School Year

In a study session on Thursday, May 11, the Santa Clara Unified School District Board of Trustees talked about all things money as they look towards returning fully to campus in the Fall and finding a new normal in an abnormal time.

 

Local Control and Accountability Plan

This year, the District had to create a new Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) since theirs has expired in March 2020 when the pandemic hit. This new LCAP is for 2021-2024.

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Staff was only able to give a high-level presentation of the LCAP since the draft is not yet completed. The draft will be available on the District’s website on May 16 and will stay there for 30 days. Board Member Andy Ratermann wished they had more information and more depth.

The LCAP focuses on three three-year goals:

  • All students will make measurable annual progress toward mastering California Standards and toward graduation. We will raise student achievement overall and reduce the achievement gap between student groups.
  • All students will demonstrate progress in elements of the SCUSD Vision 2035 Graduate Portrait
  • SCUSD will partner with family, business and community stakeholders to ensure that all students make progress in elements of the Graduate Portrait.

Vice President Vickie Fairchild was concerned that the goals aren’t measurable. She wanted to know how they intend to measure whether they’re reaching these goals or not.

Brad Stam, Chief Academic & Innovation Officer, said they are still working on metrics but they would use implementation and impact metrics as well as the California Dashboard Metrics. Stam also added that the goals can be modified as they go through the three-year period.

There will be a public hearing on June 10 and then will come back to Board action on June 24.

 

Expanded Learning Opportunity Grant

The Expanded Learning Opportunity (ELO) Grant is a one-time $9.7 million for learning recovery, said Assistant Superintendent Kathie Kanavel. They just got the funds but the timeframe to spend it is July 2020 – August 2022 and every cent needs to be spent. However, the allowable expenditures must fit certain parameters, mainly surrounding learning loss and recovery.

Because the money isn’t reoccurring, Kanavel said, it’s difficult to spend the funds on things that will need to be sustained over time. Proposed expenditures include summer programs, nutritional services, tutoring, learning centers, and more. Some of these are also co-funded by LCAP.

 

2021-2022 Budget

The District is still very early in their budgeting process, there are still two months in the fiscal year, and missing some key information, but Mark Schiel, Chief Business Official, presented an update.

Before this meeting, Board Members and the community said they were being told that there would be cuts, causing a panic. Then, recently, they were told there wouldn’t actually be cuts, causing confusion.

Schiel said they have created a new Targeted Funds (aka Supplemental Funding) Allocation Formula and that was what may have caused the panic. Staff created the new formula so that the District would be giving the funding to the students who are helping to generate these funds — namely English Learners/Emerging Bilinguals, low-income students, foster youth, and the homeless also called the Unduplicated Pupils. According to Schiel, the old formula wasn’t exactly doing this and was more based on school population so the money wasn’t always going to the students who needed it.

Even with the new formula in place, Schiel said they have put a one-year “Hold Harmless” in place for the schools that would have had less funding this coming year. This means they would get the same funding they were used to — this difference is funded by the ELO Grant— so that these school wouldn’t feel the decline right away. But the school that would get more funding according to the new formula, would still get that additional funding. Basically, no schools are getting less funding this upcoming year, according to Schiel.

“When we were doing the original allocations and the current draft of the allocations, those drafts were sent to all the schools to start understanding this new funding formula. When we started hearing back from site administrators that there was a concern about this decrease for this year, we communicated back that we would go back and look to see if there was a way to provide some additional funding for them…” said Schiel. “We’re using the ELO funds to backfill that. So, at one point in time, yes, there were plans for reductions, but we let them know we were looking for other ways to provide some hold harmless allocations for that. It was a timing issue.”

According to Schiel, the only difference would be the decline in Title I funding — projected to be 12 percent less, but that’s not final yet — due to the decline of Unduplicated Pupils. But the difference is also being made up this upcoming year with the ELO Grant.

Board Member Albert Gonzalez said he realizes that they’re trying to make sure there is a soft landing for the sites that will see funding decreases, but he also wanted to make sure that students, especially at Title I schools, are getting the resources they need to succeed even as Title I funds are decreasing.

Generally, the budget is looking a little lighter mostly due to many one-time COVID-19-related boosts the District received in 2020-2021. However, some of the funds they received won’t be spent until 2021-2022 so it will appear as if they are deficit spending, but they’re not.

Salaries for teachers are also increasing but Schiel was quick to point out that this includes the fact that the three new Agnews schools are coming soon. Some of that is also because of staff they needed to reopen schools.

There is also a huge increase in Employee Benefits which can be pinpointed to an unexpected and significant increase in STRS (State Teachers’ Retirement System) due to the pandemic. Also, Unemployment Insurance rates are increasing significantly.

The Budget is still a work in progress. Shiel also said future funding assistance and changes at the Federal and State level may be able to help in some areas where things are looking a bit bleak.

Gonzalez said the Board seems to have a consensus that they want to give students the resources they need to get back on track. Ratermann made a motion that requested that there be a planning item added to a future agenda that would have a proposal for costs for teacher staffing levels so that class sizes would be 20 to one for TK – third grade and 24 to one for fourth grade – 12th grade, or suggested alternatives for next year.

The motion passed 5-0. Board Member Jim Canova abstained because he didn’t agree with making a motion during a Study Session. He said they can simply give staff direction. Board Member Dr. Michele Ryan also abstained because she didn’t agree with including specific numbers in the motion. But they both said they supported the spirit of the motion to reduce class sizes.

Ratermann also showed interest in an intervention program to make sure students don’t fall through the cracks in the learning loss recovery plans.

The Board meets next later this week on Thursday, May 13 at 4 p.m.

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