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Calif. Districts Ramp Up Parent-Outreach Efforts to Meet Funding-Law Mandate

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School districts across California have been holding meetings and conducting surveys to seek parent input into their budgeting process this year, a direct result of the state's new school funding law. The law, which frees school systems from many categorical budgetary restrictions, also requires districts to involve parents as they draft accountability plans detailing their financial priorities.

Determining how parents should participate in the development of their Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP) has been left up to the individual school districts, as I discovered for a story I wrote this week for EdSource, an Oakland-based nonprofit. (I joined EdSource as a correspondent covering Southern California this month. I'll also continue my blogging for K-12 Parents and the Public.)

The law requires that each district's accountability plan must develop goals and fund strategies in eight "priority areas," which include school climate, student achievement, and parental involvement. Districts must adopt their accountability plans by July 1.

Under the new Local Control Funding Formula, districts will receive additional state funds for students who are poor, learning English, or living in foster care. The Los Angeles Times reports that a community coalition held a rally Monday and unveiled a comprehensive index of the Los Angeles Unified School District's so-called neediest schools. Coalition organizers urged district leaders to earmark the bulk of the school system's new state dollars to serve the students in these 242 schools. The district's draft budget, according to the Times, includes a significant increase in funding—$837 million—for librarians, nurses, counselors, English-language coaches, and other programs to support disadvantaged students.

Meanwhile, Santa Ana Unified School District, San Bernardino City Unified School District, and San Diego Unified School District—three of the seven districts EdSource is tracking as they implement the new school funding formula—are holding their final public meetings this month. San Bernardino has streamed some of its accountability plan meetings live on the district's website, while Santa Ana is posting every concern and idea from its meetings on its website.

Still, getting busy parents to attend these meetings can be a struggle. Only seven parents showed up to a meeting I went to at a local San Diego school on Monday. Regardless of the turnout, the group of 21 participants, which included teachers and principals who also must be included in the accountability-plan process, engaged in a robust discussion about what they believe should be priorities for the city's schools. 

As the process moves forward, Shelli Kurth, a parent and co-founder of the San Diego advocacy group United Parents for Education, said she, and some other parents, are questioning whether the district will take full advantage of financial flexibility afforded under the new state funding formula. 

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