In the news: Career pathway programs on the rise, a bankable opportunity in Anaheim and more

It’s that time again. Here’s a week’s worth of local education stories you might have missed.

  • California’s teacher shortage is likely to worsen, according to a new report that calls for “purposeful steps” to reverse the trend.
  • In the NewsThe integration of hands-on career technical training with standards-based academics is becoming increasingly prevalent in California’s high schools thanks to a sizable investment by the state in programs like Orange County’s own OC Pathways.
  • The Orange Unified School District has conducted a feasibility study to determine whether a bond measure to replace aging facilities can win voter approval.

In the news: A state spending proposal, a makeup assignment in La Habra, court news and more

You want headlines? We’ve got headlines. Here’s the latest roundup of what’s happening in the world of education:

  • Anthony Rendon, the next speaker of the California Assembly, wants to use his position to focus on early childhood education.

Governor’s latest spending plan calls for increased school funding

A new state spending plan unveiled Thursday by Governor Jerry Brown would provide a $5.4 billion increase for California’s K-14 public school system.           

IMG_1647Indeed, the budget proposed for the fiscal year that starts July 1 reflects California’s steady economic improvement — and the governor’s commitment to fully implementing California’s new education funding formula.

“Overall, this budget is welcome news for Orange County students,” said Wendy Benkert, OCDE’s associate superintendent of business services. “We eagerly await a number of key details that will shed light on how this plan specifically impacts Orange County, but the governor continues to demonstrate his support for full implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula, and for the third year in a row, schools are poised to receive one-time dollars to support critical investments.”

The Local Control Funding Formula or LCFF, was designed in 2013-14 to channel more resources to students with the greatest needs. Along with a base level of funding by grade span, it sends additional dollars to districts based on their number — and concentration — of English-learners, low-income students and foster youth.

When it was created, the LCFF established target levels of funding for school systems that were to be achieved by the 2020-21 school year. Until then, districts have been receiving annual increases in the form of “gap funding,” referencing the gap between what they currently get and the target amount. Based on his proposal, the governor wants to increase the gap funding by $2.8 billion this year, or about 5.4 percent. 

Brown’s plan also includes more than $1.2 billion in one-time discretionary spending for school districts, charter schools and county offices of education. This funding could support key investments for districts, including standards implementation, technology, professional development, training for beginning teachers and deferred maintenance.

“The ongoing economic recovery in California will increase the Proposition 98 budget guarantee for schools up to $71.6 billion, a dramatic improvement from the $47.3 billion budget share in the depths of the recession five years ago,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said Thursday in a statement. 

Note that the governor’s proposal serves as a starting point for budget deliberations that typically go for months. The next fiscal milestone at the state level is May, when Brown is expected to release a revised spending plan based on the latest economic data and projections. 

OCDE staff and school district leaders will continue to analyze details of the governor’s proposal as they emerge.

In the news: Culinary arts in Irvine, new immunization rules, a Tustin school to close and more

It’s Friday, Dec. 18, and we’ve got another batch of spoiler-free education stories you might have missed. Here goes:

  • The Newport-Mesa Unified School District is among those reminding parents of new immunization requirements that take effect on Jan. 1. Specifically, Senate Bill 277 says parents of students who attend public or private schools can no longer refuse to vaccinate their children based on personal belief exemptions.
  • A student from Irvine’s University High School has earned the unique honor of having a photograph she took displayed in Vice President Joe Biden’s home.
  • Estancia High School, also in Costa Mesa, held its annual Fire Day, offering sophomore students the unique opportunity to experience the demands and challenges of a firefighter’s job.

Orange County superintendent releases report outlining progress toward strategic priorities

Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Mijares has released a new report assessing OCDE’s progress toward meeting its eight strategic goals.

 “Measuring Up: Strategic Priorities and Key Performance Indicators” can be accessed by clicking here, or on the graphic below.

KPI ReportLast year, the Orange County Department of Education unveiled an ambitious vision, stating that “Orange County students will lead the nation in college and career readiness and success.” Along with that vision, the department developed a five-year plan that spelled out eight strategic priorities, along with desired outcomes and key performance indicators.

The idea is to use specific metrics to track the progress of OCDE’s programs and services, as well as the overall performance of Orange County students. This data will ultimately be included in comprehensive reports that will be available to the public.

In the meantime, Superintendent Mijares and OCDE have issued this more concise and user-friendly snapshot, which offers some of the top statistics and info-graphics for each of the eight priorities. 

The report highlights some promising signs, including the fact that O.C. students posted higher average scores than California on new English and math assessments aligned with the state standards. But the data also identify areas for improvement. Using this information, OCDE will be able to strategically invest its resources to enhance services that benefit students, parents and the community.

We’d encourage you to take a look at the report, and visit the OCDE website to check out the five-year strategic plan and learn more about the steps the department is taking to ensure students graduate from high school with the competencies needed to thrive in the 21st century.

The 20 fees public schools can legally charge

New school registration is underway throughout Orange County, and students and parents may be asked to pay some fees. In an effort to clarify what fees schools can and cannot charge and how schools can be compliant with the law, we consulted with our Orange County Department of Education legal counsel.

calculator and dollar bills on spiral notebooksLets begin with some background.

The Constitution of California requires that public education be provided to students free of charge, unless a law specifically authorizes a charge for a particular program or activity. In 2012, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 1575, which settled a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the state’s alleged failure to prevent school districts from charging fees for educational activities and materials. That bill became effective in January 2013 and is intended to make clear existing law about what fees school districts may or may not charge.

While there are 20 fees, charges and deposits that schools can collect, not all schools or districts charge these fees. Keep in mind that the law does allow school districts to ask for voluntary donations and engage in fundraising as long as it is truly voluntary and a student is not denied participation for failure to give or raise funds.

Here is the list of the 20 fees, charges and deposits that are permitted by law for kindergarten through 12th grade.

  1. Optional attendance as a spectator at a school- or district-sponsored activity. You can read more about this in the landmark Hartzell case (Hartzell, 35 Cal.3d 899, 911, fn. 14).
  2. Food served to students, subject to free and reduced-price meal program eligibility and other restrictions specified in law.
  3. Books or supplies loaned to a student that are not returned or are willfully damaged.
  4. Field trips and excursions or school-related social, educational, cultural, athletic, or school band activities, as long as no student is excluded for not paying.
  5. Medical or hospital insurance for field trips made available by the school district.
  6. Required medical and accident insurance for athletic team members, so long as there is a waiver for financial hardship.
  7. Physical education attire of a particular color and design, but it does not need to be purchased from the school and no physical education grade may be affected based on the failure to wear standardized apparel “arising from circumstances beyond the control” of the student.
  8. Parking of vehicles on school grounds.
  9. Rental or lease of personal property needed for district purposes, such as caps and gowns for graduation ceremonies.
  10. School camp programs, so long as no student is denied the opportunity to take part because of nonpayment.
  11. Cost of materials that the student has used to create something for his or her own possession and use, such as wood shop, art or sewing projects kept by the student.
  12. Cost of duplicating public records, student records or a catalogue of the school curriculum.
  13. Transportation to and from school provided there is a waiver provision based on financial need.
  14. Transportation of pupils to places of summer employment.
  15. Tuition fees charged to pupils whose parents are actual and legal residents of an adjacent foreign country or an adjacent state.
  16. Tuition fees collected from foreign students attending a district school pursuant to an F-1 visa.
  17. Optional fingerprinting program for kindergarten or other newly enrolled students.
  18. Community classes in civic, vocational, literacy, health, homemaking and technical and general education.
  19. Deposits for band instruments, music, uniforms and other regalia, which school band members take on excursions to foreign countries.
  20. Eye safety devices for specified courses or activities that are likely to cause injury to the eyes.

Four things you should know about California’s new budget and its impact on OC schools


Last month, Governor Jerry Brown and legislative leaders announced a brand new spending plan for the 2015-16 fiscal year that started July 1.

As is usually the case with state budgets, there are still some details to be worked out, and OCDE is anticipating a number of trailer bills that could impact K-12 education. Still, there’s a lot we do know, and here are four takeaways for schools and districts in Orange County:

1. State revenues have increased substantially, and that’s good news for schools. Buoyed by a strengthened state economy, revenues in California have surged, and the $115.4 billion spending plan for 2015-16 allocates $68.4 billion for schools and community colleges, setting a new record for yearly growth. The budget also earmarks almost $300 million for early childhood education, including 7,000 more preschool slots and 6,800 additional childcare vouchers. Governor Brown’s office has characterized the educational investments as an opportunity to correct historical inequities, particularly as California continues implementation of its new Local Control Funding Formula. Speaking of which …

2. Based on the state’s new funding formula, Orange County’s school districts may receive significantly different amounts. Recall that the LCFF model was designed to channel more resources to students with the greatest needs. So even though it includes a base level of funding by grade level, it also sends more dollars to districts based on the number — and concentration — of English-language learners, low-income students and foster youth. In Orange County, those figures vary significantly from district to district. The end result is that per-student funding may look very different depending on whether you’re in Santa Ana, Irvine, Fountain Valley or Garden Grove.

3. Rising revenue means California is on track to implement its Local Control Funding Formula as planned, with more dollars coming up front. The aforementioned LCFF established target levels of funding for school systems to be reached by the 2020-21 school year. The idea is that from now until then, districts would get annual increases called “gap funding,” referencing the gap between what they currently get and that target amount. When the LCFF was first adopted in 2013-14, K-12 education funding was expected to reach $47 billion this coming year. Now we’re looking at almost $53 billion. That being said …

4. Revenue may be strong now, but there are still plenty of challenges ahead — and lots of unknowns. After a few dismal years, we may be tempted to breathe a sigh of relief at reports of spiking revenue. But our state has hundreds of billions of dollars in existing liabilities, including deferred maintenance on roads and infrastructure, pension benefits and future retiree health care costs for state workers. Also, remember those temporary tax increases that took effect under Proposition 30? They’ll start to expire in 2016, eliminating a key source of state revenue. Shifts in the state and national economies could also impact California’s bottom line.

As always, stay tuned.