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State Forces Public Schools to Focus on Non-English-Speaking Students, the Poor

The State Board of Education released what superintendent Mark McLaughlin describes as “major adjustments to the LCAP,” the Local Control and Accountability Plan districts must submit for the 2024-25 school year. The revised template requires detailed plans and evaluation methods for students characterized as English learners, poor, homeless or in the foster system. The new requirements are tied to supplemental state funding and essentially re-focus local schools on educating students in the above categories to the possible harm of other priorities.

Kenneth Loo, assistant superintendent of instruction with the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD), told board members at the September 6 meeting that the directive from the state will require much more work on the part of the district. He dubbed it a mandate “to move away from, maybe, the comprehensive more to that narrow focus” of non-English-speaking students, those in poverty, and those not living with their natural families.

“Some things are going to fall away because our funding isn’t going up. We’re going to have to make some adjustments as far as some of the programs and services and activities that we provide and we offer.”

Victor Hayek, deputy superintendent of business services

Acknowledging the shift in focus, the State Board posted on its website that districts “should continually evaluate the hard choices they make about the use of limited resources to meet student and community needs to ensure opportunities and outcomes are improved for all students.”

Deputy superintendent of business services Victor Hayek pointed to numerous funding streams which are coming to an end.

“I know I’m stating the obvious, but I just think to put things in perspective, some things are going to fall away because our funding isn’t going up,” Hayek said. “We’re going to have to make some adjustments as far as some of the programs and services and activities that we provide and we offer.”

Hayek continued, “There are a number of things that are going to happen this year. We’re in negotiations [with unions], salaries being 85 percent of our budget that we have to contend with. There’s staffing that’s been attached to stimulus dollars that we had conversations earlier today, that the need is still there, but the funding’s going away.”

“What are we going to get rid of that’s been something that we’ve had as a tradition here … to shift dollars?”

Mark McLaughlin, CVUSD superintendent

The new LCAP requirements exacerbate funding shortages for the normal level of services provided by CVUSD. McLaughlin advised the board to consider whether it should discontinue its comprehensive approach to planning for all students in the district and focus solely on the new, narrow LCAP requirements, an approach the County Board of Education has advised the district to take. McLaughlin suggested that a return to comprehensive planning could be possible after successfully completing a year or two of the narrow focus.

Trustee Karen Sylvester (Area 1 – Westlake) said she had “a lot of conflicting thoughts” on the matter. “Because, on the one hand, what the LCAP has served to be for this district is kind of a strategic planning document. It’s not like it’s every dollar we get, but it is a very unwieldy document,” she said. “All the metrics that must be part of the new planning will make it even more unwieldy. And then it does start losing its value at a certain point.”

McLaughlin tried to reassure the board by saying that general planning could shift to the specific School Site Plans. Trustee Bill Gorbach (Area 3 – Downtown) asked, “If we direct the funds to groups that are outside of the groups mentioned in the LCAP, we would have to pay for that ourselves?”

McLaughlin said yes: “We’re not receiving supplemental dollars for those subgroups outside of the three major groups that generate those supplemental dollars. We will need to address the areas through our general funds.”

A hesitant Sylvester emphasized, “When I think of the LCAP, I think of our four goals. Those goals should apply to every student in our school district. As long as the goals don’t go away, and our vision around that, then I’m a little more comfortable kind of consolidating into a [focused LCAP] document that is much more workable.”

Board president, the strongly left-leaning Lauren Gill (Area 5 – Dos Vientos), labeled the new LCAP an opportunity to look for “justice gaps.”

“I think that we might be able to drive the kind of change that we all yearn for by taking this year to do this more focused approach,” Gill said.

That “change” forces a question, McLaughlin said: “What are we going to get rid of that’s been something that we’ve had as a tradition here or something that is not working that we need to shift dollars?”

Hayek told the board there was time to consider a path forward, but cautioned, “What we’re looking at is a tremendous amount of uncertainty, and as much as we do a multi-year projection and show what it looks like in year three, things change very rapidly, quickly, and significantly. So I think it’s very difficult.”

The State Board of Education is scheduled to meet in Sacramento on November 8-9. More direction on the LCAP is expected at that time. The CVUSD trustees agreed to wait until more information was available before determining their approach to the 2024/25 LCAP.

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