California’s K-12 Funding Overhaul Slowly Takes Root – Education Week

Changing education – and education spending – in this state is “like turning the Titanic” so says Andrew Ujifusa in his article in Ed Week California’s K-12 Funding Overhaul Slowly Takes Root – Education Week.

Aside from the obviously poor choice of nautical vessel, I agree. Local control means that schools that need certain things can fund those things without worrying that the funds are not available or are mandated for other purposes. This freedom to spend as they see fit has been a long-standing request from local school sites and a lack of flexible funding has been the scapegoat for years to explain cuts in staffing, technology, facilities maintenance, and other losses in our schools.

But, as Spider-Man will tell you “With great power comes great responsibility” and with great freedom to self-allocate also must come the responsibility to self-regulate and assess. In a funding climate where LEA’s are allowed to use the money as they choose with input from stakeholders and community members, the question of accountability must be considered. County Offices of Education are now in a position to review and approve the LCAP’s submitted by individual districts outlining their plans for spending, but how will the successes (or lack thereof) be quantified? Many districts have intentionally written very vague LCAP’s with open-ended goals and murky targets so that it will not be painfully obvious if they miss the mark. Other districts seem to consider an e-mail blast to parents sufficient to qualify as “soliciting community involvement” in the process. And then there are the exemplar districts – the ones who already had high levels of funding, parent and community involvement and highly-qualified staff, who will reap the greatest benefits of the new LCFF and leave the rest in the dust as they accelerate ahead of the rest of the state in the areas they were already exceeding in.

And then there are those things that some Californians like to champion publicly but when it comes time to fund them in schools, they often fall by the wayside. High-quality school lunch programs, fully credentialed teacher librarians in EVERY school, professional development that is substantial and meaningful for educators, campus supervision by trained individuals who recognize child development stages on the playground, physical education taught by credentialed teachers that are valued in the same way English literature teachers are, school facilities that students and their families are proud of, technology resources and responsible use practices taught in every classroom (not just the “new teacher” classrooms), and broadband service in schools that allows students to access it anywhere on campus, on any device they have, 24/7.

These are things EVERY student in California should have – whether mandated by Ed Code, CDE SBE Policy, or local District Board Policy. The reality is that not every student will have all of these things even though they should. If technology is a priority in their school, some students will have broadband and maybe even 1:1 devices. If nutrition is a major priority, some students may be fortunate enough to have rigorous physical education classes and a dynamic school lunch program with farm-to-table partners and gardening/horticulture lessons. On the other hand, if libraries are NOT a priority for the district, these students may not receive instruction on responsible internet use or digital research skills and will not have the benefit of a credentialed teacher librarian who can expand classroom lessons and explore topics that enrich the curriculum and support student’s personalized learning. Some students will receive tech devices but go home to a household too impoverished to have internet access.

Some districts may decide to focus spending on staffing and common core materials to support English language learners but neglect to recognize the special needs of gifted learners. Why worry about the top scores when it is the bottom scores that have the greatest impact. Schools will receive additional funding for  low-income, foster and English language learners – which they have needed desperately for quite some time. But what about the schools that are not Title 1 or do not have enough of these subgroup students to qualify for additional funds?

Some students will benefit tremendously from the LCFF depending on how expertly it is utilized and applied in their district. Others will be left behind as their district leaders struggle to figure out where to begin.

Many County Offices have stepped up for the most part to provide guidance, clarification and support to districts working through the new funding formula and LCAP preparation, but in the end it comes down to the priorities of the local district school board and stakeholders (including parents) who have been allowed to participate fully in the process that will determine where the money will go, what the goals for spending will be, and what measure of success or failure will be applied.

If given enough time and with enough guidance and best practices informing decisions of local districts, LCFF could bring great things to many of the students in California. The state’s education budget provides for $4.7 billion to be handed out in this second year of the LCFF implementation with possibly more to come in the revised budget next year.

There are approximately 10,366 schools in the state serving 6,236,672 students right now with increasing numbers every year of the foreseeable future. In keeping with the nautical theme, it seems to me that is more similar to the ocean than the vessel. It ebbs and flows, tides rise and retreat, there are periods of calm and periods of tempest. There are times of abundance and times of scarcity. But the waves come no matter what and they slowly shape the world they touch, sculpting and changing the landscape – as teachers shape students, day after day and year after year. Education is a slow and powerful process.

I for one hope that some mandates will emerge to ensure that students across the state receive equitable access to educational resources of all types (not just those deemed worthy by their particular district) but let’s hope that the Local Control Funding Formula remains in place long enough for the process to really shape the outcome. The Titanic was impressive at first glance but piloted recklessly and poorly equipped. The sea remains magnificent and full of possibilities. 


A Student of Online Success

Wondering what it takes to succeed in an online class environment? Here are some tips from my own experience and from others who have participated in online classes and lived to tell about it:

USE A CALENDAR – Seems obvious, right? Well it turns out that there are still a lot of people out there who do not use a calendar regularly to keep track of deadlines, class schedules, personal commitments, and professional obligations. Time management is a key component to success in most aspects of life, but it is absolutely critical when you are participating in an online class. While some people may use a calendar for some personal items, they often do not keep it up to date and forgot to include school deadlines and appointments. If you use a simple online calendar such as Google Calendar, check it every day and keep it current, you will find that deadlines and class assignments, as well as personal items will not be overlooked and you will feel a much stronger sense of control.

CHECK YOUR CLASS WEBSITE REGULARLY – managing yourself is almost as important as managing your time. It is very important to maintain your own “business hours” when you are taking an online course and even more critical when taking multiple classes. Schedule regular times to check in with each course site and decide what your goal is for that time: checking discussion threads, reviewing content and assignments, studying lectures or presentations, e-mails, or other types of course work. By affording a realistic amount of time and a regular schedule, you can plan ahead and set yourself up for success. Keeping yourself engaged in your course work is essential for success in any online class and you will come away from the experience with a much more complete understanding of the material if you invest quality time in it.

USE DESKTOP AND BROWSER FOLDERS – designate folders on your desktop and in your browser for files and downloads associated with your online course(s) and keep them up to date and easily accessible. It is very important to keep the contents current and refer to these files often. It is very important to keep items you are using regularly within view. “Out of sight, out of mind” is not the way to succeed in an online environment.

ASSESS YOUR ONLINE COMMUNICATION SKILLS – recognize your own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to communication skills in the virtual world. E-mails and instant messages can sometimes come out sounding different than intended – often for the worse. Be sure you can see what you mean and not just hear it in your own head. Consider how well you know the person or group you are communicating with and try to keep your words and your intended meaning as closely tied together as possible. Say what you mean, keep it simple and remember that much of our personal communication skills involve important elements that have nothing to do with word choice. Sarcasm and witty humor often do not translate well and emoticons are not a great choice for expression in an online college environment. Keep this in mind when sending AND receiving! Before jumping to conclusions or becoming emotional about a communication received from or directed to you in a discussion thread by a classmate or an instructor, consider the possibility that you may be reading more into it than is intended. Clarify and ask for clarification.

ALONE IN A GROUP – Collaboration in the Virtual Classroom

Most of us have worked on a committee or in a group to complete projects for work, school and in our communities. We have all experienced the anxiety that comes from knowing there will be people in a group who do more than their share, less than their share, or prevent others from doing any share at all. If you have ever been part a group either by choice or appointment, you know it is often the group that is the real challenge – the assignment to be completed may be simple in comparison. Now throw in the complications of limited communication and accessibility. What do you do to overcome all of these obstacles?

According to Dr. Haycock presentation, some of the necessary ingredients are in the dynamics of the group itself. Whether you are part of a committee, club, class group, team or partnered randomly makes a huge difference when it comes to the functions (or dysfunctions) ahead. Haycock focused his PowerPoint on TEAMS and in my experience this is the best possible sort of group a person can participate in. As Haycock and Irwin point out, a team is a group of individuals with some independence and authority to complete a task or reach a certain goal. There is usually a commitment and a common approach. Teams normally don’t carry the same personality struggles and lack of motivation sometimes found in groups with a leader or supervisor in the mix. A team will often act like water – it finds its own level. Mutual accountability and clear goals and responsibilities contribute to a balance in teams that often leads to great collaboration and results everyone involved can be enthusiastic about.

Hello world!

The Online Education Database ( folks put together a list of their 25 favorite libraries using Pinterest. And 4 of them are in California:

 #4: Fullerton Public Library

#9: Oakland Public Library’s TeenZone

#13: San Francisco Public Library

#16: California State Library


Way to go, California folks!

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