• Legislative Action Day 2016

    Nearly 400 ACSA members gathered in Sacramento for the association’s annual Legislative Action Day. State Vice President for Legislative Action Linda Kaminski welcomed the grassroots education leader lobbyists to an early morning briefing with former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell and Capitol Advisors President Kevin Gordon. The pair instructed them on best practices for meeting with legislators. Following the briefing, ACSA presented its Friend of Public Education Award to Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, for her stalwart support of students and the future of California Schools. “Wow,” said Weber. “I really thank you for this award. This has been a challenging year for me because of my passion for children and strong belief in public education.” Weber, who was born in Hope, Ark. and grew up in the projects of Los Angeles, said public school teachers who believed in her and instilled a strong value for learning paved the way for success. She said she sees a lack of focus today on students and challenging educators to give them the tools to achieve excellence. She said, especially now, with reform efforts dominating the education agenda, “We in California have the opportunity to really push our children forward.” Beginning at 10 a.m. and going until late afternoon, ACSA region teams met with Senate and Assembly members to advocate for a slate of specific positions, including early childhood education, accountability, the teacher shortage and state funding for schools. Following are details of the issues ACSA members will be discussing with legislators and other policymakers. Transitional Kindergarten The governor’s budget proposes to consolidate Transitional Kindergarten, California State Preschool Program, and the Quality Rating and Improvement funds into one early education block grant with the goal of benefiting at-risk and low-income preschoolers. The proposal combines the existing Proposition 98 funding for these programs into a $1.7 billion block grant. ACSA cannot support the inclusion of the Transitional Kindergarten program funding as part of the proposed Early Education Block Grant. ACSA believes that maintaining the existing age-based Transitional Kindergarten program existing under current law, including the ADA funding model, is imperative. The association is concerned that the governor’s proposal will lock in districts’ funding allocations permanently, without any consideration for additional growth in funding to meet local demand and the higher costs of services. However, ACSA believes the state can make some improvements over the current law by modifying the required instructional minutes. Removing the requirement that TK programs be of equal length to the kindergarten program will give greater flexibility to school districts providing variety in TK classes. ACSA supports efforts to better align early learning programs with the TK through 12th grades educational program and services. School districts would greatly benefit from a seamless alignment and cooperation between the preschool program, TK, kindergarten and 1-12 grade system. In addition, ACSA is in favor of reconsidering eligibility requirements and opportunities streamlining policies and requirements for the California State Preschool Program, as well as center the conversation on reforms needed to strengthen quality and streamline requirements under the existing California State Preschool Program. Funding augmentations will also be required to increase the state reimbursement rates that have been stagnant. Increasing the reimbursement rates will help in the recruitment of additional preschool providers who are choosing not to participate in the program because the reimbursements are not sufficient to cover the overhead and operational costs. Accountability ACSA believes the fundamental purpose of an accountability system must be to stimulate, support, and recognize high achievement, as well as close achievement gaps among all students and student groups. There is a need to develop a multifaceted accountability system with a dynamic framework that includes identifying quality education, improving classroom instruction and a reliable body of research and data than can be used to strengthen the system. An accountability system should also be developed that focuses at the local level and a support structure that fosters continuous improvement. County offices of education, the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence and the California Department of Education will need to focus on building local capacity to empower administrators and teachers to make decisions that will result in the greatest student outcomes. Peer-to-peer collaboratives will be instrumental in fostering relationships between similarly sized districts and districts with similar demographics across the state. Create a dashboard providing core metrics for all schools and districts to follow, but also allowing for the use of locally determined metrics to assess school performance, with data that is in accessible, understandable and usable formats. The system must be built on rigorous standards, expectations for increasing student performance, and the ability to document growth in achievement. Teacher shortage The teacher and substitute teacher shortage has many challenging facets and obstacles to it, including the credentialing pipeline, teacher retention, compensation challenges, fostering positive school site culture and retirement-related attrition. Within those issues come smaller, more challenging issues like the diversity of the teacher pool, developing special education teachers and the cost to the individual of credentialing. While ACSA knows that the teacher shortage is a very dynamic and fluid issue and we have only touched on some of the topics, the association has chosen to focus on one specific aspect in an effort to provide a stop gap at the site level. In the past six months, the discussion in Sacramento on the teacher shortage has shown both incredible depth and breadth. The number of interest groups weighing in and contributing to the conversation has been remarkable. ACSA has joined efforts with Assembly member Olsen to select an extension of the timeline for substitute permits as an achievable goal in the short term. AB 2336 would extend the current timeline of eligibility on emergency substitute teaching permits for special education classrooms. Current law restricts a substitute permit holder from working consistently in a classroom for no more than 20 days with a special education students. This bill would extend the 20-day permit to 40 days. Please note this is not an effort to reduce substitute or teacher quality, but an effort to keep substitutes in place when the situation demands it. ACSA believes that by extending the amount of time substitutes can stay in one classroom with special education students in an emergency situation, it will impact students in a positive way. By allowing for some longevity, substitutes can build rapport and develop relationships with students in an effort to foster learning on a deeper level. This new timeline for a special education substitute permit holder can also be more effective as they can build trust and set the tone for classroom culture as well. This is especially true for special education classes, where new faces are more likely to be met with apprehension. Budget ACSA applauds the governor and the Legislature for investing in public education and the commitment to the Local Control Funding Formula. ACSA is supportive of the $2.8 billion provided to continue the implementation of LCFF. Students are directly being benefited from the acceleration of LCFF funding to get districts to reach their LCFF targets sooner than 2020-21. ACSA supports the $1.2 billion appropriation in one-time discretionary funding, noting that the funding is meant to offset a district’s remaining mandate reimbursements – all school districts, county offices of education and charter schools are anticipated to receive $214 per ADA even if they do not have outstanding mandates owed to them. However, there are higher expectations for California students that come with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, new levels of accountability through the Local Control and Accountability Plan and the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as new assessments through the Smarter Balanced Assessment Collaborative. All of these reforms need to be coupled with the necessary financial resources and supports to ensure that achievement gaps are closed and every student graduates career and college ready. The existing LCFF funding is a down payment and an investment in California’s students – who are the future of this state and will help to keep California competitive. Additional funding for public education will be used to take existing pilots to scale across all of your school sites. The investments generated from Proposition 30 have assisted in maintaining existing programs, but the initiative to preserve education funding must be extended to ensure that the additional investments needed in the classroom can be achieved. Neither Proposition 30 nor LCFF addressed the fundamental problem of insufficient funding for public education. Neither do they provide a long-term solution to California’s funding needs. Proposition 30 is a step in the right direction to invest in California’s students, and a future conversation will need to be held on how to provide stable and sufficient funding for public education. In order to increase student achievement and support a competitive workforce, a larger financial investment needs to occur to provide robust and challenging classroom environment for all students.

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