For a large part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s eight years in office, members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus and other champions of child care and preschool programs for 3- and 4-year old children have been calling on the governor to increase investments for the 0 to 5 population. While several gains have been made, including close to a total of 10,000 new preschool slots made available to school districts by the end of the 2018-19 fiscal year, early childhood education proponents will likely continue to make this pitch to the next governor.
To keep commitments made in prior budget negotiations, Gov. Brown and the Legislature updated the Standard Reimbursement Rate and State Preschool Reimbursement Rate, commencing July 1, 2018, to reflect a cost-of-living-adjustment.
Preschool facilities flexibilities
Since January 2017, ACSA has actively supported the governor’s early childhood education proposals to provide administrative efficiencies for early education providers and to give LEAs the option to blend State Preschool and Transitional Kindergarten programs. Under budget actions approved last year, the Legislature allowed providers to use electronic applications for families applying for subsidized child care; aligned the state’s definition of homelessness with the federal McKinney-Vento Act for purposes of child care eligibility; allowed children with exceptional needs whose families exceed income eligibility requirements to access part-day State Preschool if all other eligible children have been served; and allowed for LEAs to align program minutes for Preschool and Transitional Kindergarten at the same or different school sites.
Despite opposition from private early childhood education providers and advocacy organizations, one of the most favorable budget proposals was ACSA’s advocacy for the adoption of language to exempt State Preschool Programs operated in a Field Act-approved facility from Title 22 requirements so long as health and safety requirements are met under Title 5. Before this exemption goes into effect on July 1, 2019, the California Department of Education will be required to adopt regulations for California State Preschool Programs under Title 5 related to outdoor shade, drinking water, restrooms, supervision of children, and maintenance of indoor and outdoor space. The legislation clarifies that the licensing flexibility provisions apply to any LEA-operated classroom that is funded in whole or in part under the State Preschool Program. To address concerns raised by the opposition, CDE will be required to update the Title 5 regulations to establish a Uniform Complaint Process for complaints related to the preschool health and safety requirements.
More significantly, the 2018-19 budget includes $167.2 million in Prop. 98 funding for the Inclusive Early Education Expansion Program. Under this new one-time grant program, grants will be provided to local educational agencies to increase access to subsidized early care and education programs for children from ages 0 to 5. Priority for grants will be given to those applicants that have a need for expanded access to inclusive early care, serve low-income communities, leverage local partnerships, are able to serve a broad range of disabilities, and plan to, or already do, serve children with disabilities in proportion to the rate of identification similar to LEAs in their area. Funds may be used for one-time infrastructure costs, adaptive equipment, and professional development, and grantees must provide a local match. The California Department of Education will administer the program.
Utilizing $10 million in one-time federal funding, the Legislature also established a new Inclusive Early Care Pilot Program that allows county offices of education to apply to receive grants to increase access to early care and education programs for children with exceptional needs, including severe disabilities, from ages 0 to 5. Grantees may use funds for a variety of purposes to build local and regional capacity, including, but not limited to, outreach coordinators, placement navigators, adaptive equipment, professional learning, and assessment and evaluation tools, among others. Priority shall be given to applicants with a demonstrated need for expanded access to inclusive early care and education within their county, particularly within low-income and high-need communities. The CDE shall administer the program and conduct an evaluation.
Kindergarten facilities grants
While kindergarten education is not compulsory in California, the Legislature has gained interest in ensuring young children have access to a full-day educational program. According to the Department of Finance, approximately 20 percent of districts in the state only provide half-day kindergarten, and two of the most frequently cited reasons is lack of facilities and insufficient trained staff. As part of this $100 million one-time General Fund appropriation, the State Allocation Board is charged with allocating grants to school districts that lack the facilities to provide full-day kindergarten. Priority grants will be provided to districts with financial hardship or districts that have a high population of low-income students. As a condition of receiving the funds, grant recipients are required to provide a local match, except for those districts that meet the financial hardship requirements.
Other budget items include:
• English Language Proficiency Assessment for California (ELPAC): $27 million in one-time Prop. 98 funding for CDE to develop a computer-based ELPAC and a computer-based alternative ELPAC for students with disabilities. Related to English learners, CDE will be required, on or before June 30, 2020, to develop a standardized English language teacher observation protocol for use by teachers in evaluating students’ English language proficiency. This second provision could potentially be considered as part of future discussions to establish standardized English learner reclassification criteria.
• Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS): $15 million in one-time Prop. 98 funding to the Orange County Department of Education to expand upon past investments in MTSS. The Orange County Department of Education, jointly with the Butte County Office of Education and a selected California postsecondary educational institution, is charged with building and disseminating statewide resources specifically focused on improving school climate, including social emotional learning, restorative justice and positive behavioral interventions, among others. The designated county offices of education are required to implement a pilot program to assist school districts in creating a positive school climate. In selecting school districts for the pilot program, priority is provided for those with a demonstrated need to improve school climate, as measured by the California School Dashboard.
• After School Kids Code Grant Program: While there were no additional funds allocated to districts to meet the increased costs associated with the minimum wage and the impact it has on their After School Education and Safety (ASES) programs, the Legislature appropriated $15 million in one-time Prop. 98 funds for this completive grant program that will be administered by CDE, who will determine the grant criteria and provide grants for eligible ASES programs that operate or plan to operate computer coding programs as part of their curriculum.
• Community Engagement Initiative: In an effort to improve relationships between school districts and their stakeholders, $13.1 million in one-time Prop. 98 funds will be invested in this new initiative lead by the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence and a lead county office of education. Together, they will solicit district teams and establish three phases of professional learning networks focused on building the capacity of communities, school districts and county offices of education to engage more effectively in the LCAP process. The CCEE is also required to conduct statewide training on community engagement based on the findings of the professional learning networks.
• Suicide prevention: $1.7 million in one-time General Funds will be allocated for the State Superintendent to identify evidence-based training programs for LEAs on suicide prevention and to provide a grant to a county office of education to acquire and disseminate a training program identified by CDE to LEAs at no cost.
• System of Support: Establishes a structure for the selection and support of between six and 10 county offices of education as geographic lead agencies in their region, whose responsibilities would include building the capacity of other county offices of education in the region, coordinating and collaborating technical assistance across the region, providing technical assistance to a school district if a county office of education is unable to, and identifying existing resources and developing new resources.
• Special Education Local Plan Areas: Establishes a structure for the selection and support of between six and 10 SELPAs to serve as special education resource leads to work with county offices of education to improve outcomes for students with disabilities. Incorporates special education resource leads into the statewide system of support and specifies that at least three resource leads selected shall be focused directly on building SELPA capacity to work with county offices of education. Aligns the SELPA planning process with the Local Control and Accountability Plan process for LEAs. Requires the CDE to develop a template for a SELPA annual assurances support plan and a template for a summary document that supplements the SELPA plan and links SELPA budgeted activities with services and activities identified within, and that demonstrate consistency with, the LCAPs of LEAs in the SELPA. Requires SELPA annual assurances support plans to be updated to be three-year plans beginning July 1, 2019.
• Uniform Complaint Procedures: Clarifies and consolidates statute related to the Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP), including specifying instances in which a 60-day timeline is applicable for the CDE to complete UCP appeals. In addition, adds complaints related to preschool health and safety requirements, as required to be added to Title 5 under provisions allowing for licensing flexibility for State Preschool Programs operated by LEAs, to the UCP with specific timelines.
• 2017 wildfires’ impact on funding and testing: The Superintendent of Public Instruction will be required to provide a third year of average daily attendance relief for school districts where no less than 5 percent of the residences were destroyed by the 2017 wildfires. School districts impacted by the 2017 wildfires will also be exempted, upon receipt of a waiver from the United States Department of Education, from the requirement to administer the CAASPP during the 2017-18 school year. By January 30, 2019, the Department of Finance will be required to adjust funding provided to the CDE to reimburse basic aid school districts for property tax losses incurred in the 2017-18 fiscal year as a result of the fires.
• Willful defiance: The budget bill also includes a provision to eliminate the sunset date of a provision of law that disallows the use of suspension based on acts of willful defiance for students in grades K-3. Unless other legislation passes, this implies willful defiance can only be used for suspensions for students in grades 4-12, but is prohibited as a justification for suspensions in the earlier grades.