More than 400 school leaders walked the halls of the state Capitol on April 16 to bring ACSA’s message to legislators. It was all part of Legislative Action Day, which is designed to give legislators and their staffs an opportunity to hear from school leaders face-to-face on the impact of key issues on schools and districts.
ACSA’s message this year focused on two areas: school funding and teacher probationary periods. The related bills in these areas are Assembly Bills 2808 and 1220, respectively.
There is no debate that California school funding ranks anywhere on the scale from anemic to pathetic. Unfortunately, many non-educators seem to be under the impression that now that the targets for the Local Control Funding Formula have been reached, schools are awash in money.
The problem is, the public has not grasped yet that the LCFF goals were simply to get schools back to the level they were at before the big recession hit in 2007 and schools suffered draconian cuts in funding. Even prior to those cuts, California per-pupil funding ranked somewhere in the bottom 20 percent nationally. So getting back to 2007 levels in funding comes nowhere close to adequately funding schools.
ACSA’s position is that the total dollar amount allocated in the California state budget for education is too low to provide the comprehensive and constitutionally required education that all California students deserve. As we near the 30 year anniversary of the passage of Proposition 98, the state is still far from prioritizing California public education funding.
The overarching goal of LCFF is to improve academic outcomes by directing additional funding to school districts that serve high-need students. The intent of the LCFF was for individual school districts to have more authority over their spending decisions, while also holding each district accountable for their student results. The LCFF established a new way to redistribute Proposition 98 funding. However, this new funding distribution method did nothing to increase the total amount of funding.
In a study released in February 2018 by the Learning Policy Institute, “Money and Freedom: The Impact of California’s School Finance Reform,” researchers found that LCFF revenue increases have a significant impact on the average high school graduation rates for a plurality of student demographics in districts statewide.
ACSA urges the Legislature and the governor to establish new LCFF targets in this legislative cycle. At a minimum, we believe the new total LCFF target should be a base grant that is the national average for every California school district, plus the supplemental and concentration grants as additional resources for eligible local educational agencies. ACSA is co-sponsoring AB 2808 (Muratsuchi) which establishes a higher LCFF base grant funded by growth within Proposition 98. The funding goal set within the Local Control Funding Formula should be adjusted to reflect current and future funding needs, and Muratsuchi’s AB 2808 provides an avenue to achieve those objectives.
ACSA requested the following: Increase LCFF funding levels through the base grant, while maintaining the supplemental and concentration grant funding levels; create a new long-term education funding plan; and support Muratsuchi’s AB 2808.
Another issue ACSA members were promoting to policymakers was to support Assemblymember Shirley Weber’s AB 1220. This is a bill Weber introduced last year and is still under consideration in the Capitol.
It is often stated that a teacher is the most important individual for a student’s academic success. If that is the case, then public policy must ensure that teachers receive the best opportunity to succeed. ACSA believes AB 1220 would be a move in that direction.
California is facing a severe teacher shortage due primarily to a high number of retirements and high turnover. The supply of quality candidates is shrinking while the number of inexperienced teachers is increasing. Exacerbating the problem is that often school leaders must make a decision whether or not to grant permanent status to a teacher after they have only had 15-18 months on the job.
A new teacher faces many challenges. These challenges range from managing the complexities of providing differentiated standards-based and engaging instruction to meet the needs of each student, effectively collaborating with peers, engaging parents in a meaningful way, and learning to manage a classroom all within 15 months.
California is one of only five states that has a probationary period of two years or less. Because of statutory deadlines, California’s probationary law is the shortest of all. Thirty-two states have a three-year probationary period; nine states have four-or-five years; and four states have no tenure.
One method to maintain the quality of teacher candidates is to extend the probationary period for new teachers in order to provide them the tools for long-term success. A third year of coaching, mentoring, or professional development for new teachers will help the employee improve, keep them in the teaching career and strengthen the academic achievement for students. A third year will result in a better prepared teacher, reduce the turnover of our newest teachers, and ultimately enhance the academic success for our students.
ACSA supports an extension of the teacher probationary period to three years. In the third year of probation, a teaching candidate shall be observed, coached and/or mentored, and provided feedback. At the end of the third year, the school district maintains the ability to non-reelect the probationary employee.