The Pleasanton Unified School District is asking the Legislature and the next California governor to devote far more money to public education.
Trustees voted 4-0, with Jamie Hintzke absent, to pass a resolution calling on state government to fund education at least to the level of the national average of states by 2020, and to push the state up to the top 10% by 2025.
California funds education at $1961 per student lower than the national average. However, because of higher costs in California, the figure should really be $3462 per student, says the resolution.
Citing a reason for the resolution, a report from Superintendent David Haglund declared that it is time that California “end decades of underfunding in public schools, and provide the resources needed to offer all students a high-quality eduction.”
In the 1970s, California was in the top 5 states nationally in school funding, according to information from the California School Boards Association (CSBA). Now California ranks 45th nationally in the amount of taxable income spent on education, 41st in pupil funding, 45th in pupil-teacher ratios, and 48th in pupil-staff ratios.
This low statistical performance is occurring at a time when California school districts are hard-pressed to meet the escalating demands from the state to pay more money into school personnel retirement funds as years go by, says the resolution.
A CSBA report in 2016 said that from $22 billion to $40 billion more would be needed to provide students with a high-quality education. By comparison, in the 2014-15 school year, the state’s General Fund contributed $45 billion to schools. That rose to $76 billion when federal funds and other sources were included.
However, some federal funding amounts appear larger as a gross figure. A net figure would be lower. While the federal government mandates special education programs, for example, its funding of them has been only at about the 20% level, leaving local districts to provide the remainder out of its state revenue.
Board Vice-president Valerie Arkin, who asked that the resolution be put on the board’s agenda, is a delegate to CSBA. Arkin said that the state association asked its members to raise the issue to their boards, so that the CSBA leadership can bring it to the Legislature, and also call the public’s attention to the need.
Trustee Joan Laursen said, "We have been advocating over the years (for more money), but I like the specific target.”
Board President Mark Miller said that the state is far short of meeting the goal. Miller added that he is “highly supportive” of the resolution, but he is not sure revenue should be raised “by taxing and taxing. My plea is to look for ways to get funds, and not burden folks in a highly taxed state.”
Districts have a Proposition 98 guarantee for a minimum amount of funding every year. However, obtaining revenue above that from the state is a challenge, because of competition from other state departments.
CHANGE COMING FOR ASSESSMENTS
On another item, the board heard a presentation about a new assessment system. The district intends to pilot the system this spring, and expand it next school year. Feedback on the spring experience would be brought to the board near the end of May.
The new assessments are called Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), a name given to it by the vendor, the non-profit Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) in Portland.
The pilot program for 18 months would cost $139,000.
A presentation by Director of Elementary Education Jeni Tyson and Director of Assessment and Accountability Pam VandeKamp told the board that MAP can do a good job of helping with student learning intervention.
MAP can pinpoint levels of appropriate instruction, and allow teachers to look at math and English skills at students’ level of ability and need. It would also save teachers time, which would free them for more classroom teaching.
MAP can measure academic achievement over time, including a number of years. Its computer interface can move a student up on achievement level with correct answers, or move a student down in instructional level, if the answers are incorrect.
Arkin said, "Some teachers say that it removes the human component, saying the teachers would rather have the interaction.”
The presenters responded by saying that these are formal assessments, three times a year. Teachers observe day to day, and gather data in different ways.
Staff will return with an expanded report at the board’s Feb. 27 meeting.
The board also reviewed the instructional calendar for next year. The first day of school will be on Aug. 13, and the last day on May 31, 2019.