CSBA bills for COEs, small school districts and cybersecurity receive boost from Legislative Action Week

CSBA co-sponsored AB 906 seeks to increase funding for juvenile court and community schools

Juvenile court schools and community schools provide important academic instruction as well as critical supports and services for some of California’s most at-risk students who have either fallen upon difficult times or struggled in mainstream educational settings. Juvenile court schools and community schools, like most California public schools, are funded on average daily attendance (ADA). This funding model is insufficient and creates inequities in funding for the specialized role these schools play — a condition that would change under Assembly Bill 906 (Gipson, D-Carson). Co-sponsored by the County Superintendents Association and CSBA, AB 906 would stabilize and increase funding for juvenile court schools and community schools.

Juvenile court schools and community schools often serve different populations and are distinct in their missions, but share a similar goal — to help provide improved educational outcomes for all students. Juvenile court schools are staffed by county offices of education (COEs) but serve students who are incarcerated in facilities operated by county probation departments. Community schools are operated by COEs to provide opportunities for students in special circumstances or those who have not thrived in traditional public schools, allowing them to prepare for post-secondary education, meet graduation requirements, access quality prenatal and parenting education, and receive healthcare services.

“When we talk about educating high-need students, it’s essential that the conversation includes students in court and community schools, some of the most vulnerable students in California’s public school system,” said CSBA President Susan Markarian. “The current funding model does not provide the resources needed to help all students overcome the specific barriers to academic achievement and social development that prevail in these schools. AB 906 would revise the funding model for court and community schools so they can provide the needed services and supports, including intervention programs, dedicated teachers, mental health professionals and other staff expected of these schools.”

Funding for juvenile court and community schools is linked to attendance though a student’s time at these schools is often measured in weeks and months instead of years. These short stays are by design as the goal of the state is to remedy the underlying issues that resulted in the student’s enrollment in juvenile court school as soon as possible, thereby limiting their time at the juvenile court school and expediting their return to their school of origin.

Research has shown that the faster these programs address the circumstances that led students to a juvenile court setting, the better the outcomes for the student. An unintended consequence of this approach is that the unpredictable length of each student’s tenure at the school creates substantial funding volatility. These wildly varying funding levels hamper the ability of COEs to plan for and provide needed educational and supportive resources for students. AB 906 addresses these issues by providing a more stable funding methodology and increased resources for juvenile court schools, community schools and the students they serve. Beginning with fiscal year 2023–24, the bill would establish a base funding level for juvenile court schools and community schools.

In addition to base funding, the bill accounts for attendance volatility by averaging ADA across three years, which is the same methodology used by school districts. Specifically, AB 906 would amend the Alternative Education Grant by increasing its base grant component and revising its ADA calculation. AB 906 establishes add-ons of $150,000 and $300,000, respectively, for each county office of education that operates a juvenile court school or a community school. The legislation would also establish a necessary juvenile court school allocation as an alternative to ADA funding.

CSBA-sponsored AB 1023 would provide schools increased cybersecurity support

Throughout California, districts small and large have been victimized by cyberattacks that shut down operations, hold data hostage and put student and staff privacy at risk. As ransomware attacks continue to grow, local educational agencies have increasingly been identified as soft targets lacking the capacity to ward off hackers. For many LEAs, it is not a matter of if but when their their school information system will be subject to a cybersecurity attack, which can render the entire school district unable to conduct the day-to-day business of educating students.

To counter this threat, CSBA is sponsoring Assembly Bill 1023 (Papan, D-San Mateo) to provide schools with access to the resources and expertise needed to implement effective cybersecurity defense. While Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed funding in this year’s budget to enhance the California Cybersecurity Integration Center (Cal-CSIC), this support is not specific to schools. Schools have access to more sensitive information and fulfill a more essential purpose than virtually any other local government agency and deserve robust, targeted support to prepare for ransomware attacks. AB 1023 would also ensure that any duties and steps undertaken by Cal-CISC include efforts to serve LEAs specifically. Accompanying this effort is a budget request to authorize LEAs to use the discretionary funding provided under the Arts, Music, & Instructional Materials Discretionary Block Grant for cybersecurity purposes. This would maintain the intent of the grant to allow districts to use these funds for operational costs, including taking proactive steps to protect against ransomware attacks.

SB 645 would revise the small school district administrator-to-teacher ratio cap, improving operations and student support

More than half of all California school districts (59 percent) are classified as small school districts, meaning they have an ADA total below 2,500 students. Because of their size, many small school districts lack the economies of scale that advantage larger school districts in terms of operations, administration, and the grant-seeking and implementation process. And at the end of the day, what is expected of large school districts is also expected of small school districts.

Current law exacerbates the problem by arbitrarily capping the number of administrators a school district may hire, which disproportionately impacts small school districts. CSBA-sponsored Senate Bill 645 (Ochoa-Bogh, R-Yucaipa) would allow small school districts to hire an appropriate number of administrators based upon school size, helping small districts better meet the needs of their students, teachers, staff and the greater school community.

Because of a dearth of administrative personnel, small school district superintendents often play multiple roles: superintendent, principal, chief business officers, facilities director, special education director, transportation director and staff to the board. Forcing the superintendent to perform so many different specialized roles that require a particular knowledge base hampers performance in these areas to some degree and prevents superintendents from focusing on their core responsibilities related to student academic achievement and social development. As a result, small school districts are particularly challenged at being able to serve students at full capacity, exacerbating the challenge of providing a high-quality education in places that often struggle with resource issues.

To help small districts increase service levels to students, CSBA-sponsored SB 645 would revise the administrative cap for small school districts only so these districts can hire additional administrators to help support schools, students, teachers and community.

Stay tuned for updates

CSBA will keep members apprised of the progress of these and other CSBA co-sponsored bills as they move toward committee hearings and count on your support in advocacy efforts to send them through the Legislature and secure the Governor’s signature.