Despite veto, no CALPADS layoffs

After a frustrated Gov. Schwarzenegger deleted $6.8 million for the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System and related operations from the state budget in October, Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell issued no fewer than five press releases condemning the move and warning of dire consequences. Others were equally critical.

There would be layoffs among those who provide critical CALPADS support, and operations would shut down after Dec. 6, when the veto took effect, O’Connell warned.

“Unless funding is restored quickly for CALPADS, millions of dollars invested in California’s longitudinal education data system will have been wasted, and our state will be at ground zero in collecting student-level data, placing us last among the states in measuring student progress over time,” O’Connell warned in one November press release.

“The Governor’s veto of funding for CALPADS is a travesty,” he said in another.

As it turned out, the sky didn’t fall on CALPADS. No one from the California School Information Services (CSIS), which provided the help desk for districts on CALPADS, was laid off. The reason: The veto message apparently contained an error; the budget line it cited was not for CSIS, but an area of community college spending. Rather than fix the mistake, the governor’s office let it pass.

As for the CALPADS operation, the state Department of Education has shifted money around to keep the project alive for now, said Keric Ashley, the director of the department’s Data Management Division. And the money for IBM, which has the contract to build the software system, was never a target; it was appropriated in a previous year, he said.

That’s not to say the Legislature shouldn’t take action soon to reauthorize the money. A temporary workaround is not a solution, Ashley said. Vacant positions in the CALPADS budget need to be filled to oversee the system’s completion.

Schwarzenegger vetoed the money because of delays and glitches in the system and a lack of confidence that the Department of Education could manage IBM’s contract. He called for the Legislature to demand more accountability.

Brown calls for interagency review

Gov. Brown picked up where Schwarzenegger left off. While not demanding new oversight, his budget calls for (see page 7 of document) withholding money pending an interagency review of CALPADS’  “objectives, usefulness, longer term implications and compatibility with growing federal requirements.” The latter phrase refers to the federal government’s insistence that states create a data system that tracks students from preschool through higher education. CALPADS is only a K-12 data system.

Brown hasn’t yet named the members of the task force.

Meanwhile, work on CALPADS continues, albeit again behind schedule. The system is requiring that districts upload four batches of school and student data this school year. Districts were supposed to complete the first submission, containing enrollment and dropout data, by mid-December. That deadline has now been pushed back to Feb. 4. There remain some glitches with the system and compatibility issues with district software, Ashley said, but the main reason for the delay is to allow budget-strapped and personnel-stressed districts extra time. IBM also started collecting the second batch of information, on courses that students are taking, last month; the deadline for submitting it is March.

The federal government is demanding that states submit a four-year graduation rate, tracking individual students by their ID numbers for the first time, by this fall. Ashley said he was confident the state would comply on time.

Ashley said that IBM has been paid half of its $13.9 million contract; the state will not pay the remainder until it certifies that the remaining data collections are trouble-free, he said.

Author: John Fensterwald - Educated Guess

John Fensterwald, a journalist at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, edits and co-writes "Thoughts on Public Education in California" (www.TOPed.org), one of the leading sources of California education policy reporting and opinion, which he founded in 2009. For 11 years before that, John wrote editorials for the Mercury News in San Jose, with a focus on education. He worked as a reporter, news editor and opinion editor for three newspapers in New Hampshire for two decades before receiving a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1997 and heading West shortly thereafter. His wife is an elementary school teacher and his daughter attends the University California at Davis.

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