LAO wants to redirect QEIA funds

Nearly 30 percent of California schools funded under the Quality Education Investment Act, or QEIA, may be expelled from the program at the end of this academic year for not meeting one or more of the requirements. That could leave up to $140 million in QEIA funds on the table – money the Legislative Analyst says the state should use to fill in the gaps in other educational programs.

There’s one barrier to the proposal: the QEIA law forbids it. SB 1133, introduced in 2006 by former state senator and current State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, requires that any funds left over when schools are removed from the program stay in the program. The money would be divided among the remaining schools for cost-of-living and enrollment increases.

Gov. Brown's plan to pay off QEIA and other temporary programs. (Source: LAO). Click to enlarge.
Gov. Brown's plan to pay off QEIA and other temporary programs. (Source: LAO). Click to enlarge.

The LAO acknowledges as much in its just released analysis of Gov. Brown’s 2012-13 education budget plan. The report recommends a statutory change to free up the money. It faces formidable opposition, and not just from Superintendent Torlakson, but possibly from higher up. Unlike much of the LAO’s report, which analyzes the governor’s budget proposals, this idea came directly from the legislative analyst.

“That is our recommendation,” said Edgar Cabral, one of the LAO’s education analysts. “The governor did not make that recommendation, and I doubt he would.”

State Board of Education president Michael Kirst said in an email that he wouldn’t support the plan either, and suggested that any changes “might also have to go back to the court as well as the Legislature.”

Stepping back

QEIA grew out of a lawsuit filed by the California Teachers Association against Gov. Schwarzenegger for reneging on a promise to repay school districts and community colleges $2 billion taken from Proposition 98 in 2004-05 in order to help get the state through a budget crisis. When state revenues increased that year, schools should have received an additional $1.8 billion under the Prop 98 guarantee. Instead, the governor based the 2005-06 school funding guarantee on the lower amount from the previous year.

QEIA funding by grade. (Source: County Supes Association-CCSESA). Click to enlarge.
QEIA funding by grade. (Source: County Supes Association-CCSESA). Click to enlarge.

Under the settlement, schools in API deciles 1 and 2 were eligible to apply for QEIA funds, but there was only enough money for about 500 of the nearly 1,500 schools in the lowest rankings. The numbers have fluctuated some since the program began in 2007-08, and there are now 474 schools – and that number is falling – in the program.

The latest reporting from County Offices of Education to the State Department of Education (as yet unpublished) shows that 137 QEIA schools haven’t met at least one requirement of the program. They include:

  • Class size reduction: A maximum of 20 students in grades K to 3 and 25 students in grades 4 through 12,
  • School counselors: Must have a student-counselor ratio of no more than 300:1,
  • Highly qualified teachers: All teachers must meet the standards for highly qualified teachers in No Child Left Behind,
  • Professional development: Develop a coherent plan for professional development and track participation by teachers, administrators, and paraprofessionals,
  • Teacher experience index (TEI): Teachers at QEIA schools must have an average level of teaching experience at or above the average of the entire school district for the same type of school, and
  • API: The average API growth scores from 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11 must exceed the school’s average API target for those same three years.

By law, these schools could be terminated from the program beginning next fall, but the State Board of Education has begun granting waivers from a few of the provisions. As of its meeting last month, the Board has approved 45 waiver requests and denied five from the class size reduction requirement, and approved three waivers from the teacher experience index and four under highly qualified teachers.

Board members drew the line, however, at waivers for not meeting API targets.  “This is the main goal of QEIA; I really have difficulty saying we can waive student achievement,” said board member Yvonne Chan at last month’s meeting, before a unanimous vote to deny five waiver requests for academic performance.  At last count, 70 QEIA schools have fallen short of their API targets.

The California Teachers Association, which led the charge for QEIA through its lawsuit, notes that even if every school that hasn’t met all the requirements is booted from the program, the overwhelming number of schools will remain.  Considering that California schools have absorbed about $20 billion in cuts in the past few year, “it’s very promising that so many QEIA school weathered that storm and are making progress,” said CTA spokesman Mike Myslinski.

That’s why the CTA will oppose any effort to take money that would otherwise provide those QEIA survivors with a little extra funding, said Myslinksi.   “For us, the law is very clear that any so-called excess money really needs to go back to the schools.”

State needs federal waiver for K-12 spending

Gov. Schwarzenegger and Education Secretary Arne Duncan may have a disagreement over the definition of the word “protect.” It will be Duncan who will have the final word.

In his proposed budget, the governor assumes that the federal government will grant the state a waiver so that the state can spend $600 million less on K-12 education than it promised the federal government it would as a condition of taking stimulus money last year.

Continue reading “State needs federal waiver for K-12 spending”

Prop 98: protected or cut?

As he promised in his State of the State address, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger protected K-12 schools and higher education from cuts in his proposed $83 billion spending plan for  2010-11.

Or did he?

Some Democrats and the California School Boards Association are condemning the governor for cutting K-12 funding by $1.5 billion. As have other governors and Legislatures, Schwarzenegger appears to have manipulated the level of funding under Proposition 98, the primary source of money for schools and community colleges, said CSBA President Frank Hugh. “This year, it looks as though nothing has changed.”

Continue reading “Prop 98: protected or cut?”

Schwarzenegger’s Secret Santa

As long as we’re down to last-minute Christmas lists, consider Gov. Schwarzenegger’s. He’s hoping Uncle Sam will be his Secret Santa, with a gift certificate for $8 billion.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the governor will ask Washington for a big piece of  what would be the government’s second stimulus. And if the $8 billion doesn’t come, he vows the end of welfare as we know it, with the abolishment of CALWORKS, along with — listen up, big business — the rescission of the $2 billion in corporate tax cuts the Legislature and the governor himself snuck in this year.

No mention so far of education, although the Sacramento Bee reported that Schwarzenegger, as expected,  will seek a waiver from the Obama administration to reduce  K-14 spending. At the same time, he will cite, as one cause of the state’s troubles, the requirement under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the first stimulus program, that states maintain their level of education spending — or face penalties.

The Obama administration hasn’t committed to a second stimulus package, but the House passed a $175 billion jobs and infrastructure package before adjourning for the year.

Governor squelches finance reform

In vetoing AB 8, which would have taken the first step to overhauling the irrational way the state funds K-12 education, Gov. Schwarzenegger once again gave the back of his hand to recommendations of his Eduction Excellence Committee.

If  the blog had been up last month, I would have ranted about this then.  The Educated Guess is still fuming, so let me vent.

It’s not often that by near-unanimity, Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature agree on a potentially significant education reform.

That happened with the passage (79-0 in the Assembly, 31-6 in the Senate) of AB 8, which would have taken the first small but important step toward rethinking how the state funds K-12 schools.

But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, with water, levies and dams on the brain , vetoed it hours before the signing deadline for legislation.

He did so with a puzzling and dismissive veto message.

He did so even though AB 8 was in line with the recommendations of his own Advisory Committee on Education Excellence.

He did so even though the Hewlett Foundation* had offered to pick  up the costs of the study that the bill created. Continue reading “Governor squelches finance reform”