School Climate Budget - Organizational Support
Please add my organization to the Budget Letters to Support funding to improve LCFF school climate and student engagement priorities.
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DRAFT Letter - formatting will be fixed
NOTE: Sample Assembly Letter, versions will vary slightly based on timing and recipients

February 21, 2018

The Honorable Kevin McCarty
Chair, Assembly Budget Sub 2 on Education Finance
State Capitol, Room 2136
Sacramento, CA 95814


Re: 6110 Department of Education – February 21, 2018 Hearing
- Proposition 47
- Multi-Tiered System of Support
- School Climate Surveys


Dear Assemblymember McCarty:

On behalf of the following organizations, we are writing to urge the budget subcommittee to invest in the following programs that can have a significant impact in addressing the Local Control Funding Formula’s (LCFF) priorities 5 and 6 by improving student engagement and school climate.

The Legislature established and funded two critical programs through the creation of the Prop. 47 Learning Communities for School Success Program and the California Scale Up MTSS—Multi-Tiered System of Support—Statewide (SUMS) initiative. Additionally, building on past successes with the “California Healthy Kids” battery of surveys to assess student, teacher, and parent needs, there have been continuing efforts to support districts in measuring school climate and student engagement through school climate surveys that are consistent with LCFF priorities.

Adequate funding for these initiatives is critical for schools and districts, enabling them to address LCFF identified priorities and ultimately reduce suspensions and chronic absence, while improving the relationships and practices needed to improve school climate and student engagement. They support the training and implementation activities needed to advance restorative justice, social-emotional learning, positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), culturally responsive practices, trauma-informed strategies, school-based mental health, and school-community connections.

Districts need more support with training and implementation of the aforementioned positive school climate approaches. In fact, almost 90 percent of teachers with the California Teachers Association polled by EdSource said they still need more training and support to implement alternative school discipline approaches.

California voters have made it clear that a safe and positive school environment in particular is their top priority for evaluating schools, and more resources are needed to ensure that this priority is effectively addressed through positive and restorative practices that foster safe, effective and positive learning environments needed for our children and youth to succeed.

Prop 47 – Learning Communities for School Success Program (LCSSP) Request: $50M

Proposition 47 and accompanying legislation (AB 1014/SB 527) established the LCSSP and required 25 percent of the savings from the early release of non-violent offenders to be used to help build the capacity of local educational agencies to identify and implement evidence-based, non-punitive programs and practices to keep our most vulnerable pupils in school. Last year the LCSSP grants provided approximately $37 million to 35 grantees to support their plans to improve school climate and student engagement. Competitive and targeted, this grant program was significantly oversubscribed and provided critical resources to implement evidence-based programs, with funding of up to $1.7 million for the large districts in cohort 1.

Districts, county offices of education, and one charter school received grants to support MTSS, PBIS, restorative practices, family/parent engagement and community collaboratives among other activities. Grantees were awarded resources based on the rigor of their plans and the connection to their larger goals to meet the state’s priorities under LCFF.

Yet demand for these funds far outpaces available funding. Initially approximately 300 school districts and other local educational agencies (LEAs) submitted letters of intent to apply for funds. Even in the face of so much competition, 150 districts moved forward in applying, exceeding the number of grants awarded by a more than 4-to-1 margin. In the early months of implementation, nearly 90% of grantees reported already using funding for PBIS and/or restorative practices. With additional funding, hundreds of other districts can benefit from the Learning Communities for School Success Program.

While the LAO intially estimated there would be hundreds of millions in savings from Proposition 47, conservative estimates from the Department of Finance have now resulted in a fraction of the expected funding. Finance estimates recognized a mere $15.2 million as K-12’s share of the annual savings from the early release of non-violent offenders that would thus be available for grants in FY 2018-19. Fortunately, in the past the Legislature recognized this injustice and exercised discretion to add more funding ($18 million in 2016-17) to the Learning Communities for School Success Program, utilizing one-time Proposition 98 funding. 2018-19 presents a crucial opportunity to expand this program to meet the documented need, with significant one-time Prop. 98 funding available this year.

We recommend the budget subcommittee increase this program funding by an additional $50 million.

Scale Up MTSS Statewide (SUMS) Initiative Request: $20 M

In California, MTSS is an integrated, comprehensive framework that focuses on CCSS, core instruction, differentiated learning, student-centered learning, individualized student needs, and the alignment of systems necessary for all students’ academic, behavioral, and social success. MTSS enables systematic change through intentional design and redesign of services and supports that quickly identify and match the needs of all students.

Since 2015 California has invested $30 million in the SUMS initiative, which has supported MTSS implementation statewide to help equip school districts with tiered interventions and supports for students. Most funds went to hundreds of districts for important but relatively modest grants of $25,000 to identify district needs, priorities, resources and programs within a tiered system of support and to carry out associated training and activities needed to address an identified gap within the district’s support system.

These resources have provided critical infrastructure and technical assistance to ramp up the most comprehensive tiered support model embraced by California to address the academic, behavioral, and social-emotional needs of every child. MTSS programs include positive approaches to school discipline, like social-emotional development, which are essential to helping students overcome barriers to learning and to improve school climate. Comprehensive support structures and services also address issues of mental health and trauma, along with the critical needs of our children in special education and the multitude of other needs of children.

We believe California’s continued commitment to ensuring the MTSS framework is necessary at this time to ensure widespread implementation before withdrawing support too soon. In fact, this is what happened in Michigan where schools saw the percentage of students meeting state reading benchmarks rise from 52 percent to more than 60 percent in the first three years, while behavior problems fell. But Steve Goodman, the project director of Michigan's multitiered-systems initiative, found that after that initial strong beginning, implementation dropped off rapidly after the third year, when start-up funding from the federal economic stimulus dried up. Fewer than one-third of schools met state implementation benchmarks, according to a study in 2014. More than 4 in 5 schools simply stopped reporting student data by the fourth year of the program. That was a disappointment, Goodman said, since the schools that did fully implement the framework saw much bigger gains, particularly in student behavior.

Unfortunately, the SUMS initiative was only funded for two years, and received no funding in the FY 2017-18 FY budget. The SUMS program needs continued funding to develop long-term MTSS infrastructure in the form of a comprehensive tiered model of support in every California school district. Many schools and districts are working to support teachers and staff to implement positive approaches as part of a larger effort to develop multiple levels of student support, and just like common core implementation, ongoing time and resources are needed for long-lasting utilization.

We recommend the budget subcommittee increase funding for the MTSS SUMS initiative to $20 million in FY 2018-19.

Statewide School Climate and Engagement Survey Request: $10 M

Use of school climate surveys are not only required by LCFF, they are also essential to provide a comprehensive and holistic understanding of all aspects of the school, community, and learning environment to help shape continuous improvement strategies.

Dating back to 1999, California has developed a well-regarded survey, the California Healthy Kids Survey, which together with interrelated parent and staff surveys, comprise the California School Climate, Health, and Learning Survey (CAL-SCHLS). CHKS is used by approximately 70% of school districts.

However, there is no ongoing state funding to support CAL-SCHLS. CDE currently needs to cobble together funds to supplement survey administration and help subsidize the costs to districts. Currently, CDE and DHCS provide $916,000 annually to WestEd to support the survey and reporting of results. Most comes from CDE, with DHCS providing $100,000. Districts are now required to pay 40 cents per student for CHKS and additional costs for disaggregating results by subgroup, as well as further costs for staff and parent surveys.

Prices are likely to increase without dedicated funding to support administration of surveys as demand increases. In addition to more districts likely to utilize these surveys, the number of districts conducting annual surveys (vs. every other year) is likely to continue to increase, especially given LCFF/LCAP’s focus on annual updates and the support of CDE’s School Conditions and Climate Work Group for annual surveys.

In 2011, the Legislature passed SCR 18 declaring the intent of the Legislature to pursue every means necessary to ensure that CAL-SCHLS remains viable and to pursue federal funding, grants, or other sources for school districts receive the necessary funding to support the CAL-SCHLS surveys.

Increased support for CHKS and related staff and parent surveys would encourage more districts to use this California-developed survey, support annual use of these surveys, and enable statewide data collection to identify trends on school climate and student engagement, facilitate comparisons across districts, and identify best practices.

New school climate survey funding would:
● enable districts to conduct surveys free of charge without paying fees per student or set up fees;
● support the basic staffing and infrastructure for survey administration and revisions, data collection, and reporting support;
● fund annual school-level reports, and district reports disaggregated by subgroup, both of which LEAs currently must request and pay for;
● support annual data analysis including statewide reports and subject-specific
fact sheets;
● provide workshops to assist schools and districts in how to most effectively utilize the surveys, and identify and implement school climate improvement strategies; and
● support the identification and administration of a few other approved surveys, consistent with CDE’s School Conditions and Climate Work Group recommendation to provide several options for districts.

Finally, we want to thank the leadership of this committee for the vision you have established and investments you have made into these programs over the last few years. We believe these recommendations are critical to sustaining and improving the programs that you have personally and collectively championed.

On behalf of the following organizations, we urge you to consider these recommendations to support these critical programs. Please do not hesitate to contact Brian Lee at blee@calfightcrime.org, Brad Strong at bstrong@childrennow.org or Angelica Salazar at asalazar@childrensdefense.org if you have any questions or if we can be of assistance in furthering the development of these recommendations.

Most Sincerely,

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