A caffeine-fueled, first-of-its-kind discussion played out in Old Town Saturday as the state’s top education administrator talked with community members about their funding priorities for the San Diego Unified School District.
The meeting was about taking control of school district budgets on the local level.
“This is to get the community involved. It’s training on how we define our priorities. We believe – I believe that decisions are made best locally, not from Washington, D.C. or Sacramento,” said Tom Torlakson, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Last year, the California Department of Education changed the way it funds districts. Instead of dividing tax payer money into more than 40 state-mandated categories, each district will essentially get a lump sum and decide where the money is best spent within its jurisdiction.
Now, the state will base success on how well a district performs in eight priority areas.
“At the state level, they understand that the real decisions are made closest to the kids. As a local superintendent, I fully support that concept,” said SDUSD Superintendent Cindy Marten.
To hold the districts accountable, they have to create a local control and accountability plan (LCAP) that lays out how funds will be used for three years.
Marten said the SDUSD – the state’s second largest school district – started its LCAP last year and began gathering community input in September.
Saturday’s meeting with teachers, parents and Torlakson was the latest in that process steps.
Those inside examined the 45-page draft LCAP that focused on 12 local priority areas like digital literacy and quality teaching.
“The draft is out right now. The group here is a planning team. They’re looking at the draft saying, ‘Are we getting it right? Did we figure out where the money needs to go with our district-wide local control accountability plan?’” said Marten.
The draft will now be reworked to include the group’s feedback, and a new version will be made public on May 1.
After that, everyone with a stake in the SDUSD will be able to give their input for 30 days. Marten hopes to have final adoption of the plan by the end of June.
“One reason why again this local process is to bolster community involvement and support and to again underscore that districts need flexibility. They need the chance to define their priorities,” said Torlakson.