School district releases draft of $2.4 million expenditure plan for disadvantaged students

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On Friday, the Berkeley Unified School District released the second public draft of a plan outlining the district’s goals and actions for the upcoming school year, including details of how it will spend approximately $2.4 million to support disadvantaged students.

The Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP, incorporates specific goals, actions and anticipated expenditures in an effort to eliminate barriers to student success, especially among English learners, low-income students and foster children. The plan will go into effect for the 2014-15 school year if approved by the school board in June and include specific targets and actions for two subsequent school years.

The plan aims to promote college readiness, end the racial achievement gap and ensure that schools have inclusive environments. Among the plan’s proposals are $800,000 for literacy coaches at K-5 schools and $38,000 for an anger-management counselor at Berkeley High School.

“It’s about bringing everybody together and making more goals that demonstrate a bigger commitment to all students,” said Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, a member of the school board.

The LCAP comes in response to the Local Control Funding Formula, which overhauls the past K-12 finance system and attempts to provide communities and districts with more power to choose where to spend money received from the state. The legislation also aims to increase funding over eight years to its 2007-08 level and provide increased funding to benefit disadvantaged groups. Districts statewide are formulating LCAPs, as is the Alameda County Office of Education, whose plan would work in conjunction with that of the Berkeley Unified School District.

About 42 percent of the Berkeley district’s students are English learners, foster students or low-income students — more than the Albany and Piedmont districts but less than the Oakland district, according to Josh Daniels, president of the Berkeley school board. The supplemental funding for disadvantaged groups — which is only part of the total funding boost — is expected to increase to $3.6 million in 2015-16 and $4.9 million in 2016-17.

The plan, currently in its second formal draft, has been in development since 2013, when an initial community forum generated 140 ideas for the proposal. It was further developed in community focus groups and committees that included administrators, teachers, parents and students — creating 18 versions to date.

After the first formal iteration was released April 25, the public was asked for feedback, and the latest version was drafted after considering about 40 of those comments, according to Daniels. The second formal draft reorganizes and further details some of the proposals from the initial draft, giving the goals more coherence, he said.

The plan has received some criticism for being too cautious in its goals for black students. For the 2014-15 school year, the plan aims to increase the proportion of black third-graders reading at grade level from 50 to 57 percent.

“We could be more aspirational in our goals, and I think we can do more,” Leyva-Cutler said. “We can move this farther.”

Daniels said he understood the criticism but noted that progress will be evaluated against these goals, with potential for state intervention if they are not met. He said the district would push for results beyond the stated goals.

“This board is strongly committed to closing the opportunity gap, particularly for African-American students,” he said. “Whatever goals we set, we don’t see them as a ceiling, we see them as a floor.”

The plan’s second draft is open for public comment until Friday. The final draft will be presented to the public June 11, and the plan will go before the school board to be approved June 25.

Contact Sahil Chinoy at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @sahilchinoy_dc.