By John Crowder
The Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board of Trustees conducted a Special Board Meeting on Wednesday, June 18, for the purpose of holding two public hearings, one on the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), and one on the annual budget.
The hearings were in advance of the regular board meeting scheduled for June 25th, at which both items are currently listed on the consent calendar (www.antioch.k12.ca.us). By the end of the meeting, however, the LCAP was sent back to staff in order to incorporate the expenditure amounts for programs listed in the document, and later, the board recessed in order to take up the budget again on Monday, June 23rd, in order to give the public time to view the document online.
The first of the public hearings opened with the public invited to comment on the LCAP, which, as previously reported, is a requirement of Local Education Agencies (LEA), such as AUSD. The LCAP is supposed to describe how an LEA “intends to meet annual goals for all pupils.” It anticipates parents and the public having a significant voice as to how such goals are to be accomplished, and how funds will be expended in order to accomplish those goals, particularly with regard to “high needs students,” such as English Language Learners, low-income students, and foster children.
Over a dozen members of the public, some representing a coalition of advocacy groups, addressed the Board about the LCAP. All of the comments made were similar, many reading a scripted message, while, to varying degrees, also adding personal anecdotes to their statements. While many lauded AUSD, and, in particular, Associate Superintendent Stephanie Anello and her staff in Educational Services for including ideas generated by the community in their revised LCAP, they nonetheless expressed concern that there were no monetary amounts included in the document.
Speaker after speaker told the board that Supplemental and Concentration Funds, which they pegged at amounting to about $8.4 million for the next year, were being generated because of the large proportion of high needs students in the district, and were to be used to benefit these same students. They repeatedly quoted Education Code 52604, which, according to the LCAP template produced by the California State Department of Education, “requires a listing and description of the expenditures required to implement the specific actions.”
Speakers were also under the impression that AUSD was only planning to spend $650,000 for high needs students. Synitha Walker, one of the founders of Parents Connected, whose children attended both Deer Valley High School and Dallas Ranch Middle School, expressed the sentiments of many present.
“There is no way the district can implement (the programs) fully and effectively in the first year with only $650,000 designated for the students it is supposed to serve,” she stated.
There is a lot of confusion within the local community regarding the money that AUSD is expected to receive from the State under the programs that are designated to serve high needs students, and part of this may be due to the fact that, under both the old and new funding formulas, AUSD is spending much more than it receives, steadily depleting its reserves. In fiscal year 2013-2014, AUSD had total expenditures under the General Fund (i.e., the operating fund) of $159.1 million on revenues of only $138.8 million, a deficit of $20.3 million. For 2014-2015, the picture is somewhat better, with revenues expected to be $151.4 million and expenditures $157.2 million, but that still leaves them with deficit spending of roughly $5.8 million.
After public comments on the LCAP concluded, Board Vice President Gary Hack asked AUSD staff why there were no numbers in the document they had been presented. Dr. Donald Gill, AUSD Superintendent, responded that, “Up until two hours ago,” the County Board of Education had been advising them not to include numbers. Tim Forrester, Associate Superintendent for Business and Operations, concurred with him. Gill then told the board that, now that they were being told to include numbers in the document, they would do so.
The hearing on the annual budget was then opened, and once again members of the public rose to express their dismay with the process. Willie Mims, Education Chair for the East County NAACP, expressed concern that the budget was not posted online, and, that because of this, “the people are operating at a serious disadvantage.” Once public comments concluded, Board President Joy Motts asked staff if the budget was posted online. Forrester said that it was, which immediately drove many in the room to their phones and computers to verify whether or not this was true. Several commented they could not find it, and board member Diane Gibson-Gray finally said, “It’s not there.” After further discussion, Motts asked, “When can we get the budget online?” Forrester responded that it would be there, “tonight.” The board then determined to reopen the hearing and recess until a at a special Board Meeting this Monday, June 23, at 6:00 p.m., in order to give the community time to review the document.