A Message from the Superintendent – January 2014

2014 – A Watershed Year for Public Education

The year 2014 will be remembered as a watershed year for public education in California as many of the bureaucratic strings that were previously attached to school funding have been relaxed. And that is good news for those who have a strong belief in local control of our county schools.

AB 97 made major changes to the way the state allocates funding to our 10 local school districts. School funding will now be based on grade levels and demographic data for each district. This legislation was the culmination of more than a decade of research and policy work on our K-12 funding system. The bill is entitled Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and was developed on the principles of simplicity, transparency, equity and most importantly, performance (student achievement). This historic reform is based on an empowerment model that is designed to engage parents, students, teachers, administrators, community members and other key stakeholders in an ongoing dialogue about what is best for their schools.

It will also include a new accountability model for our schools. This new model, called the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), has eight distinct priorities: student engagement, school climate, course access, student achievement, parental involvement, performance standards, basic services and other student outcomes. The transfer of authority from the state to local school districts means that accountability for our schools’ successes, or failures, will now be grassroots and not state-driven. School districts will be holding public hearings in May and June to allow for community input.

Because of these changes, I believe that the position of school board trustee will be one of the most important elected positions in any city or county and just as important as that of a City Council member or Supervisor, for where else can such important decisions be made that affect the lives of so many?

Gov. Brown in his State of the State addressed the matter of Local Control Funding by stating “Instead of prescriptive commands issued from headquarters here in Sacramento, more general goals have been established for each local school to attain, each in its own way. This puts the responsibility where it has to be: in the classroom and at the local district. With six million students in California there is no way the state can micromanage teaching and learning in all the schools from El Centro to Eureka – and we should not even try.”

So how do we create change without creating chaos? For one, we as educators need to listen to students, teachers, parents, businesses, and informed community members, while relying on research and data to help us define best practices for teaching and learning. What works in the classroom in one district may not work in a similar classroom in another district. We are a very diverse county. The choices that each district will have to make in regard to which educational programs and services to keep, and which to let go of, will not be easy; however, I believe that we are up to this challenge.

Michael C. Watkins
County Superintendent of Schools
Santa Cruz County Office of Education