Scripps Ranch Schools Committee (SRSC)

Common Core Development

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were a major focus at the last two meetings of the Schools Committee. Professional development of teachers and principals continued through the school year, with group visits to different schools to observe CCSS teaching techniques. All schools completed the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) tests, the computer-based tests designed to examine the deeper learning in the CCSS.

This year the SBAC testing was a “test of the test” to assess the quality of the questions, not a test of the students, so no scores will be reported. Principals recounted that students were surprised at the difficulty of some of the questions, and that teachers and students encountered technical issues with hardware, software, and bandwidth. All appreciated the test run to be able to identify areas that need to be improved before next year’s testing, which will be reported.

Transitioning from the traditional math pathway to the district’s new CCSS integrated math pathways is ongoing. Middle school students will experience the biggest changes. Marshall Middle School students are being placed into the new courses based on district math placement test results, a student’s previous years’ CST results, current math grades, and teacher assessments to provide the best fit for each student. The new math CCSS pathways provide the opportunity for advanced students to reach calculus by 11th grade, as does the traditional pathway.

Budget Concerns

State education funding continues to challenge the San Diego Unified School District’s (SDUSD) budget. The governor’s May revision of the budget proposal addressed the improvement in the economy and gave more revenue to education.

However, while districts like SDUSD wanted more funding for CCSS implementation, Transitional Kindergarten, and the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)—the new funding system for education—the governor’s May proposal instead used the unanticipated funds to pay down debt and provide a “rainy day” fund.

Of great concern to SDUSD and districts across the state is the governor’s proposal to require them to fund the bulk of the estimated $74 billion pension liability of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS). Districts would have to increase the pension payments from 8.25% to 19.1% without additional funding to cover the cost.

These pension payments would drain an estimated $170 billion out of schools in the next 30 years. This comes at a time when per-student spending in California is 30% less than the national average and ranks 49th in the country when adjusted for regional cost averages.

The threat to the classroom is real. California schools are still recovering from the recession and receive less funding than they did in 2007–2008. The district continues to spend more than it receives. It managed to fill a $115 million budget deficit for 2014–2015 mostly through real estate sales and the LCFF state funds.

Even without the extra CalSTRS payments, SDUSD is anticipating at least a $70 million deficit for 2015–2016, which it hopes to offset by selling all remaining “excess” properties, including sites in use, such as the Education Center. However, the additional payments would cost SDUSD $6.3 million in 2014–2015, growing each year until it reaches about $60 million annually starting in 2020–2021. The district hopes that lobbying by staff, board members, and the public will reduce this burden on students, as the state legislature must vote to approve a state budget.

New Funding Formula

In May the district unveiled its draft Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). This is the new accountability plan that districts must produce every three years under the new funding formula to demonstrate the district’s goals and spending priorities.

Part of the LCAP process requires the district to solicit input from the public. Much of the feedback centered on more concrete goals with metrics—including baseline and target numbers—for greater accountability, more focus on student achievement/outcome in these goals, and greater transparency with respect to expenditures. As of press time, a final LCAP was expected to be approved on June 24.

Final Notes

The Schools Committee thanked Shana Smith, who is “graduating out” of her positions as both committee co-chair and SRHS Foundation president…a position she held with every parent-teacher organization where her daughters attended school. We also congratulated long-time committee member and Scripps Ranch Civic Association representative, Elissa Barber, on her retirement from the district.

Also, the committee would like the community to know that Jerabek and Dingeman elementary schools have new bell times for the fall: Dingeman, 8:30 am–3 pm; and Jerabek, 8:35 am–3:05 pm.

The Schools Committee does not meet during the summer. Regular meetings are on the third Wednesday of the month at 4:30 pm at Marshall Middle School.

Tamara Hurley, Legislative Analyst