Spring Delegate Assembly discusses legislative priorities for 2023–24
New research on COVID relief spending presented

Local educational agency representatives from around the state gathered in Sacramento May 21–22 for the spring Delegate Assembly meeting. Delegates were updated on various CSBA initiatives including reports from the Board Development, Bylaws and Candidate Review committees. The CSBA legal team updated Delegates on current cases affecting education and the culminating report from CSBA’s Climate Change Task Force was presented.

The centerpiece of the meeting was breakout sessions in which Delegates discussed responses to four questions, each asking what is needed at the local, state and federal level to support the four pillars that form the basis of CSBA’s Policy Platform. CSBA gathered input from Delegates to inform the development of the 2023–24 Governance First Agenda, which is the association’s list of legislative priorities. The current agenda covers the ongoing 2021–22 legislative session, which extends through September of this year.

Student doing math on the chalkboard
CSBA will complete and develop the 2023–24 Governance First Agenda over the summer and fall of this year, which will provide staff with sufficient lead time to conduct relevant research and planning prior to the start of the 2023–24 legislative session. Info from the breakout sessions is also used to inform CSBA trainings, policy and communications throughout the year.

Following the breakout sessions, CSBA staff and Directors evaluated the findings in each breakout and consolidated them down to 26 key themes that were voted upon by the full assembly to rank their importance. The top five recommendations to receive a vote of “very important” are:

  1. Fund mandates. If you don’t fund it, it’s not a mandate (97.8 percent)
  2. Full funding at state and federal level for special education (94.9 percent)
  3. Fund pension liabilities for CalSTRS and CalPERS (90.9 percent)
  4. Identify best practices, including training opportunities for staff, to ensure that all students can read proficiently at grade level by third grade (78.2 percent)
  5. Fully fund home-to-school transportation (74 percent)
COVID relief funding research
A special lunch presentation from CSBA’s Research and Education Policy Development Department unveiled research that the association is taking on regarding how LEAs are spending COVID relief funding. The final report, expected to be published this summer, will include analyses of federal and state expenditure reports and information from a CSBA survey sent out to all LEA superintendents to obtain more granular and anecdotal detail. While the research team is waiting for the CDE to publish state relief funding expenditure reports, they presented some of the findings from their research at the federal level along with preliminary results from the survey.

While there have been concerns in the media about LEAs’ not spending COVID relief funds, the federal expenditure reports and survey responses present a clear rebuke of that narrative. LEAs are spending down the federal funding, as is evidenced by the significant majority already using most of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) 1 allocations. The federal reports show the changing nature of LEA spending coinciding with the timeline of how the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting schools. For example, early funds were used for things like educational technology. More recent use of funds includes programs and initiatives aimed at learning recovery for students. The shifting needs of LEAs illustrate the necessity of flexible spending rules for the funds so that they can change course when and where it is needed.

Other early returns for the survey showed that, while student mental wellness supports rank very high on the list of concerns LEAs have to address, there are challenges with using relief funding to address this priority. Survey responses revealed an inability to find suitable staff to fulfill needed positions such as counselors and psychologists and concerns about the sustainability of programs/staff positions when the funding is one time and will run out.

Ballot measures
CSBA Governmental Relations staff presented on statewide ballot measures impacting public schools that may qualify for the November 2022 election. Two highlights included:

  • Referendum on Senate Bill 793: This measure, already qualified for the November ballot, is a referendum on the 2020 law SB 793 (Hill, D-San Mateo), which prohibits the retail sale of certain flavored tobacco products and tobacco flavor enhancers. The referendum would require a majority of voters to approve the 2020 state law before it can take effect and the implementation of SB 793 is suspended pending the outcome of the referendum. Delegates voted to endorse the CSBA Board of Directors recommendation to support the measure.
  • California Art and Music K-12 Education Funding Initiative: This initiative would fund arts and music education in all K-12 public schools by annually allocating from state General Fund an amount equaling 1 percent of required state and local funding for public schools. It would raise $800 million to $1 billion annually, beginning in 2022–23, allocate 70 percent using total enrollment and 30 percent based on economically disadvantaged enrollment. While the goals of the measure are worthy, it would create a new categorical program with a requirement that 80 percent of funding be spent on staff. With the many competing priorities facing school districts, funding the Local Control Funding Formula base would allow LEAs to direct money where it is needed most, including arts programs.