May 2020 Vol. 26, 5
CSBA's COVID-19 News and Resources webpage on a laptop
COVID-19: CSBA advocacy sounds the alarm for LEA fiscal needs
The association is working with state and federal government toward relief
Just as local educational agencies kicked into high gear to deliver distance learning and meals to students once schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so did CSBA. Your association immediately began providing resources; important updates from state, federal and local government agencies; and working directly with the Governor’s office and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond to share the concerns of local districts and county offices of education and advocate for guidance that will best support the state’s 1,000 LEAs.

In an April 24 letter from CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy to Gov. Gavin Newsom, Billy makes the case that California schools need additional funding and flexibility. Specifically, CSBA requests the Governor:

COVID-19 update: Funding, college admissions and what’s next
California local educational agencies are beginning to settle in to the “new normal” of distance learning while schools are closed for in-person instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This unprecedented situation has come with its share of challenges that LEAs are working to meet head-on with creativity and determination.
mother and her sons working around a laptop
Districts and county offices of education across the state jumped into high gear when school closures were announced. Many began with surveying students and families about their need for devices and internet access and working to fill those gaps; launching professional development for distance learning; and quickly figuring out the best ways to distribute meals to ensure that all students in need could access the healthy food they would normally receive at school.

Meanwhile, the state and federal government have continued to roll out guidance related to graduation requirements, funding sources and labor management. Looking forward, Gov. Gavin Newsom said in an April 14 press conference that schools might operate much differently than usual when they resume. Among the six indicators that Gov. Newsom announced officials will consider before modifying the state’s stay-at-home order is “the ability for businesses, schools and child care facilities to support physical distancing.”

California School News logo

Chief Information Officer:
Troy Flint |

Managing Editor:
Kimberly Sellery |

Marketing Director:

Serina Pruitt |

Staff Writers and Contributors:
Andrew Cummins |
Alisha Kirby |
Aaron Davis |
Mike Ambrose |
Briana Mullen |

Graphic Design Manager:
Kerry Macklin |

Senior Graphic Designer:
Mauricio Miranda |

Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez | Azusa USD

Suzanne Kitchens | Pleasant Valley SD

Vice President:
Susan Heredia | Natomas USD

Immediate Past President:
Emma Turner | La Mesa-Spring Valley SD

CEO & Executive Director:
Vernon M. Billy

The California School Boards Association is the essential voice for public education. We inspire our members to be knowledgeable leaders, extraordinary governance practitioners and ardent advocates for all students.

California School News (ISSN 1091-1715) is published 11 times per year by the California School Boards Association, Inc., 3251 Beacon Blvd., West Sacramento, CA 95691. 916-371-4691. $4 of CSBA annual membership dues is for the subscription to California School News. The subscription rate for each CSBA nonmember is $35. Periodicals postage paid at West Sacramento, CA and at additional mailing office. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to California School News, 3251 Beacon Blvd., West Sacramento, CA 95691.

News and feature items submitted for publication are edited for style and space as necessary.

President’s Message: Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez
Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez headshot
Building a bridge across the digital divide

In this space last month, I commended the tireless work of trustees, administrators, teachers, classified staff and others for truly rising to the challenge and finding creative ways to teach and serve students on a massive scale and in relatively short order. And while much of the focus has been appropriately placed on the need for distance learning, what deserves equal attention is whether schools and their students have the resources to implement distance learning effectively and equitably. According to CSBA’s latest COVID-19 survey, other education organization research and a wide-ranging collection of recent news articles, the answer is no.

This unprecedented instructional shift forced by the COVID-19 pandemic is now shining the brightest spotlight yet on California’s long-standing digital divide, which undermines the academic, career and life prospects of students as well as the state’s economic potential. Particularly, students in low-income and rural communities frequently lack access to computers and broadband internet, making it difficult for schools to provide instruction in an equitable manner. To put it simply, many students lack access to technology when they need it most.

Flexible time limits for public input at board meetings

The opportunity for members of the public to address the governing board during board meetings is an essential and legally required part of school district governance. Members of the public may speak to any item on the agenda before or during consideration of the item, including closed session and consent items, and to items not on the agenda but within the subject matter jurisdiction of the board. In special meetings, which include emergency meetings, members of the public are able to address the board only regarding agenda items.

Boards are authorized to provide reasonable limits on the amount of time allocated for public testimony on a particular issue and for each individual speaker. Optional language in CSBA’s sample Board Bylaw 9323 – Meeting Conduct designates three minutes per speaker and 20 minutes per agenda or non-agenda item. Such reasonable regulation must ensure that the intent of allowing the public an adequate opportunity to speak to the board is carried out. Thus, while boards may provide general guidance about the total amount of time permitted per issue and speaker, circumstances may necessitate adjustments in order to provide full opportunity for public input.

CSBA webinar series guides governance teams during COVID-19
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the daily lives of students, families, teachers and staff, governance teams have been forced to make decisions based on rapidly evolving information from health officials and state and federal leadership that significantly affect their communities.
In a video message on April 22, CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy spoke to members about the excellent work being done across the state to support students during school closures. He also announced CSBA’s new series of COVID-19 related webinars to help local educational agencies best navigate the uncertainty of school closures caused by the novel coronavirus, which concludes on May 20 (stream them here:

Kicking off the series April 27 with an examination of state and federal guidance related to COVID-19, CSBA experts provided attendees with an overview of grading, testing, child care and emergency federal funding, as well as waivers granted thus far. Most importantly, panelists explained how all these changes impact LEAs and the role of district and county office governance teams.

Recession looms as Legislature prepares its return ahead of May budget revision
The sight of only two legislators donning masks and seated at a dais set for 15, with the rest of a committee conferenced in on Zoom, could become a more common image when the California Legislature reconvenes on May 4. That day, if all goes as planned, will mark an unprecedented seven-week recess as the state and the nation fight to slow the spread of coronavirus.
100 dollar bills with red arrow descending
The aforementioned scene happened on April 16 as the Senate Budget Committee held the first hearing of the social distancing era and first official hearing of any kind at the Capitol since the Legislature recessed exactly one month prior — a recess initially set to go through April 13, but extended to May 4 by legislative leadership. It was during this hearing that Legislative Analyst Gabe Petek made the dreaded yet unsurprising announcement that California “has entered a recession, and possibly a quite severe one.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom made a similar declaration just hours later during his daily press conference, proclaiming that “we are now in a pandemic-induced recession here in the state of California,” citing the 3.1 million unemployment applications the state has received — a number expected to climb.

The barreling economic downturn caused by COVID-19 upends most if not all the initial January 2020–21 state budget proposal and creates a bleak outlook for the pending May Revision.

Court of Appeals affirms requirement to exhaust IDEA administrative remedies
On March 18, 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Clovis Unified School District in A.L. v. Clovis Unified School District, affirming the lower court’s dismissal of claims against the district.
court gavel stacked on book
In the case, a student filed claims of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504, and denial of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), among other claims. As the case progressed, the student settled her Individuals with Disabilities Education Act claims before a due process hearing, and thus without receiving an administrative decision on the merits. The student then filed suit in federal court on the ADA and Section 504 claims arising from largely the same facts at issue in the IDEA case. The district court applied the IDEA exhaustion requirement and dismissed the case for failure to state a claim.

The plaintiff argued on appeal before the Ninth Circuit that the district court should not have granted Clovis USD’s motion to dismiss, arguing that she was not required to exhaust administrative remedies before bringing her Section 504 and ADA claims in federal court; that settlement of IDEA claims should satisfy administrative exhaustion for purposes of both IDEA appeals, and Section 504 and ADA claims; and that failure to exhaust could not be raised until the summary judgment stage of the case, after the potentially lengthy and costly discovery of evidence has been completed. A ruling in favor of the plaintiff could have significantly increased the time and effort involved in litigation, as well as future litigation costs, for school districts in similar cases, so CSBA and its Education Legal Alliance filed an amicus brief before the Ninth Circuit in support of the district.


GovernanceCorner Practical tips from our MIG faculty

Supporting educational equity for all students
A central role of a school district or county office of education board of trustees is to set policies for the local educational agency. It is important for board members, as local policymakers, to understand their role in supporting access to programs that serve the educational needs of all students. Board members must commit to having conversations on equity when adopting policies, especially when accounting for the needs of the most vulnerable students. Equity-centered decisions are supported by the development of a long-term equity plan. These considerations are particularly critical as boards make decisions regarding distance learning and work to ensure that supports and resources are available and accessible for all students and their families.
Celebrating the extraordinary work of school staff in a time of crisis
Each May, California’s local educational agencies celebrate Employee Appreciation Month to recognize the teachers, classroom aides, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodial workers, administrative staff and others who dedicate their lives to promoting the success of children.

Now, amid school closures caused by COVID-19 and the important work being done to support students every day, under extraordinary circumstances, it is more important than ever to honor these employees.

“The work accomplished by our educators and classified staff and the passion they have for improving children’s lives is incredible even under normal circumstances,” said CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy. “If there is one thing this pandemic has shone a spotlight on, it is the deep commitment that California’s school employees have to their students. It is an honor to celebrate these heroes who regularly go above and beyond what it expected of them.”

digital divide
FCC waives E-Rate and other requirements; Congress seeks additional funding for student tech
In light of nationwide school closures caused by COVID-19, the Federal Communications Commission has announced waivers to better help local educational agencies make the transition to long-term distance learning by relaxing rural E-rate gift rules and alleviating certain administrative and compliance burdens on schools.

E-rate provides discounts of up to 90 percent to help eligible schools and libraries in the United States obtain affordable telecommunications and internet access. The program is intended to ensure that schools and libraries have access to affordable telecommunications and information services.

On April 1, officials from the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau announced that it was extending the service delivery deadline for non-recurring services for funding year 2019 by one year — from Sept. 30, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021. The latest order also grants schools and libraries an automatic 60-day extension to file requests for review or waiver of decisions by the E-Rate program administrator, the Universal Service Administrative Company and provides applicants and service providers an automatic 120-day extension of the invoice filing deadline. Additionally, all program participants are granted a 30-day extension to respond to certain information requests from USAC.

special education
Changes to special education processes announced by the Office of Administrative Hearings
Announced on April 15, 2020, and effective on the same date, the Office of Administrative Hearings will be conducting all mediations, prehearing conferences and due process hearings remotely, either through video conference or by telephone. All special education hearing rooms at OAH locations are closed to the public, and no hearings or mediations at off-site locations will take place. The link to the OAH order can be found at

OAH is a neutral state agency that helps solve disagreements between individuals and government agencies. The Special Education Division of OAH handles mediations, prehearing conferences and due process hearings that involve issues related to special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Special education mediations
In the special education due process context, mediation is a chance for the parties to resolve their dispute with the help of a neutral, trained mediator. All discussions that occur during mediation, including any statements each party makes about their case, are confidential and may not be used in any subsequent hearing. The purpose of the confidentiality rule is to allow free and open dialogue to encourage the parties to reach settlement. However, due process mediation will only occur on a voluntary basis — both parties must request and consent to participate in mediation.
Parents are stressed and looking for more support, especially for underserved students, poll finds
Nearly 9 in 10 California parents are worried about their children falling behind academically due to coronavirus-related school closures, and 8 in 10 are experiencing heightened stress levels, according to a poll released on April 8 by the Education Trust–West. That said, the new statewide poll finds that 81 percent of respondents rate school leaders’ general handling of the closures as “excellent” or “good.”

The poll also confirms that the pandemic crisis is exacerbating persistent education equity issues, including inequitable access to technology, academic support, and resources for students of color and students from lower-income and rural communities.

Distance learning and academic support
While the poll indicates parents are generally satisfied with schools’ post-closure outreach efforts thus far, it also shows that parents of students of color are particularly worried about not having the resources and support to help their child stay on track. Eighty-two percent of Latinx and 76 percent of African American parents worry about their children falling behind academically. “Our poll finds that parents crave consistent contact and equitable access to academic supports,” said Education Trust–West Executive Director Elisha Smith Arrillaga.
mental health
Mental health experts highlight need to connect with children during school closures
Six students have died by suicide in the time that California schools have been closed to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). State officials and mental health experts say it is vital to reach out to children and families likely to be suffering alone.
Khieem Jackson, deputy superintendent of equity and access for the California Department of Education, told viewers of an April 9 webinar hosted by Wellness Together School Mental Health and the CDE that identifying children in need while working remotely is challenging, but doing so must be a priority. Webinar speakers shared tips on how to go about connecting with students under shelter-in-place directives.

“Students are experiencing new and ongoing trauma without the daily support of their teachers, their peers and other staff. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we reach out to our students to ensure their safety, and to determine what their needs are so that we can connect with them and connect them to appropriate resources,” Jackson said.

Executive order extends LCAP deadline; CDE seeks cancellation of 2020 Dashboard
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s executive order issued on April 23 extends the deadline for the 2020-21 Local Control and Accountability Plan to Dec. 15, 2020, providing local educational agencies with more time to prioritize pressing COVID-19 needs. Instead of submitting a three-year LCAP on July 1, 2020, LEAs will at that time submit an update of COVID-19 related impacts on students and plans to address those impacts, followed by completing an abbreviated annual 2020-21 planning document in December.

Elsewhere, the California Department of Education said it will seek the cancellation of the 2020 California School Dashboard and outlined how that would affect the key cog in the state’s accountability and assessment system.

Gov. Newsom’s executive order outlining LCAP changes
The Governor’s order said the delay and changes stem from the continued school closures in response to the pandemic that will impact LEAs’ annual planning, budgetary and other processes specified by statute and regulation. The executive order outlines four conditions that must be met in light of the extension to ensure transparency and accountability to communities:
county boards
A county office–district attorney partnership to protect children
In times of crisis and economic instability, risk factors for child abuse and neglect increase. However, reports of child abuse and neglect have declined dramatically across the state as schools have closed in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The ability to speak up for kids’ safety is crucial at this time. Students not being physically in school classrooms brings new challenges to reporting abuse, but our obligation as mandated reporters remains unchanged. While campuses are closed and schools have transitioned to distance learning, all school employees still have a duty to report child abuse, which can include physical abuse, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, emotional abuse or neglect of any person under the age of 18.

The San Diego County Office of Education partnered with San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan to send a letter to the region’s educators on reporting during this time. The letter included a request that educators make an extra effort to reach out to children who:

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Thanks for reading our May 2020 newsletter!