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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:

  • Stay committed to the $1.2 billion allocated in ongoing Proposition 98 funds for a statutory 2.29 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)
  • Repurpose the $1.5 billion in one-time proposals from the January budget to discretionary funding
  • Use dollars within the State Reserve Fund to support schools
  • Place an emergency bond on the November ballot of at least $2 billion for student tech needs and for school health and safety activities related to COVID-19.

Turn to page 4 to see the other areas in which CSBA has been supporting members during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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  • Engaging in regular communication with cabinet-level Governor’s staff and with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond on issues of importance to LEAs that need to be addressed in future executive orders or legislation. Communication also includes clarifying statements brought up in the Governor’s press conferences that create questions from the field.
    • Advocated for the Governor’s executive orders and California Department of Education guidance on issues like grading, assessment and graduation requirements, distance learning, access to technology.
    • CSBA staff participation on weekly calls with Thurmond, management and labor representatives to discuss COVID-19 related issues in schools. Additional weekly calls added to focus discussions on issues relating to reopening schools.
  • CSBA CEO & Executive Director Billy letter to UC and CSU leadership advocating to suspend certain admissions requirements for 2020–21 school year. Some requirements were eased on April 1.
  • Collecting information from local districts and media outlets on COVID-19 issues using Public Affairs and Community Representatives (PACERs).
  • Communicating with U.S. Departments of Education and Agriculture on special education and nutrition issues resulting from school closures.
  • Call with Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai to discuss expanding federal E-Rate funding and relaxing E-Rate barriers to ensure swift access to funds for rural and populated areas.
  • Consistently engaging with federal representatives on public education funding and other key policy issues, including a recent letter from the ACSA-CSBA Federal Partnership in support of H.R. 6563, the Emergency Educational Connections Act of 2020, which would provide at least $2 billion from the E-rate program to help address the “homework gap.”
  • CSBA staff have been engaged in conversations with cable and telecommunications companies across the state about the issue of increasing broadband access to underserved communities, particularly in rural areas. This collaboration shows some early promise and the organization will continue to focus on this key foundational piece for distance learning, equity and improved student outcomes.
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  • Developed a dedicated webpage with COVID-19 tools, resources and information (www.csba.org/coronavirus) that is updated regularly.
  • Launched a series of webinars related to governance during school closures, featuring a review of state and federal guidance, the Brown Act and open meetings, special education, distance learning, and supporting student mental and physical health.
  • CSBA President Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez conducted a press tour of dozens of California and national media outlets. The press tour is the latest phase of CSBA’s multi-pronged effort to ensure the school board member perspective is included in discussions about reopening schools safely and effectively. In her remarks, Cruz-Gonzalez stresses that better coordination is needed between state leaders and local educational agencies and significant security, policy and funding concerns must be met before a statewide return to in-person instruction.
  • Developed advocacy tools such as sample letters, emails, op-eds, phone call scripts, resolutions and social media posts for membership to generate support for increased funding and assistance to cope with COVID-19 related expenses.
  • Issued more than two dozen dedicated email blast updates on breaking news and relevant information for the COVID-19 response.
  • Conducted member surveys determining major challenges related to the COVID-19 response and potential remedies, with a dedicated survey on LEA tech needs for students.
  • Created an online portal for members to submit COVID-19 related questions and suggestions; Responding daily to questions submitted through portal.
  • Collected questions into an FAQ section on dedicated COVID-19 webpage.
  • Issuing regular COVID-19 blog and social media updates.
Online Learning
CSBA’s Online Learning Center has added several new modules including on supporting English learners.
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  • Added a COVID-19 learning module to the CSBA Online Learning Center; several new modules debuted April 30, including on supporting English learners, conducting board self-evaluations, and what you need to know about the new school start time law.
  • Increasing GAMUT webinar trainings to make up for cancelled regional and district trainings.
  • New sample resolutions/policies on school closure; grading, testing and assessment; distance learning; and working remotely.
  • Issued guidance on executing documents with electronic signatures.
CSBA will continue to provide timely information, resources and advocacy for California’s LEAs. Please contact CSBA Chief Information Officer Troy Flint at tflint@csba.org to share your LEA’s concerns and questions.