President’s Message: Suzanne Kitchens
Schools need a well-stocked toolbox to serve students this fall
This most unusual school year has yet to end, but much of the focus on K-12 education has turned toward the summer session and the upcoming school year. The concern over how to execute a proper re-entry to full-time, in-person instruction is understandable. The adjustment facing students, families and staff is the biggest in memory — and school boards have the monumental task of guiding this transition under the watchful eyes of an anxious public.

Because the stakes are so high, it’s critical that school districts have the tools and flexibility required to meet student needs and family preferences this summer, this fall and for years to come. We are facing an inflection point for public schools and we must treat this crisis as an opportunity to re-evaluate and reinvigorate the ways in which we serve students. If we do not face this challenge head-on, public trust in our school system will erode, as will our enrollments.

Suzanne Kitchens headshot
“Serving students well means having enough adults on campus to support the expanded learning opportunities schools can implement.”
Suzanne Kitchens, CSBA President
CSBA is working to ensure that legislators understand not only the big picture of resuming on-campus instruction, but also the challenges and considerations involved and the resources needed to ring in the new year successfully. While we talk about a return to something approaching normalcy, simply wishing for a return to the good ‘ole days (which weren’t always that good) won’t make them magically reappear. Very little will be normal about the 2021–22 school year; it’s an extraordinary circumstance and it requires exceptional measures.

We expect local educational agencies to offer full-time, in-person instruction this autumn, but LEAs also should have the option of maintaining distance learning for that subset of families that it has served well. This is part of a shift toward a service-oriented model of education, and away from the industrial-era model that is not well-suited for many of today’s families. We can turn this moment to our advantage if we rethink and transform a system that isn’t serving all students well.

Part of serving students well means having enough adults on campus to support the expanded learning opportunities schools can implement with relief funding from state and federal government. That’s why CSBA is seeking a temporary suspension of the six-month waiting period for retired teachers who wish to return part-time to help during summer and fall school programs.

While the infusion of state and federal aid will support the safe reopening of school buildings and student learning recovery programs, school districts also need liability protections from COVID-related claims when those schools are following the law and public health guidance responsibly. The state should also allocate a portion of the surplus to eliminate the deferrals that were implemented during a time of greater financial uncertainty, so schools receive the money to which they are entitled in this school year.

Digital drawing of paper airplanes, lightbulb, and book.
In addition, CSBA has a number of concerns related to Proposition 98. It’s important that the state doesn’t shortchange the funding that is due public education under California law. Specifically, the state should restore $350 million in Prop 98 funding that is being reallocated from schools statewide to five Bay Area county governments due to an errant interpretation of the law made by the state Controller concerning local ERAF (Education Revenue Augmentation Fund) calculations. This mistake reduces funding by about $60 per average daily attendance from schools statewide to increase non-school, county government budgets in those five Bay Area counties.

As board members, we know that providing a safe, healthy, engaging and enriching return to full-time instruction requires that schools — and the Legislature — dive deep beneath the surface to address the details of what we hope is a once-in-a-generation occurrence. Our challenges lie at the intersection of education, safety, finance, public health, technology and communications — and we need every tool at our disposal to offer solutions that provide all students the high-quality education they deserve.