Monday, September 14, 2015

Update from CCAE Legislative Analyst Dawn Koepke: Moving Forward - Fee Authority, Administrative Cap, Concurrent Students & SB 786 (Allen)

Dawn Koepke
Legislative Analyst
California Council of
Adult Education
A legislative update from Dawn Koepke, Legislative Analyst for CCAE (California Council of Adult Education):
Moving Forward - Fee Authority, Administrative Cap, Concurrent Students & SB 786 (Allen)

As we move forward in a post-AB 104 adult education era, we will undoubtedly become aware of components that need to be adjusted and/or reworked.  Some of the initial items we identified mid-summer needing legislative engagement included reinstating fee authority for ESL and citizenship programs and clarifying the interpretation of the 5% administrative cap.

Click on the "read more" link to learn more.
As you may recall, AB 189 passed in 2011 provided fee authority for adult schools to charge fees for classes in ESL and citizenship.  The caveat was that it was a time-limited authority that expired as of July 2015.  Going forward, there is no longer the authority for adult schools to charge fees for these classes.  I've heard from many of you that this is incredibly problematic and is in direct conflict with the overarching intent and priority in this year's budget to maintain capacity in the adult school system. 
In an effort to address the concern, CCAE and CAEAA attempted to have bill language introduced that would have reinstated the fee authority until such time as the broader fee policy is established for adult education.  Unfortunately, there was no willingness to entertain the extension of the fee authority.   Instead, we were told that we needed to work with our consortia to access the funds over and above the maintenance of capacity funding to help fill the gap.  
This is certainly not the outcome we had hoped would come to fruition.  Given this, however, it is important for adult schools to be mindful that there is no fix on the horizon.  The caveat is that CDE and the Chancellor's office are required to develop recommendations for a statewide fee policy for adult education.  We will be engaging in the development of the policy to see what opportunity there might be to address this issue.  Obviously, that process will not be a quick process nor will it result in reinstatement of the fee authority this school year. 
Whether or not anything comes of the statewide fee policy discussion, it will be important for adult schools to keep information and data going forward on the number of students going unserved because of the gap in funds, the numbers on waiting lists around the state for these (and other) classes, and limitations faced.  If nothing else, this information will provide the basis for fighting for greater resources and an increase in the adult education block grant in the coming budget years. 
Regarding the issue of clarity on the 5% administrative cap, recall AB 104 included language as follows:
Education Code Section 84913
(b)  A consortium may use no more than 5 percent of funds allocated in a given fiscal year for the sum of the following:
     (1)  The costs of administration of these programs.
     (2)  The costs of the consortium.
While we supported an administrative cap being placed on consortia related activities, we were concerned with the lack of clarity regarding this language in that it would seemingly place the same cap on costs associated with adult schools delivering programs.  A strict interpretation of the cap would unquestionably devastate most adult schools and hinder the ability to deliver programs that ensure the best outcomes.  What would such an administrative cap include?  What was the intent of the Department of Finance and Legislature in including such a provision?  We went to work to better understand the intent and overall parameters for such a cap.  Based on conversations with legislative staff, they seem to be comfortable with the general approach CDE and the Chancellor's office are proposing that would not include the following items under the cap:
-         Salaries and benefits (for all staff and a consortium facilitator/staff person)
-         Maintenance and custodial supplies
-         Instructional Support including materials, supplies, technology and equipment
-         Services including contracts, professional development, marketing and outreach, internships and externships
Legislative staff suggests moving forward with the understanding that these items are outside the cap and would be allowable.  Should there be a need to adjust the language or provide further clarity the Legislature is open to doing so in future legislative and/or budget activities.
On the subject of concurrent credit recovery for students, let's be clear - adult schools can absolutely continue to offer credit recovery for students under 18.  The caveat - they may not be served with Adult Education Block Grant funds.  We know many adult schools have provided great value to their districts by providing credit recovery opportunities for high school students under 18 years of age.  They can continue to do so, but must do so with other resources such those from LCFF.  The statute clearly provides that resources from the adult education block grant must go to serve adults - individuals 18 years of age and over.  With regard to the validity of such credits, it is our understanding that such a determination is an individual school district issue.  To the extent that a local school district accepts the credits obtained through an adult school credit recovery program funded with LCFF dollars for the purpose of a high school diploma, then the diploma should be accepted by other programs as well.
Finally, there has been much interest in SB 786 (Allen) related to the adult education block grant and joint powers authorities.  The bill would have allowed joint powers authorities to access the adult education block grant if 40% of their career technical education (CTE) enrollment was made up of adults.  The bill was held in Appropriations and as such the bill will no longer move forward.  The bill came about to help address concerns raised by SoCal ROC.  With the change in funding for ROCP programs being folded into the LCFF and funding for adults being pushed through the block grant, SoCal ROC was purportedly concerned about sustaining their programs without a direct source of funding.  Their Senator, Senator Ben Allen, introduced the language to address his constituents' concerns.  While the policy committees were amenable to pushing the bill forward, we're told the Department of Finance has been opposed to the bill and overall approach for some time.
While many CCAE and CAEAA members were amenable to the bill moving forward as it was seemingly structured to apply to just SoCal ROC, a number of members voiced concerns with what impact adding joint powers authorities to the mix of who is permitted to receive funds from the block grant would do to funding and planning activities that have already taken place - much less with such a limited pot of funds that are already spread too thin.  The bill was ultimately held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
In terms of continuing to move forward, as you continue to work within your consortium and implement the changes per the adult education block grant please keep CCAE and CAEAA informed about issues you are facing so that we might have a better understanding about items that need to be addressed in legislation or budget bill language in the coming legislative sessions.
Over the last month, we've received a number of inquiries regarding the details surrounding the suspension of the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) as a condition of receiving a high school diploma.  As you know, the CAHSEE was intended to be aligned to the content standards for English language arts and mathematics that were adopted pursuant to the 1999 education reform package of bills. In 2010 the State Board of Education (SBE) voted to adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), which led to the development of new statewide assessments intended to be aligned to the new standards.  However, concerns have grown over the fact that the CAHSEE is still aligned to the old standards. 
The last administration of the CAHSEE was in May 2015, but the state contract has expired.  The state opted not to renew the contract as a result of the introduction of SB 172 (Liu) this year that proposed to cancel the test while an advisory committee looks at future alternatives.  Given the expiration of the contract, the test was no longer available to the Class of 2015 thereby prompting the gut and amend of SB 725 (Hancock) late this summer that removed the CAHSEE as a requirement for high school graduation for the 2015 year only on an urgency basis. 
In late August, Governor Brown signed SB 725 (Hancock) while SB 172 (Liu) continued to move through the process. 
More specifically, SB 172 suspends the requirement to pass CAHSEE as a condition of receiving a high school diploma from the 2003-04 school year through the 2017-18 school year, inclusive.  Further, it also requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to convene an advisory panel to provide recommendations on the continuation of the CAHSEE and on alternative pathways to satisfy the high school graduation requirements. Under this provision, the Superintendent is required to provide these recommendations to the State Board of Education by March 2016 as part of the expansion of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP). The bill requires school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools to grant diplomas to all students who have met all graduation requirements other than passing the exit exam through July 31, 2018.
More specifically, under SB 172 Education Code 60851.5. provides the following:
Notwithstanding Section 60851, the administration of the high school exit examination, and the requirement that each pupil completing grade 12 successfully pass the high school exit examination as a condition of receiving a diploma of graduation or a condition of graduation from high school, shall be suspended for the 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18 school years.
Additionally, SB 172 in Education Code Section 60851.6. (a) provides the following:
Notwithstanding Section 60851 or any other law, the governing board or body of a local educational agency, and the department on behalf of state special schools, shall grant a diploma of graduation from high school to any pupil who completed grade 12 in the 2003-04 school year or a subsequent school year and has met all applicable graduation requirements other than the passage of the high school exit examination.
Moving forward, it is important for adult schools work with their school districts to ensure that adult school students who are close to full credits for high school graduation/equivalency are defined as "12th grade" within their district policies.
The bill passed by houses of the Legislature this week and is now headed to the Governor's desk.  More to come...

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