Santa Monica’s local school district depends on state funding, to the tune of about $116 million as of the most recent budget (out of a total budget of $176 million for 2022-23). Much of that funding is determined by the District’s LCAP, or Local Control and Accountability Plan. This is money set aside to meet certain priorities established by the State of California.
The State’s eight priorities include: “basic services” like providing safe campuses and fully credentialed teachers; implementation of California’s academic standards (including things like the common core); parent involvement; student achievement, measured by test scores and English language proficiency; student engagement, including attendance; “school climate and connectedness” including suspension and expulsion rates; college readiness and course access; and other student outcomes related to subjects such as physical education and the arts.
Out of these priority areas, the SMMUSD has established three overarching goals with the 2021-24 LCAP:
-“All graduates are socially just and ready for college and careers.”
-“English learners will become proficient in English while engaging in a rigorous, culturally and linguistically responsive standards-aligned core curriculum.”
-“All students and families engage in safe, well-maintained schools that are culturally responsive and conductive to 21st century learning.”
Every three years, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is called upon to present a new LCAP featuring goals designed to meet State standards, encompassing plans at each school site developed by school leadership teams, in what’s known as School Implementation Plans.
“The School Implementation Plan is focused — targeted — based on the needs of the school. The school is able to identify a strategic focus, the high leverage strategies to address the learning needs of their students,” Assistant Superintendent Jacqueline Mora described during a recent School Board meeting. “They are able to define how they’re going to meet the overarching priorities and goals of the district. So we call that defined autonomy. They see that they play a role in us being able to achieve our vision, goals and our priorities as a broader community. But we provide the flexibility of each school to be able to take a look at the opportunity gaps they’ve been able to identify based on data and how they’re going to be able to make this happen within their school community to address their specific student and community needs.”
Within each of the District’s three goals are specific actions with budgeted expenditures and, according to Mora, the SMMUSD is well on its way to completing many aspects of the 2021-24 LCAP. But some challenges remain, such as a shortage of substitute teachers making professional development more difficult. Some troubling metrics, such as increased student absenteeism, were also skewed by the effects of the pandemic in 2021 and 2022, Mora said.
In the past, the District has received about $5 million per year in supplemental funding to reach its LCAP goals, but that estimate has been revised down nearly 20 percent to about $4.1 million for 2022-23, Mora said. She added that funds not spent in the 2021-22 school year — mostly due to the substitute teacher shortages — can be carried over to bridge the gap created by the loss in funding from the State in 2022-23.
Mora gave her remarks during an hour-long presentation and hearing on the 2021-24 LCAP during the Thursday, June 2, SMMUSD Board of Education meeting, gathering comments from school board members. Two weeks later, on June 23, Mora again appeared before the School Board during a public hearing on the LCAP, en route to approval set for Thursday, June 30.
The June 23 discussion was brief, with only three members of the public speaking on the LCAP update.
There will be further opportunity to weigh in on the LCAP during the hearing on June 30. That meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. and can be attended via Zoom.