Frequently Asked Questions
We know you have questions about how our schools are funded, how our money is raised and where it goes. These are some of the most common questions we receive. If you are interested in learning more or you have additional questions about the Foundation, contact our Executive Director. If you are interested in learning more or you have additional questions about the La Cañada Unified School District, you can contact them here.
- How does the new Local Control Funding Formula affect LCUSD?
- Isn’t the State Lottery supposed to help fund our schools?
- What about the parcel tax? Wasn’t that supposed to solve the problem?
- Aren’t we supposed to get federal funding?
- What about applying for grants?
- Beverly Hills Unified became a “Basic Aid” district and gained extra funding. Could that work for us?
The La Cañada Unified School District
- How much do we spend on administrative salaries?
- How are developer fees used?
- Does the District have assets it can sell in order to better fund the schools?
- Can the District charge fees for sports, art or AP classes?
- Who are “permit” kids, and how are they admitted into our school system?
- Why does the District accept permit kids? Doesn’t that just crowd the classrooms?
- Why can’t we bring in the “Sagebrush” kids?
- What’s the “Romero Bill,” and how does it affect us?
- Why can’t the District lay off teachers based on merit, rather than seniority?
- Can the District hire non-union teachers?
- Are our teachers making sacrifices along with the rest of us?
- If the District is so short on funding, why is it spending money on new construction at our schools?
By some measures, California’s new Local Control Funding Formula has improved matters for our District. Funding per student has increased modestly for the first time in nearly five years. However, there are three factors to keep in mind when considering this “good” news. First, the increase still hasn’t gotten our per-student funding up to what it is supposed to be by law. Second, because of our small population of low income and English-as-second-language students, we have benefitted less from Local Control than practically ever other district in the state. Lastly, and most importantly, this modest increase doesn’t change the fact that we have been running under serious deficits for so long. This is not a windfall; rather, it’s an opportunity to start paying off costs that have been deferred for years. The LCUSD has incurred $23.4 million in cuts over the last five years. The slashed services and maintenance those cuts represent, as well as new costs like Common Core technology, continue to be an enormous fiscal burden.
The lottery is required to forward at least a third of their proceeds to K-12 education. While that amount generates nearly a billion a year for the state’s K-12 budget, on a percentage basis it’s a drop in the bucket. Take a look at this page at EdSource (which is an excellent site for reference on these issues): http://www.edsource.org/data_lottery-k-12-ed.html Unfortunately, the contributions provided by the lottery are also dwarfed by the massive cuts that have occurred at the state level (so the lottery adds a billion, and then the state takes away well over that amount). LCUSD does receive a small amount from the lottery, but the number is already incorporated in its ever-dwindling budget.
The renewal of Measure LC in March of 2014 allowed the District to:
- Continue funding for advanced academic programs in math, science and technology;
- Attract and retain the most qualified teachers;
- Maintain manageable class sizes; and
- Continue providing advanced educational programs that prepare our students for the best colleges and careers.
However, in the six years prior to the renewal of the parcel tax, LCUSD lost about $17.4 million in funding from the state. During that time, the District spent against its reserves to keep cuts away from the classroom. There is much deferred maintenance and capital improvements that require attention. Additionally, school districts across the state are now expected to markedly increase their contributions to public employee retirement programs. Although the parcel tax will bring in about $2.6 million each year, the District continues to spend against its reserves (albeit less than before) to address the needs of our students and our campuses.
From 2008-2011, our school district received about $3.5 million in federal funding as part of the various recovery programs created by Congress. However, that funding source has ended. The minimal federal funding that LCUSD receives is earmarked to assist programs that serve special needs and low-income students. Current federal funding accounts for 2.3% of the District’s total budget. California school districts do not receive any federal money for the implementation of Common Core.
Unfortunately, we are eligible for very few grants for public school districts. Grant money is almost always tied to economically disadvantaged communities and underperforming schools.
Beverly Hills Unified became a “Basic Aid” district and gained extra funding. Could that work for us?
Our District has looked into converting to a Basic Aid district. Unfortunately, they learned that the total assessed property value within LCUSD boundaries is a fraction of the amount necessary to make this option work for our community. Even so, they have instructed staff to review the calculations each year to determine if we ever cross-over. Essentially, communities that adopt Basic Aid stature have major commercial and/or multi-family real estate in addition to high residential property values. These properties boost their assessed values sufficiently high to deliver greater funding to their schools than they would otherwise receive. Beverly Hills is a perfect example, with some of the most valuable office and retail properties in the state, plus numerous high-rise condos on Wilshire Blvd. Meanwhile, La Cañada has relatively very little commercial real estate, making us a poor candidate for Basic Aid, even though our home values are relatively high.
In general, our administrative staff salaries have moved from where they once were — top quartile compensation — to below median among the 47 unified districts in Los Angeles County.
Developer fees are paid by La Cañada residents and commercial developers when they pull permits for new construction. Developer fees were designed to help school districts physically expand to accommodate new residents. As such, the District can only use developer fee income for construction and infrastructure. These fees cannot be used for general operating expenses like the hiring of new teachers, or the maintenance of existing school property.
The District owns the Foothill Intermediate School and the Oak Grove Elementary site. However, currently, they receive significant rental income from FIS and Oak Grove (approx. $1.7 million annually) that they have come to depend on for operating budget purposes. The smaller Palm Drive property does not provide current income. It would be one-time money if sold.
The District cannot legally charge for sports or extracurricular activities. Typically, however, parents donate funds to cover costs. For example, outside of certain coaches’ salaries, all athletic programs’ costs are covered by participating parent donations, along with groups like Boosters, band and choral parents’ associations, etc. The District also cannot legally charge for an instructional class, but many of the supplies are paid for directly by participating parents through donations. Through these donations, the district covers various related costs well in excess of $2 million a year.
“Permit” kids, or out-of-district children, are students who do not reside in La Cañada, but who are granted a permit to attend La Cañada public schools. Like most public school districts, LCUSD has a long standing tradition of granting permits to students whose parents are employees of the district. The state of California provides funding to school districts on a per pupil basis. This funding is critical to insure a full schedule of programs and course offerings, smaller class sizes and high quality instruction. Declining resident enrollment in recent years has necessitated additional out-of-district permits to balance the loss of funding and maintain our student population. Adopted by LCUSD in 2009, the Allen Bill stipulates that if a parent is employed in the boundaries of the LCUSD district, then LCUSD can accept their student into the district without a release from their home district. In this case only, once the student is accepted into LCUSD, the parents do not need to reapply each year (as long as the parent continues to be employed in the boundaries of the LCUSD district and the student adheres to the discipline code). In 2010, the California legislature adopted the Open Enrollment Act, (Romero Bill). This provides students enrolled in one of the state’s 1000 “low-achieving” schools the option to enroll in a different school with a higher API Out-of-district students are accepted according to the following priority ranking:
- Students of full-time employees of LCUSD
- Siblings of inter-district permit students already enrolled in LCUSD
- Students of part-time employees of LCUSD
- Students whose parents physically work full-time within our school district boundaries (Allen Bill – ranked via lottery)
- Residents of the city of La Canada Flintridge whose district of residence is Glendale Unified, with proof of release from GUSD (Sagebrush residents – ranked via lottery)
- Students applying under the Open Enrollment Act (Romero Bill – ranked via lottery)
All non-resident student applications to the district are subject to availability. This includes class size, impacts on programs (e.g. special ed., ELL, GATE, etc. availability) and facilities. Permit students’ acceptance in our district is predicated on proper attendance and conformity with discipline and other policies.
Out-of-district students can actually decrease class sizes. Our district, like every public school district in California, receives funding from the state on a per-student basis. The more students we have, the more money we have. By allowing in a limited number of out-of-district kids, LCUSD is able to retain additional teachers and reduce the overall number of students per class.
Unfortunately, the La Cañada school board does not have the unilateral authority to grant permits to Sagebrush students. These families reside within the boundaries of the Glendale Unified School District. Currently, Glendale has the sole power to release its students, with the exception of transfers under the Allen bill. Separately, the Allen bill adopted by the La Cañada school district does not require a release from the student’s home district. However, the Allen bill is restricted to situations in which families want their children to attend schools in the same district in which they are employed on a full-time basis. Allen Bill permit applicants who are also residents of Sagebrush are given priority over non-resident Allen Bill applicants. Currently, the LCUSD, in conjunction with the City and Sagebrush residents, is exploring a new possibility to bring Sagebrush students into the District. The Los Angeles Committee on School District Organization may be able to reassign Sagebrush to the LCUSD. Presently, negotiations are underway between LCUSD and GUSD but the earliest possible effective date would be the start of the 2016-17 school year.
The Romero Bill allows students in bottom performing schools to apply to any higher performing school. The Board established a policy in consultation with the Los Angeles County Department of Education to conform with the new bill. County staff members have verbally approved key provisions of the new policy. The District is currently in compliance with the law and may receive applications from poorer performing schools. They must apply in accordance with the District’s established, compliant procedures and within established deadlines. The District’s priority order accepts Romero Bill applicants only after residents, District employees, and those employed full and part-time in the district. Romero Bill applicants are subject to space, program, resource availability and the same standards and requirements as all other permit students.
LCUSD can’t put a merit-based tenure system in place. California State law specifies tenure and many other teacher-related labor issues, including the requirement to lay off strictly by seniority.
By state law, a school district is not permitted to make a permanent hire unless they negotiate with a “qualified bargaining” entity. Only the existing unions qualify under this law. A teacher can decide not to join the union, but their contract is still negotiated by the union.
Yes. Teacher health and welfare benefits continue to be held to a “soft cap” and only increase based on actual, funded cost of living adjustments (COLA). Additionally, teacher salaries have only increased 6% since 2007, a negotiation completed in 2014. The District offered an early retirement incentive plan in 2014 that provided for an overall cost savings.