Nan Austin

January 23, 2014

On Campus blog: What should Stanislaus schools spend money on? They’re asking you

Districts will be seeking your opinion on how schools should spend their money, thanks to a requirement included in Proposition 30. Most are studying the process, but the Sylvan elementary district in north Modesto is gathering ideas now.

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Over the next few months, districts will be seeking your opinion on how schools should spend their money. The extra taxes you pay under Proposition 30 require community input in budgeting.

“One of the nice things about it is it gets everybody involved,” said Sylvan school board member David Collins. “This is what we wanted, so let’s see what we can do.”

Gov. Jerry Brown stressed the “local” in the Local Control Funding Formula for education funding in his State of the State speech Wednesday. “Instead of prescriptive commands issued from headquarters here in Sacramento, more general goals have been established for each local school to attain, each in its own way. This puts the responsibility where it has to be: in the classroom and at the local district,” Brown said.

Reversing decades of legislative tinkering with school budgets, parents and communities are asked this year to weigh in and, in part, watch over the $50.6 billion the state spends on education – 53 percent of the state budget.

Modesto City Schools will hold a board study session from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday in its staff development center on the new budget rules. The session will cover involving the community, as well as rules for spending what, over the next few years, will be significantly greater funding to serve poor kids and English learners..

Turlock Unified is forming its steering committee this month to gather community input. Ceres Unified will hold a study session at 5 p.m. today in the district office boardroom on community input and budgeting.

The new rules switch the budget focus from complying with rules to doing what works for students, said Sylvan Superintendent Debra Hendricks. Her district started meeting with parent and school groups in October and held its second town hall meeting Tuesday.

Hendricks asked the dozen or so attendees for their ideas in three areas: learning priorities, buildings and grounds, and the catch-all “What are we not doing to meet your needs?”

Less lecturing and more student-led discussions in classrooms, said parent George Pugh. Parent Andrea Duhoy wanted more accountability for progress by special education students. Lincoln Ellis spoke up for family support centers with computers, parenting books and social service help. Sylvan trustee Jennifer Miyakawa, also a parent, said she wants more art and music, with their own rooms.

Other input included better technology training for students and teachers, more collaboration with parents of middle school students, safety upgrades and more intensive help for English learners. After-school sports would help break up cliques, a mom said. A smartphone app would let parents see if their student is tardy or missing assignments, a dad chimed in.

“I heard some great ideas that we don’t always think about,” Hendricks said afterward.

The district also takes suggestions on its website,

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