Top 5 Q&A from the Leadership Update Presentation

If you joined us for the 2023 CSDC Conference in Anaheim several weeks ago, you likely attended CSDC’s premier event, the Leadership Update Presentation.

Led by CSDC Founder and Executive Director, Eric Premack, the Leadership Update Presentation offers a comprehensive picture of the implications of the political, regulatory and economic factors impacting California’s charter schools.

It is the go-to, must-attend session for California charter school leaders, providing an essential, comprehensive lens into the fiscal, legislative, and regulatory topics that impact the realities of charter leaders and their organizations.

Head spinning from the Update? The pace of the Update is brisk and assumes a modest amount of background knowledge. If you left the presentation wishing to delve more deeply into charter school fiscal management and oversight, consider joining Eric for CSDC’s 2024 CBO Training Program. Registration is now open!

This year, CSDC used an interactive app to surface questions from the audience during the presentation.

Eric was able to answer several questions during the presentation, however, attendees submitted more great questions than there was time allotted to answer.

So CSDC has compiled the top 5 unanswered questions from this presentation and asked Eric to reply. You can review his answers below:

1. Will the NCB moratorium ever end?

Eric Premack (EP):The moratorium was supposed to end on January 1, 2022, but has been extended twice. Per current law, the moratorium is slated to sunset on January 1, 2026. While we hope it will not be extended any further, our sense is that the California Teachers Association (CTA) and other school employee unions are working on multiple fronts to blunt the growth of nonclassroom-based schools. We anticipate that the 2024 legislative session will be a hot one for nonclassroom-based instruction and funding issues, with the anticipated release of recommendations from (1) a study underway by FCMAT and the Legislative Analyst and (2) a task force headed by the State Controller and San Diego County District Attorney.

2. What is your prediction about the future of track calendars and short-term enrollment?

EP: While the issues related to multi-track attendance calendars were addressed in detail several years ago, some observers continue to be skeptical of such calendars, depending on the specifics of how they are deployed.  FCMAT, for example, highlighted the issues in a recent audit and is somewhat critical of such calendars when they are used to support shorter-term summer programs. Whether these critiques will gain traction in the legislative or state budget process remains to be seen. CSDC continues to remind charter schools that multi-track calendars must include at least 175 days of instructional offering per track and meet other specific requirements to qualify for generating state funding entitlements.

3. What are your thoughts about AI and ChatGPT for charter schools?

EP: I’m very bullish on the prospects for so-called “generative” artificial intelligence (AI) and “large language” AI models in K-12 education. Much of what teachers currently do with their valuable time attempts to customize instruction to the particular needs, interests, and aptitudes of dozens of students all at the same time. This is very difficult under the best of circumstances. AI could automate much of this work, doing it very fast and customizing instantly. While there are some security and other downsides, these can be mitigated with sound programming and data security practices. This likely will require AI models that are specifically crafted to meet the needs of K-12 schools. Several AI efforts targeting K-12 education already show considerable promise, including Khan Academy’s Khanmigo among others. Maximizing the benefit of AI likely will require fundamental changes to dominant modes of teacher-directed, classroom-based instruction and charter schools seem to be uniquely positioned to make these changes. This brings us back to the importance of ending the moratorium on the creation of new, nonclassroom-based charter schools (see question #1 above).

4. With SPED needs continuing to increase, do you see any increase in funding coming in your crystal ball? If not, how are schools going to navigate these costs?

EP: In a word, “no.”  When the federal government first instituted statutory special education mandates and related funding programs in 1974, the legislation called for federal funding to pay for 40 percent of the additional costs of providing special education and related services. Federal funding, however, has remained a much smaller fraction despite decades of focused advocacy by special education advocates. State funding makes up part of the gap, but still falls short for the vast majority of local education agencies. Given the political realities of K-12 funding debates, and the strong pressure by school employee unions for targeting funding increases toward cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) that translate into more money in staff members’ paychecks, we think it unlikely that special education ever will be fully funded. We hope to be proven wrong on point.

5. Do the additional TK units/experience for EE [Early Education; presumably meant “TK”] teachers impact NCB schools, and are there any teacher:student ratios to consider for NCB rosters?

EP: The laws governing the additional 24 units of early childhood credits or experience for TK teachers as well as the pupil-to-adult ratio requirements both reference “classroom” settings. As such, we do not believe that either applies to the nonclassroom-based setting. Instead, we believe that the credentialing and staffing ratio mandates that are specific to nonclassroom-based schools govern (e.g., the usual 25:1 ADA-to-FTE-teacher ratio cap for nonclassroom-based instruction). CDE has posted non-binding guidance on its website that seems to change over time. Currently, their guidance (1) asserts that the TK-specific staffing ratio requirements do not apply to “long-term” independent study TK students but do apply to “short-term” ones and (2) vaguely “punts” on the additional training/experience issue by merely citing long-standing laws that govern credentialing requirements specific to independent study. CSDC continues to closely monitor the development of amendments to law and related “Audit Guide” regulations that may provide more clarity in the future.

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