Resources > Charter Currents > Charter Currents: Coronavirus-19 Update #10: Free Google Hotspot Update and Pirouetting Bureaucrats

Editor’s Note: CSDC is offering these Coronavirus-19 updates for public viewing, to members and non-members alike, and in front of our usual member’s only “paywall” as a service to the larger charter school community. We hope nonmembers will consider joining CSDC.

Sacramento, CA—As an increasing number of schools and district announce their intent to remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, CSDC offers the following updates on the Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) emergency.


Application/Survey for Google’s Donated Hotspots & Chromebooks Posted

Ever since the Governor announced last week that Google would donate 100 thousand internet hotspots and thousands of Chromebook computers, schools have scrambled to figure out how they might apply to receive them.

While the details are few and far between, legislative sources tell CSDC that the application for Google’s donated wi-fi hotspots and computers—or at least an online interest survey is online. Word on the street is that priority will be given to school districts and county offices of education in rural communities, but the simple application/survey form offers no further details at the time this update was drafted.  

CSDC will continue to provide more information about charter school participation in coming days—stay tuned to our Twitter feed for late breaking details.


Legislature Still Out—Shortened Session, Budget Cuts Likely

Legislative leaders announced this week that they intend to remain recessed until May 4, if not longer.  The two chambers of the Legislature previously had jointly recessed from March 17 to April 13 and is now extending the recess to May 4. CSDC hears that legislators have been advised that they may not meet virtually due to constitutional constraints.

Phil Ting (D, San Francisco), chair of the lower house (Assembly) Budget Committee issued a letter on April 6 noting that “the 2020-21 budget in California will have to adjust to the realities of the impact of COVID-19 on our State.” Once the Legislature reconvenes, presumably in May, “we will have less money and less time to adopt a balanced budget.” Given these circumstances, Ting’s letter notes that he anticipates the following:

  • The legislative session will be shortened and condensed “into a few short weeks,”
  • We expect the Governor’s May Revision to the budget will be a simple “workload” budget that reflects current service levels and that proposals for new priorities will not be heard, with the exception of COVID-19 related costs and similar emergency expenditures.
  • “We may even need to revisit some reductions to existing state programs at that time given the State’s fiscal condition.”
  • An “August Revision” to the budget that allows the state to tally delayed income tax receipts (both California and the federal government have delayed the usual April 15 filing deadline to July 15). This will include a second round of budget deliberations.
  • During this August Revision, “it is possible the State will need to consider sizable ongoing reductions to major programs during that time.”

The Legislative Analyst on Friday posted a briefing describing the increasingly-precarious status of the state’s budget reserves and reviewing the widely varying size of school districts’ reserves. The $377 million in the state-level reserves that is earmarked to protect school funding represents “less than 1 percent of state spending on schools in 2019‑20,” according to the Analyst. Individual school district reserves vary widely. The median school district’s reserves total 22 percent of expenditures, with smaller districts typically holding proportionally larger reserves than do larger districts. CSDC hopes that the Analyst’s focus on reserves doesn’t tempt legislators to raid local reserves to bail out the state’s budget—a step it took decades ago that caused considerable damage to state-local relations.   

These points largely confirm what we had noted in CSDC’s webcast on state budget matters posted early last week. We continue to highly recommend viewing it online here


CDE Staff Spin 180 Degrees on Attendance Accounting for “Open” Schools

The California Department of Education (CDE) took a 180-degree turn last Friday and now is asserting that all local education agencies, even those that remain “open” during the COVID-19 emergency, must use the early, February 29 attendance accounting cutoff date specified in SB 117 for “closed” schools. 

The Governor’s executive order on school closure and SB 117 allow those schools that certify that they have closed to use an early, February 29 attendance cutoff date in lieu of the usual April 15 date, thereby protecting those schools from loss of attendance-driven funding due to closure.

A number of schools, especially those that already operated independent study programs, have opted to remain “open” and prefer the usual mid-April attendance cutoff date. The shift is significant for those schools whose attendance rates increase late in the school year—typically including those schools serving high school dropouts and students in migrant families. Using an attendance computation period that ends several weeks later, and in combination with multi-track attendance calendar, allows such schools to generate higher levels of funded attendance under normal circumstances. 

The shift appears to directly contradict both the letter and spirit of SB 117. The law, which was hastily approved before the Legislature recessed on March 16, explicitly requires schools seeking to use the February 29 cutoff dates, to certify, in writing, that they had closed. 

CDE staff had advised some charter schools in late March that they were not required to close and that they could use the usual mid-April attendance reporting deadline. Late Friday, however, CDE staff wrote CSDC asserting that “all LEAs must use the February 29, 2020 attendance reporting cutoff date... regardless of if they remained open or not.” They offered no explanation for their reversal nor how their interpretation squares with the law, which appears to directly contradict their new interpretation of it.  They have not responded to our requests for explanation of their reversal.

CDE amended its Q&A webpage on point late on Friday, asserting that the early February 29 cutoff date “applies to all ADA reported by local educational agencies for the 2019-20 school year and is in concurrence with the Department of Finance and the Legislature.” It offers no further explanation for the switch nor the apparent contradiction with the letter and intent of the law. 

CDE has yet to post the certification form wherein schools are to certify that they had closed, so it remains unclear whether schools that remained open will be put in the awkward position of needing to certify that they had actually closed in order to report their attendance and receive funding.     

CSDC is working in cooperation with others attempting to rectify the situation and preserve affected charter schools’ ability to serve these especially needy populations.


College Board Posts AP Testing Information

The College Board posted additional information regarding online Advanced Placement (“AP”) exams this Spring, with specific timing and scope parameters by subject. The exams will focus on “topics and skills most AP teachers and students will have already covered in class by early March.” Most exams will be 45 minutes in length and include one or two free-response questions. They may be taken on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Students lacking a suitable device are asked to complete an online survey. For further information, see the above link.


Governor Orders Additional Flexibility for Child Care & After School Programs

Late last week, Governor Newsom signed yet another executive order providing additional flexibility for child care and after school service providers, with emphasis on serving the children of first responders and medical care providers.

CSDC is continuing to publish regular, sequentially numbered updates summarizing key COVID-19 developments, along with webinars and other resources, all targeting the school perspective. If you have questions or concerns regarding charter schools and COVID-19, please let us know.

Posted: 04/08/2020