Evolution of the Criteria and Standards
The criteria and standards used to develop, review, and assess school district and county office of education budgets and interim financial reports were developed through the collaborative effort of an advisory committee that included representatives from numerous local educational agency associations and state agencies. The criteria and standards were originally adopted by the State Board of Education (SBE) in May 1989 and were revised in 1999 and 2000.
The criteria and standards were next revised in 2005 pursuant to Assembly Bill (AB) 2756 (Chapter 52, Statutes of 2004), as the result of several emergency loans to school districts. Consequently, the Legislature added a number of new criteria to expand the information requested in the existing criteria and standards and improve the identification of fiscal warning signs. These revisions were approved by the SBE in July 2005.
Because of the magnitude of the 2005 changes, the CDE recognized that it might be desirable to revisit and revise the criteria and standards again in the near future. It did so in 2007, and the SBE approved the resulting changes in March 2008. The 2008 changes were primarily technical, designed to produce more balanced results and a better warning system. Most of the revisions were to adjust those standards, or thresholds, that were resulting in a very high “failure” rate which was not necessarily indicative of fiscal distress.
The criteria and standards are codified in Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations, and are largely automated as part of CDE’s financial reporting software used by LEAs.
In accordance with AB 1200 (Chapter 1213, Statutes of 1991), the county superintendent of schools has fiscal oversight responsibility over school districts in the county and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (SSPI) has fiscal oversight responsibility over county offices of education. The county superintendent has authority to disapprove a school district’s budget, or at any time, to declare a district in jeopardy of meeting its financial obligations through a qualified or negative certification at interim financial reporting periods or at any time. Such actions result in various authorized forms of intervention on the part of the county office including assigning external consultants, requiring a district fiscal recovery plan, or even disallowing certain district expenditures. The SSPI has similar authority to intervene in fiscal matters of the county office of education.
The fiscal criteria and standards guide the LEA in the budget development process and in its periodic self-evaluations of solvency, and are used by the county superintendent of schools and the SSPI in their monitoring and oversight roles. In assessing a district’s financial health, the county superintendent uses the district criteria and standards; similarly, in assessing a county office’s financial health, the SSPI uses the county office criteria and standards. If there is disagreement between a district and the county office about the district’s financial condition and the associated intervention, the matter may be elevated to the SSPI for a final determination.