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School District Organization Handbook

Reference for procedures and responsibilities for all parties involved in the school district organization process.

Preface | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 | Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12 | Appendixes

Handbook users frequently want to access specific chapters rather than the entire publication. This Web site is designed to allow selection, reading, and downloading of individual chapters as Microsoft Word (DOCX) documents. To identify the chapter containing the specific items of interest, click on a chapter number below to upload that chapter in DOCX format, or scroll down for more information about each chapter.

The guidance in this handbook is not binding on local educational agencies (LEAs) or other entities. Except for statutes, regulations, and court decisions that are referenced herein, the handbook is exemplary, and compliance with it is not mandatory (see California Education Code (EC) Section 33308.5).

Permission is hereby granted to county offices of education and school districts (and their agents) to reproduce portions of this publication for educational purposes only and not for resale. The source of the material should be acknowledged. Please see the California Department of Education copyright statement.

A tool is available to assist LEAs with calculating blended Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) funding rates for reorganizing school districts. To request a copy of the instructions and Excel file please contact


Most people see school districts as stable or even permanent governmental entities. School district boundaries, however, do change. Territory is transferred from one school district to another, districts are divided or combined with their neighbors, and some districts are terminated. This handbook describes how these changes come about.

Handbook Description (DOCX)

Chapter 1

This chapter lists the source documents, laws, and regulations that are the foundation for the other chapters in this handbook. There are also definitions of common terms used throughout the document. The last section in the chapter discusses the process by which certain functions listed as the responsibilities of the county board of supervisors may have been transferred to the county superintendent of schools.

Handbook Introduction (DOCX)

Chapter 2

This chapter will be useful to community members, school district administrators, and county committees on school district organization alike to know the history of the changes in school district organization. The chapter discusses the various methods used over the years by the Legislature to attempt consolidation and overall reduction in the number of school districts.

History of School District Organization in California (DOCX)

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Chapter 3

The county committee on school district organization has a major role in the review and approval of proposals to change school district organization in the county. This chapter discusses how the members are selected, how committees should function, and how they are financed. In 32 counties in the state, the functions of the county committee on school district organization have been transferred to the county board of education. A list of counties in both categories can be found at the end of this chapter.

This chapter will be of greatest help to county committee members and to county superintendents of schools. They can use this chapter to aid them in calling elections and meetings for the county committees.

Organization and Responsibilities of the County Committee (DOCX)

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Chapter 4

This chapter discusses the authority and responsibilities of the State Board of Education in school district organization and the assistance and support provided to the State Board by the California Department of Education. The chapter distinguishes between the roles of the county committee on school district organization and of the State Board. Petitioners and county committee members alike will find it useful in understanding what happens to school district organization proposals after the county committee has acted.

Roles and Responsibilities of the State Board of Education and the California Department of Education (DOCX)

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Chapter 5

This chapter describes step by step the process of forming or abolishing school districts, consolidating school districts, transferring territory from one district to another, and unifying school districts. Anyone involved in school district organization, from petitioners to members of the State Board of Education, will find this chapter useful in understanding legal requirements. The complete process is outlined, including:

  • The 25 percent petition process
  • The 10 percent petition process
  • The guidelines and rules followed by the State Clearinghouse in the Governor's Office of Planning and Research in administering the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and regulations.

Following each chart, the major requirements of reorganization proposals and the review and approval process are discussed in detail. Section A provides a concise overview of the procedures used in reorganizing school districts. At the end of the chapter are checklists to aid county office staff and county committees in tracking required tasks associated with district reorganization.

Reorganization of School Districts in California (DOCX)

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Chapter 6

This chapter discusses the requirements of EC Section 35753 in detail and how the State Board of Education would apply the criteria of Section 35753. Any school district reorganization proposal presented to the county committee and State Board of Education must meet those requirements. Both the State Board of Education and county committees on school district organization are required to evaluate a reorganization proposal and make determinations that the criteria are substantially met. The chapter will be of particular value to members of county committees to assist them in understanding the legal criteria governing reorganization proposals.

Upon receiving the plans and recommendations for a proposal from the county committee, the State Board of Education must hold public hearings on all petitions other than those involving transfer of territory. (EC 35752)

The State Board of Education also may review a petition for any reorganization (including a territory transfer) upon an appeal by the chief petitioners of the affected school districts. Appeals of decisions made by county committees to the State Board of Education are allowed under the provisions of EC sections 35710.5 and 35711.

The State Board may approve proposals for the reorganization of districts if the board has determined, with respect to the proposal and the resulting districts, that all the minimum conditions under EC 35753 are substantially met. These conditions, the statutes and regulations governing the conditions, and guidelines to evaluate the conditions are listed below. (EC 35753)

Legal Criteria Governing Reorganization Proposals (DOCX)

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Chapter 7

This chapter lists the requirements for elections and public hearings as they pertain to school district organization, presents the calendar for elections, and discusses setting the area in which to conduct the elections. The area of election has been the subject of several significant court decisions, making this chapter of particular value to legal counsel involved in school district organization proposals. County committee members and petitioners for school district organization change will also find the information useful.

Public Hearings and Election Procedures (DOCX)

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Chapter 8

This chapter provides information for newly elected governing boards, administrators, other staff, and constituents. A management plan encompassing the interim and operational periods should be prepared as a foundation for the formation of a school district.

Section A, "The Interim Period," provides guidelines on tasks to be accomplished in the time span between the date of the successful election and July 1 of the following year, the date on which the new district becomes fully operational for all purposes. During this interim period the new district is organized administratively, and significant policy and planning decisions must be made. Major components are defined and included in a formal written management plan. Table 8.1 is a worksheet listing tasks to be accomplished during the interim period.

Section B, "The Design Period," uses the management plan to define how the district will operate day to day. Table 8.2 is a worksheet listing tasks to be accomplished during the design period.

Section C, "The Implementation Period," discusses the school systems implementation master plan, which specifically identifies all systems supporting the school district. This plan serves as a blueprint to give direction to the incoming operations team and as a reference for the governing board, providing accountability to the community. Table 8.3 lists major tasks to be accomplished during the implementation period.

Sections of this chapter contain lists of issues to be considered by a new governing board when a new school district is established. They are not necessarily applicable to all new districts and should not be considered exhaustive lists. Each governing board of a new district needs to address issues relevant to that specific district. As with other areas of school district organization, guidance from experts (including legal counsel) familiar with local issues should be sought.

School District Formation Guidelines (DOCX)

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Chapter 9

This chapter lists the various effects of a school district organization change on a school district and its employees, property, funds, obligations, bonded indebtedness, and revenue limit. This information is valuable to diverse groups during the processing of a school district organization proposal. An understanding of the legal requirements will be useful to petitioners, electors, and county committees when considering whether a school district organization proposal should be recommended for approval. New governing board members also will find this chapter useful because these requirements must be implemented once the school district organization proposal has been approved and a majority of the voters in the district have voted in favor of the proposal.

The Effects of School District Organization (DOCX)

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Chapter 10

County committees on school district organization have additional responsibilities in processing proposals regarding the structure, membership, and areas of representation of members of school district governing boards. These requirements are unique to county committees and constitute a major portion of their workload. This chapter is particularly important for committee members.

Other Functions of the County Committee (DOCX)

Quick Reference Guide 10.1. Create or Abolish Trustee Areas (PDF)

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Chapter 11

Chapter 11 provides a brief summary of the appeals process related to transfers of territory from one school district to another. The issues that may be appealed, the timeline, the steps the appellant must follow, and the options available to the State Board of Education are presented. This chapter will be particularly useful to individual petitioners or school districts contemplating the filing of appeals with the State Board of Education.

The Appeals Process (DOCX)

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Chapter 12

The legal requirements for district reorganization that apply to community college districts are discussed in this chapter. Procedures affecting community colleges are included in this handbook because county committees on school district organization have responsibilities affecting the community college districts. Legal requirements covering postsecondary education may be found in EC, Division 7, “Community Colleges,” Section 70900 et seq. Specific information on community college district reorganization or formation is covered in Part 46, chapters 1 through 5, Section 74000 et seq. (see also Section G in this chapter). Otherwise, the functions performed by the State Board of Education for school districts serving kindergarten through grade twelve are performed for community college districts by the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges. The legal requirements affecting community college districts are published here for the convenience of the county committees on school district organization.

Procedures for Reorganizing Community College Districts (DOCX)

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Appendix A (DOCX)
State Board of Education Regulations and Criteria Regarding School District Organization

Appendix B (DOCX)
Sample Bylaws of the County Committee on School District Organization

Appendix C (DOCX)
Reorganization of Districts under the Jurisdiction of Different Counties

Appendix D (DOCX)
State Board of Equalization Change of Jurisdictional Boundary

Appendix E (DOCX)
Sample Petition for Transfer of Territory

Appendix F (DOCX)
Sample Notice of Preparation of Draft Negative  Declaration/Mitigated Negative Declaration

Appendix G (DOCX)
Environmental Checklist Form

Appendix H (DOCX)
California Environmental Quality Act Forms

Appendix I (DOCX)
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Filing Fee No Effect Determination Form

Appendix J (DOCX)
Guidelines for Public Hearing Agenda

Appendix K (DOCX)
Suggested Procedures for a Public Hearing Conducted by the County Committee on School District Organization

Appendix L (DOCX)
Sample Initial Agenda for the Governing Board of a New School District

Appendix M (DOCX)
Handbook for Conducting Racial And Ethnic Studies in School Districts

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Questions:   School District Organization | | 916-322-2470
Last Reviewed: Tuesday, February 21, 2023
Recently Posted in Laws & Regulations