CDE Ed Talks Podcast Episode 5
CDE News Update: September 5 Update from Superintendent Thurmond
Published: September 6, 2019, Duration: 00:16:28
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond talks about charter schools, school mental health services, and school construction and modernization.
[Intro music plays]
Cynthia Butler: You're listening to a CDE news update on CDE Ed Talks. This is Cynthia Butler.
Thank you for listening to CDE Ed Talks. State Superintendent Tony Thurmond hosts media check-ins to provide an overview of what the CDE is focused on and updates from his office. In his media check in on September 4th, he talked about charter schools, school mental health services, and school construction and modernization. He also answered questions from the media. Here is what he had to say.
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond: Good morning everyone. Welcome back to our media check-ins. I believe this is our first official media check-in since school has begun. And as you might imagine, most of our focus has been focused on back-to-school type activities. We have started a training series that focuses on helping schools prepare for and prevent gun violence on campus. We're using funding from a grant received by the department called [Project] Cal-STOP. It makes it possible for us to work with 180 school districts that will be hosting the Sandy Hook Promise group and provide various training opportunities on how to identify and prevent situations before they happen. We've paired with the Sandy Hook training, a student mental health first aid training to provide some mental health training support to our schools.
We held our first regional session last week in San Bernardino County. More than 400 educators participated, both in person and virtually. We have been contacted by at least three other county offices or districts that also want to host a regional program.
We're also announcing an upcoming town hall series that we have put together. It's a virtual town hall. We've invited all thousand school districts to this town hall. The conversation is closing the achievement gap, closing the opportunity gap. We're approaching it in a different way than typically. We're not saying “hey come show us your best.” We're asking them, [the] districts to be really upfront about where they need help. We recognize that the state struggles in many communities throughout our state, and that test scores are often flat. And we really want to get at the heart of the matter. And so in that respect, the California Department of Education is approaching this differently.
We're saying to districts: “Tell us where you need help. How can we help you? How can we help you with closing the gap?” That town hall will take place on September the 24th.
[We’re] also pleased to announce that we will be helping to convene a conversation about the CSU's new proposal to add a fourth year at math, quantitative reasoning. That will take place on September the 18th. We're inviting school districts and schools to talk about the impact that that new requirement could have as a way of vetting that proposal being considered by the CSU.
[We’re] pleased to announce that the legislature has provided some 50 million dollars for school-based mental health services. It is through the Mental Health Services Act—$50 million immediately over the next four years, 10 million dollars each year over the next four years.
And [we’re] pleased to announce that the California Department of Education will be working with the state's Mental Health Advisory Oversight [& Accountability] Commission to develop the criteria for how those dollars get into school communities to support the mental health needs of our students.
[I’m] very pleased to announce that in the most recent State Allocation Board meeting, we allocated some 275 million dollars to school districts to support modernization projects. This is for school districts that are trying to improve their seismic safety, make repairs to alarm systems. Very pleased that we could provide those dollars.
We're tracking, like everyone, many bills in the final two weeks of legislature:
AB 493, a bill with Assemblymember Gloria which would provide more training and resources and support to educators to support our LGBTQ students, and to prevent bullying.
AB 32, a bill with Assemblymember Bonta that would ban for-profit prisons in the state. We see the nexus between a system that privatizes prisons with the inequity that exists in our communities. And we know that if students get more early education they're less likely to end up in the criminal justice system.
AB 16 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas, a bill that tracks the needs of homeless students in our school districts.
And AB 1322 by Assemblymember Mark Berman, a bill that would help school districts expand their use of federal dollars like Medi-Cal. It would actually grow and create a new unit at the Department of Education, a unit focused on health and outreach to school districts.
I'm sure that there were some great Senate Bills. I noticed I just said all ABs. Nonetheless it's a busy time and we're tracking what's happening in the legislature in these final two weeks.
Why don't I stop there and see if there are any questions.
Diana Lambert, EdSource: I have many questions
Superintendent Thurmond: It's all yours.
Lambert: A few from my colleagues as well. Can you talk about the Governor’s concerns over K-12 school construction bonds? Do you think there will be one on the March ballot?
Superintendent Thurmond: I know that there's tremendous interest and support, even with the 275 million [dollars] that was just allocated. I know that the need is much greater than what exists in this current bond program. I think that there is a great need for an additional bond. And just from what I hear, and the buzz that I hear, I think it's very likely that there will be a bond measure on the ballot.
Lambert: So what are the bottlenecks that might prevent it from being on the ballot?
Superintendent Thurmond: I am not aware of the hurdles. You know, I think that there are hurdles towards its passage. As I hear it, this may be a very crowded ballot and I think we've seen that crowded ballots often have the impact of negating really good measures. And so I think there'll be a need for education for Californians about how important that it is. You know we have seen an increase in sadly, fires, floods, and disasters and the impact that that it’s had on our communities. And it's had devastating impact on our schools. So we know we need to do much more to make sure our schools are prepared for disaster. And then just that most school districts have been unable to keep up with just regular maintenance. And so I for one am hopeful that there will be a bond on the ballot and that the citizens will pass it.
Lambert: So about the fourth year of quantitative reasoning. What’s your feelings about that? Do you support that?
Superintendent Thurmond: I think aspirationally, yeah it's a good goal. We've not made an official position on it. I think aspirationally to say that we provide more for our students is something that we should be striving for. Many advocates have come forward to say that they think it will have a negative impact on many students from low-income backgrounds. And so we've taken the position that we should study and listen and lift up what those impacts could be. And then say, if the CSU is going to move forward with this new measure, that programs need to put be put into place to mitigate those impacts.
My sense is that many of our students are currently struggling to meet the A-G requirements as it currently stands, and so adding another requirement without providing [any] sort of enrichment and support for students would be like making it harder for our students to get into college. But I think on the surface, aspirationally it's a good thing. It's saying that this is something that is likely helpful in ensuring that students actually graduate college. And we know that you have a high number of students who start but don't finish.
And so my only interest is that if this is going to go forward, that the CSU work with our K-12 community to make sure that the right supports are in place so that students can be successful. And we're taking that up as our responsibility to make sure that the K-12 community is heard and that the CSU is thoughtful in how it approaches this proposal.
Lambert: Is that workshop going to take place here [at CDE]?
Superintendent Thurmond: We are hosting it here on September 18th.
Lambert: Do we have times?
Superintendent Thurmond: 10 [a.m.] to 12 [p.m.]. I think there's going to be a media advisory coming out soon.
Lambert: Thank you. Here’s a very specific question that has to do with charter schools. If a school district has a qualified interim budget report, who pays for the FICMAT analysis to determine whether charter would result in a negative budget report? Who pays for the analysis to determine if the charter will impact the school district?
Superintendent Thurmond: Is that a question on the new quantitative reasoning requirement?
I don't know the answer to that. Obviously we followed with great interest the recent agreement reached by all the parties as it relates to AB 1505. And so I'll say this generally we support that there's the ability to have a consideration of fiscal impact when you open any new school—a charter or any new school. I think the way California funds charter schools is different than other states. And we essentially ask schools to compete for the same public dollar. I think that it's just a fact that creates a fiscal impact for any of the schools in that area—both traditional public schools and charter schools.
And so I applaud the parties that came together under the governor's leadership to say that there should be some consideration of fiscal impact. But as I say, and your questions suggests, it's all about the details. And so I'll go study the quantitative reasoning and get back to you with an answer on that question. All that to say I think it's going to take, you know, the bill still has to be voted on. And I think there will be lots of questions about the implementation. And we certainly stand available to support in helping to guide those conversations as we move forward.
Lambert: One last question, quantitative reasoning again.
Superintendent Thurmond: Oh here we go.
Lambert: Is there enough staffing at CSU to support adding additional classes?
Superintendent Thurmond: I'm fairly certain that there is not. Certainly in the K-12 area, I mean we a have teacher shortage statewide and nationwide. While I've not done any specific analysis on how many teachers we have who can teach qualitative reasoning, I think it's fair to say that this is a new challenge that would have to be addressed in order to implement that goal. I know that it's not an immediate implementation which I think is helpful, but I think if the CSU intends to pursue this, the CSU also needs to advocate for more programs to help us support the recruitment and retention of teachers in all subjects: math, science, English. We need more bilingual educators, we need more STEAM educators, and computer science educators. And certainly we will need more educators who can teach this new class.
Lambert: Thank you.
Superintendent Thurmond: Thank you. Any other questions? Seeing not … Sorry did you have something?
Ricardo Cano, CalMatters: Just regarding the deal on AB 1505. I guess from your perspective, was there a turning point in the discussion? How were all sides kind of able to broker that agreement?
Superintendent Thurmond: I can't really say. I can't say if there was a turning point. My experience, and it has only been a few years [since I’ve been] here in Sacramento is that sometimes things come together towards the end of session. I think you know people work real hard during a legislative year and have lots of hearings, have lots of conversations. There's something about coming to the end of session that I think always seems to help the parties come together. I don't know if it's the timeline is coming to an end, things intensify. But you know my guess has always been that when a deal would be reached it would be as we got closer to the end of session. And I'm glad that the parties were able to reach that consensus.
Cano: Thank you.
Superintendent Thurmond: Thank you. Any other questions?
Mike Blount, KFBK: You might have already answered this, but I showed up late, but about a month ago there was some pushback from the Jewish [Legislative] Caucus about inclusive [ethnic studies] curriculum. What’s going on with that? How’s that coming along?
Superintendent Thurmond: Yes, you know the next step in the process—this is regarding the model ethnic studies curriculum draft. The next step in the process is the State Board works closely with the Instructional Quality Commission, and so the next step in the process is for the Commission to meet and to consider what's been proposed in the draft or take other measures. So I can't get ahead of where that Commission is going to go but that Commission will meet this month September 17th? [No,] 19th and 20th. And so we'll know where they're headed.
It's no mystery that we've said publicly that we think it is beneficial for the Commission and the State Board to take as much time as is needed to get the draft right. And in that respect we will be among the voices seeking more time statutorily for the Commission and the Board to act on the model ethnic studies curriculum. I would also say that we anticipate, we continue to hear from individuals, about the curriculum. There is lots of interest in the state, and we anticipate a number of ongoing conversations, feedback sessions where individuals can give feedback about what will go into it.
We'll continue to do what we've been doing: consulting with experts. We expect to create some opportunities to work with ethnic studies teachers and ethnographers and other interested groups who have an interest in what should go into the curriculum. We also anticipate some kind of a statewide listening tour. You know, there's probably 30 or 40 school districts that already have an ethnic studies curriculum. There's certainly no need for us to reinvent the wheel. And we anticipate spending some time visiting some of those districts, hearing from them how they came to bring their curriculum about, how it's going, how their implementation is going. You know, the bumps, the benefits and utilizing as much of that information as we can. And providing that to the IQC and the members of the State Board for their consideration.
Blount: Thank you.
Superintendent Thurmond: Thank you. Any other questions? Well, we appreciate you. We do this every two weeks and we hope to see you at the next time. Thanks for being a part of this week in California education. Thank you very much.
Cynthia Butler: This has been a CDE news update on CDE Ed Talks
[End of Podcast Episode 5]