SDUSD has been faced with very difficult decisions in recent years. However, the district has stepped up to the challenge, improving student achievement and access with less resources and growing needs. There is a common misconception that LCFF represented an influx of new state dollars for districts like SDUSD when it was signed into law in 2013. In other words, there’s been an incorrect assumption that districts were immediately flush with cash when LCFF was signed. While LCFF did offer districts like SDUSD more flexibility and help to streamline budget reporting, it did not offer immediate relief to a district that was struggling to return to pre-recession funding levels.
Jonathan Kaplan (2018), a state budget expert, said it best recently, stating that “although the LCFF name includes the word ‘funding,’ the statute establishing the LCFF did not actually provide any. Rather, LCFF defined how the state allocates K–12 dollars by creating funding targets for a base grant per student to be provided to all California school districts, adjusted for the number of students at various grade levels.” Supt. Marten and her team have used the bold intent of LCFF and Vision 2020 to begin an ambitious process of detracking students so more SDUSD youth are prepared for college and a quality job. Without a clear focus and strong leadership, SDUSD’s central office would be struggling to keep the district afloat after hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts. But they’re not. Instead, the district is embracing some of the hardest equity fights and working tirelessly to change SDUSD’s culture.
Part of that culture shift is what SDUSD senior leader Cheryl Hibbeln describes as a “culture of redemption and revision.” In other words, districts need to give students more than one chance to show what they know. Educators also have to allow students to fail without the fear of failure and to see the value of revisions to do high quality work. These lessons offer good reminders for the sustainability of quality school systems, not just SDUSD’s. Like their students, school systems must continue to improve and evolve in order to be successful. This requires investing in the success of young people, one student at a time. SDUSD is doing just that.