CDE Says San Bernardino County Office of Education Failed to Ensure Proper Spending of LCAP Funds

For the first time, the California Department of Education has come down on a county office for failing to provide proper oversight of millions of dollars meant for high-needs students.

The “historic decision,” in the words of Public Advocates senior attorney Nicole Gon Ochi, was issued June 14. You can read it here

The CDE found that the San Bernardino County Office of Education should not have approved the Local Control and Accountability Plans for three school districts — San Bernardino City Unified, Hesperia Unified, and Victor Valley Union High School — because they did not specify how $150 million in LCAP funds would be spent. The districts ended up spending funds meant for low-income students, foster kids, and English learners on things like campus police. The county had an obligation to question that decision but did not, the CDE said. Going forward, the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools must ensure that San Bernardino school districts adhere to state law.

“We hope that the ruling serves as a wake-up call for all county superintendents to be more vigilant in their oversight responsibilities,” said Ochi. (Public Advocates filed the original complaint along with the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.) “County offices should be on notice that the community is watching and will hold them accountable for ensuring that districts fulfill their equity, transparency and community engagement obligations.”

Previously, only individual school districts have been held accountable for failing to specify how funding will be used to improve services for high-needs learners. The ruling has significant implications for county offices of education statewide.

The state did disagree with one of the allegations against SBCOE. The CDE did not find that it failed to hold districts responsible for meeting their proportionality obligations.

SBCOE said last week that it disagrees with the CDE’s findings. It plans to appeal.

“The San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools stands by its position that all legal requirements were met in this case with respect to its limited oversight responsibilities,” reads a statement from the office of San Bernardino Superintendent of Schools Ted Alejandre. The office “does not develop LCAPs on behalf of districts, nor is it responsible for allocating or determining how district funds should be spent.”

When asked for a comment by EdSource, the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association declined.