Call to restore CALPADS moneyAgency faces layoffs of 40 workers
Speaking no doubt for many of his peers, the data administrator overseeing compliance with CALPADS for Long Beach Unified is urging the Legislature to quickly restore money that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed for the besieged statewide student data system. The failure to do so will lead to the shutdown later this month of the state agency that supports and trains local districts in uploading critical data that the federal government demands, John Novak, the Long Beach administrator, wrote in a letter he circulated last week among legislators. Long Beach is the state’s third largest school district and recognized as a leader in using data.
A month ago, Schwarzenegger deleted from the state budget nearly $7 million in operating money, effective Dec. 6, for the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System, which IBM is building under a contract with the state Department of Education. The governor expressed frustration with delays and errors, which have put the system a year behind schedule, and he called on the upcoming Legislature to consider a different manager of the system.
But Novak argues that “the undeserved target” of the veto is the California School Information Services, a small agency that runs the help desk for CALPADS and trains district personnel on using the system. Novak asserts – and others have confirmed – that CSIS will actually run out of money in mid-November, three weeks before the Dec. 6 date cited in the governor’s veto. Joel Montero, CEO of the state Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, which run CSIS, confirmed that as many as 40 CSIS employees may have to be given layoff notices within the next month.
“The Governor’s veto has generated a tremendous amount of angst, anxiety, and anger among those of us at the LEA level … as we consider the not-at-all-attractive prospect of moving into an uncertain new realm without our most trusted and reliable support system,” Novak wrote, referring to CSIS.
Novak acknowledged that bad decisions by IBM and the Department of Education and a failure to communicate with districts the first year “conspired to bring the system to its knees.” But, backing up the claims of the Department of Education, Novak said that things have turned around. “Plainly speaking, the CALPADS system is working,” he wrote, adding that he expects the critical next phase of uploading CALPADS data, known as Fall 2, will go smoothly.
But Dec. 6, when the veto takes effect, also coincides with the start of the reporting period for Fall 2, leaving districts without anyone from the state to consult with about reporting problems.
One way or another, the state must report dropout, graduation, and other data to the federal government by next September. A months-long stoppage in feeding data to CALPADS could create a mess, forcing already-stretched-thin local district employees to work around the system.
Novak’s letter adds urgency to the Legislature to take a two-pronged approach: to quickly restore money for CSIS and core CALPADS operating dollars and then separately and deliberately to create new oversight for IBM and CALPADS, in the process settling unresolved governance questions regarding access and control of the system.