LAO 2004-05 Budget Analysis: General Government

Analysis of the 2004-05 Budget Bill

Legislative Analyst's Office
February 2004

Governor's School Safety Consolidation

The Governor's budget proposes to consolidate five of seven existing school safety programs into a School Safety Competitive Grant, leaving two programs outside of the block grant. We recommend the Legislature expand on the Governor's proposal by creating a formula-driven School Safety Block Grant combining all seven school safety programs and 12 school safety-related state reimbursable mandates. We also recommend reversion of $1.6 million in current-year funds for competitive grant programs that the State Department of Education does not plan to administer.

The 2004-05 Governor's Budget provides $100 million for school safety programs (including deferrals), the same amount provided in 2003-04. The budget also consolidates the Gang Risk Intervention Program and four School/Law Enforcement Partnership Programs into a School Safety Competitive Grant Program to increase local flexibility and effectiveness. Currently, these programs provide competitive grants to school districts and county offices of education (COEs) based on criteria including need and quality of implementation plans. According to the Department of Finance (DOF), funding for these five programs will be consolidated into one budget item, but the underlying statute for the five programs will continue to govern the use of the funds. In addition, current grantees will have priority access to the funds. According to DOF, the Governor excludes from his block grant the School Safety and Violence Prevention Grant Program and the Safety Plans for New Schools Program because these programs provide funding to school districts on a formula basis. Figure 1 lists the funding level for school safety programs for the budget year.

Figure 1

Governor's School Safety
Competitive Grant Consolidation

(In Millions)

Included Programs

Proposed 2004‑05

Gang Risk Intervention Program


School/Law Enforcement Partnership Programs


  School Community Policing Partnership


  School Community Violence Prevention


  Partnership Mini-Grants/Safe School Planning


  Conflict Resolution






Excluded Programs


School Safety and Violence Prevention Grant Program


School Safety Plans for New Schools Programb




Total, All Programs



a  The Governor proposes to use $46.3 million in Proposition 98 reversion account funding and defers the remaining amount until 2005‑06.

b  This program was previously within the School Law Enforcement Partnership Program; however, the Governor proposes to maintain this program separately in the budget year.

Problems With Current Situation

Below, we summarize some of the basic problems with the current array of school safety programs.

Competitive Grants Have Significant Administrative Costs. The State Department of Education (SDE) does not plan to administer three of the competitive grant programs in 2003-04—School Community Violence Prevention ($700,000), School Partnership Mini-Grants/Safe School Planning ($628,000), and Conflict Resolution ($280,000)—because the department advises that it does not have adequate staff resources to administer these small, but staff intensive grant programs. The SDE also did not administer these programs in 2002-03, and the funds reverted.

In addition to the administrative demands on the state, the competitive grant programs place an even more onerous administrative burden on schools. State law requires every school to develop a school safety plan. School districts applying for one of the four School Law Enforcement Partnership Programs must develop an additional plan explaining how their school district will collaborate with law enforcement and what the school district will do with the funding. In addition, the school district must submit data justifying their "higher level of need." Figure 2 shows details on the specific requirements of each program.

Figure 2

Description and Funding Information for Programs
Included in the Governor's School Safety Block Grant






2003-04 Grants Funded

Gang Risk Intervention Program. County offices
of education (COEs) offer counseling, sports, cultural activities, and job training
to specific schools in county.

Plan must prove need using safety data, justify merits of proposal, and have line-item budget and evaluation.

1 year

$100,000 to $1,075,000


School Community Policing Partnership Program. Districts or COEs implement plans collaboratively with local law enforcement to improve school safety.

Plan must prove need, collaboration with community and law enforcement, and sustainability. Requires local match, evaluation, and annual reporting. Grants geographically distributed.

3 year



Other Competitive Grant Programs. Three programs fund school safety plan implementation, community policing measures, and conflict resolution programs and training: Partnership Mini-Grants/Safe School Plan Implementation, School Community Violence Prevention, and Conflict Resolution.

Plan must prove need; demonstrate collaboration with students, community, and law enforcement; and justify budget. Requires local match and evaluation.

1 year

$5,000 to $10,000



a  According to the State Department of Education, grants were not awarded in 2002-03, nor will they be awarded in the current year because they do not have sufficient staff to oversee the grant process. As a result, this funding will revert to the General Fund in the current year, similar to what occurred in 2002-03.

Current Programs May Not Target Greatest Need. Schools with the most need may not receive funding through the current competitive grant programs for one of two reasons: (1) they choose not to apply because of the involved application process, or (2) lack of comparable data makes it difficult to assess which schools have greatest need. Thus, schools with the most to gain from additional school safety funding may not receive it, while others with lower needs but high-quality grant writers may get additional funding. We believe that funding should be used to target the highest-risk schools on a formula basis, and that a uniform set of eligibility criteria should be used.

Concerns With the Governor's Proposal

Since the Governor's school safety consolidation proposal maintains the five existing competitive grant programs—including the existing program requirements, eligibility criteria, and application processes, the only benefit of the proposal is to allow SDE some flexibility to move funds among the five grant programs. We believe the Governor's school safety consolidation proposal does not provide school districts any increased flexibility or go far enough to consolidate programs that provide funding for similar intents and purposes. Specifically, the proposal misses the opportunity to truly streamline the existing school safety programs by: (1) continuing to operate the five competitive grant programs, (2) excluding the School Safety Violence Prevention Grant Program funding, and (3) excluding reimbursement funding for state mandates. We discuss each of these concerns below.

Governor Continues Five Competitive Grant Programs. By consolidating the funding for the five competitive grants into one budget item, the administration would provide SDE with the flexibility to adjust the funding distribution among the five grants. However, according to DOF staff, the proposal would not eliminate statutes for any of the programs, and current grant recipients would have priority in continuing to receive funding. Since the Governor's proposal would continue to administer five grant programs, it does not eliminate any of the bureaucratic burden of these programs. We also believe that using a formula process to target "high" need schools may be more effective than the competitive grant process. 

Proposal Excludes School Safety Violence Prevention Grant Program. The budget provides $82.1 million to school districts through the School Safety Violence Prevention Grant Program. These funds may be used by school districts for any purpose that improves school safety or that reduces violence among students. Given this discretion, the program is tailor-made for inclusion in a larger block grant. Essentially, consolidating this program with the existing competitive grant programs would provide school districts greater flexibility to use school safety funding to meet their local needs and priorities.

Proposal Excludes Funding for School Safety Mandates. As with all other mandates in 2004-05, the budget does not fund ten state reimbursable mandates that require school districts to perform specific school safety activities. This has the effect of deferring $30.3 million in 2004-05 costs to future years. Under the current system, the state reimburses school districts for the cost of meeting certain state mandates, such as (1) implementing school suspension and expulsion policies and procedures, (2) providing for emergency procedures, and (3) reporting crimes/incidents at schools.

The Governor's consolidation proposal does not incorporate these programs in the reform of school safety funding. We believe there would be benefits from doing so. For instance, school districts currently have an incentive to maximize the size of their mandate claims because 100 percent of the costs of the mandates are reimbursed by the state. The costs of documenting and submitting state reimbursable mandate claims are also significant. If school districts instead received their mandate funding through the block grant, they would have a greater incentive to be more efficient because any savings realized could then be redirected to fund any purpose that meets the safety needs of the district.

LAO School Safety Block Grant Proposal

We recommend the Legislature create a formula driven School Safety Block Grant, which consolidates the seven existing school safety programs with funding for ten state reimbursable school safety mandates. Figure 3 shows the programs included in the LAO proposal, and provides a breakdown of the funding into the three components of our block grant proposal—per pupil grant formula, high-risk schools formula, and a new school planning grant.

Figure 3

Programs in LAO School Safety Block Grant

(In Millions)



Per Pupil Grant Formula


School Safety and Violence Prevention Grants


State Mandated Programs


  Notification of Truancy


  Habitual Truants


  Notification to Teachers of Pupil Expulsion


  Pupil Suspensions, Expulsions, and Expulsion Appeals


  Pupil Classroom Suspension: Counseling


  Law Enforcement Agencies


  Pupil Suspensions: Parent Classroom Visits


  Juvenile Court Notices II


  Expulsion Transcripts



High Risk School Formula


School/Law Enforcement Partnership Programs


Gang Risk Intervention




School Safety Plans for New Schools





a  Includes $82 million deferred from 2004-05 into 2005-06.

Accountability Provisions for High-Risk Funding. With regard to high-risk schools receiving added funding under our proposal, the Legislature may want to consider some added accountability provisions. Given the serious problems at these schools, it is imperative that either improvements be made or other, stronger interventions occur. One option would be to link the high-risk component of our block grant to current federal law related to "persistently dangerous" schools. The state could define this term as those high-risk schools which fail to make adequate enough improvement over time with the funding available from their school safety block grant funds. This would then trigger more serious district and state interventions required under federal law to address the problem.

Benefits of the LAO School Safety Block Grant Proposal

We believe that our alternative block grant proposal has the following benefits: (1) it maximizes local control and flexibility, (2) targets funding to districts that have a greater need for school safety funding, (3) creates an incentive for districts to meet mandate requirements more efficiently, and (4) limits administrative burden by combining programs that have similar purposes. We discuss these benefits below:

Maximizes Local Control and Flexibility. Our School Safety Block Grant proposal would provide school districts with greater control and flexibility in regards to how they use school safety funding. Under the block grant proposal, school districts would have more choice related to the: (1) needs they choose to target, (2) types of programs they create, and (3) program models they use to deliver services. School districts could use their School Safety Block Grant funding for a variety of purposes that support their local needs and priorities, including hiring personnel and counselors, providing training, and purchasing safety devices.

Targets Funding to Schools With Greatest Need. Under our proposal, schools that demonstrate a higher need for funding based on their number of mandatory expulsions would receive additional funding to assist them in meeting their school safety needs. By providing these funds on a formula basis instead of a competitive basis, all of the resources would go to improving school safety, thereby foregoing the administrative costs that accompany the grant process. These schools could then use this funding to provide additional services to reduce the incidences of violence against pupils and school staff.

Creates Incentive to Meet Mandated Requirements More Efficiently. Under the current system, school districts receive full reimbursement funding from the state for completing certain school safety activities. Including funding for state mandates into the block grant creates the incentive for school districts to be more efficient because any savings realized could then be redirected to fund other school safety needs and priorities.

Limits Administrative Burden by Consolidating School Safety Programs. The existing system of funding school safety through multiple programs increases state and local administrative costs. State administrative efforts are focused on such oversight functions as: (1) reviewing applications and (2) tracking and monitoring the appropriate use of categorical funding. School districts also incur high administrative costs because they must apply separately to multiple programs for funding and, like the state, must track and monitor the appropriate use of categorical funding. Consolidating these programs would minimize the administrative burdens associated with (1) reviewing and submitting numerous applications for funding and (2) tracking and monitoring of different pots of categorical funding. Free of the various administrative requirements, SDE could focus more on providing locals with program support, and locals could focus more on maximizing the impact of funding on their school safety efforts. 

Provides Added School Safety Accountability for High-Risk Schools. We believe that targeting additional resources at schools with the greatest safety risk and requiring improvements at these schools would help ensure that school and district administrators take school safety seriously. Our proposal would provide schools an opportunity to fix their safety problems with the additional resources. It would also provide external assistance for schools failing to improve.

High Administrative Costs Prohibit SDE From Administering Current-Year Grants

We recommend the Legislature revert $1.6 million provided in 2003-04 for three school safety competitive grant programs that the State Department of Education is not administering because of the administrative burden of the programs.

The 2003-04 Budget Act provided $1.6 million for three competitive school safety grant programs—School Community Violence Prevention, Partnership MiniGrants/Safe School Planning, and Conflict Resolution. As described earlier, these programs provide grants of $5,000 to $10,000 to each school meeting specific requirements. Because the grant size is so small, the $1.6 million would result in a large number of grants to administer. According to SDE, because the administrative burden of operating these programs is high and SDE does not have staff to operate the programs, the department will not administer the three competitive grants in 2003-04. (Similarly, SDE did not administer these grant programs in 2002-03, and the funding reverted on the natural.) We recommend the Legislature revert these funds as part of the 2004-05 budget, and redirect the savings to other K-14 priorities.

Safety Plans for New Schools Program Overfunded

We recommend that the Legislature reduce funding for the Safety Plans for New Schools Program by $2 million, leaving $1 million to meet anticipated needs of new schools.

The 2004-05 Governor's Budget provides $3 million in funding for the Safety Plans for New Schools Program. This funding is provided to new schools to implement a comprehensive safe school plan. School districts opening new schools receive $91 per pupil or a minimum grant of $5,000 per site to develop a safety plan. According to SDE, funding has not been fully allocated in recent years. Last year, for example, SDE reverted approximately $2 million because actual need for funding totaled $1 million. For the budget year, SDE estimates that as many as 80 new schools may open and that $1 million dollars would be a sufficient level of funding for this program. Therefore, we recommend that the Legislature reduce funding by $2 million to reflect the actual demand for this program.

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