Legislative Analyst's Office

Analysis of the 2002-03 Budget Bill

Charter County Community Day School

Chapter 58, Statutes of 1997 (SB 1318, Polanco), allows the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) to grant a charter petition for a charter school that serves at-risk pupils, and authorizes that charter school to receive base and supplemental grant funding as if the charter school were a county community day school. Under the authority granted by Chapter 58, LACOE granted a charter to the Soledad Enrichment Action (SEA) Charter School in 1997. Community day schools serve students who have been expelled, probation-referred, or referred by a school attendance review board. Chapter 19, Statutes of 2000 (AB 696, Washington), extends the statutory authorization for the charter school through the 2002-03 fiscal year.

Chapter 19 also requires the Legislative Analyst's Office to report in the Analysis of the 2002-03 Budget Bill on the need to continue the community day school funding rate for a charter school operating under this statute. This analysis is in response to that requirement. Below, we provide background information on community day schools in general and SEA in particular. We then address the issue of the funding rate mechanism, followed by information on the performance of the SEA Charter School to date.

Background on Community Schools

The Governor's budget proposes $42.3 million for community day schools. The State Department of Education reports that, in 1999-00, 175 school districts and 5 county offices of education operated community day schools serving approximately 10,000 pupils.

Community Day Schools Created to Serve Expelled Students. Chapter 972, Statutes of 1995 (SB 966, Johnston), requires school districts to provide an educational placement to all students who are expelled, and further requires that the educational placement not be at a regular public school. Chapter 974, Statutes of 1995 (AB 922, Friedman), allows school districts to establish community day schools for students who are expelled, probation-referred, or referred by a school attendance review board. Community day schools must:

Funding for Community Day School Students. School districts receive base revenue limit funding for students attending community day schools. In addition, school districts receive a supplemental grant based on average daily attendance (ADA). These grants are capped as follows:

School districts receive (1) no supplemental grant if a pupil attends school less than five hours, (2) one-half of the per pupil supplemental grant if a student attends school for five hours, and (3) a full supplemental grant if a pupil attends school for six hours or more. County Offices of Education (COEs) may also operate schools that serve expelled students. The cap for supplemental grants for county community day schools is the unused portions of the funding caps of the school districts within the county. Since COEs have higher revenue limit funding, their supplemental grant rate is less than for school districts. For 2000-01 the county supplemental grant rate was $3,326 per ADA.

Both school district and COE community day schools may offer education services beyond the six-hour requirement. In 2000-01, schools received $4.19 per pupil/hour for students attending a seventh and/or eighth hour of school per day.

Background on the SEA Charter School

In the 2000-01 school year, SEA served approximately 730 ADA at 17 locations throughout Los Angeles County. The school received $8.2 mil lion in revenues from revenue limit funds, community day school supplemental grant funding, and hourly reimbursements. Figure 1 shows a breakdown of SEA's revenues in 2000-01. The funding level equates to over $11,200 per ADA, and is roughly equivalent to the per-pupil funding rate LACOE receives for serving similar at-risk students. Generally, serving these students is more costly than students in traditional public school because students need greater individual attention (smaller class sizes) and more support services (counseling, reading specialists, and psychologists).

Student turnover is very high in community day schools, and SEA is no exception. Even though average attendance was 730 pupils, over 2,000 pupils were enrolled during the 2000-01 school year, and less than 5 percent of the pupils remained at the school for longer than one year.

Figure 1

Breakdown of Soledad Enrichment
Action’s Revenues for 2000-01



Per ADA Funding Rate


Community Day Base Funding




Supplemental Community Day for 5th and 6th Hour










Funding Rate


7th and 8th hourly for either program









One of the goals of SEA is to serve students in their home communities. Based on prior experience serving at-risk students in Los Angeles County, SEA found that if a student had to cross a gang boundary to go to school, the student would often choose not to attend school. The SEA has strategically located its sites to ensure that students do not have to cross gang boundaries and can attend school in their local communities.

Community Day School ADA Caps Drive the Fiscal Implications of SEA. As discussed above, the county community day school ADA cap for a COE is determined by the unused community day school caps of the school districts in that county. Chapter 19 capped ADA that could be served by SEA at 2,500, and counted that ADA against the LACOE county community day school cap to ensure that the statewide costs of county community day schools did not increase. Historically, LACOE has not served enough eligible pupils to reach its attendance caps. Thus, the services provided by SEA have not limited the level of service provided by other county community day schools in Los Angeles County.

Funding Mechanism Consistent With Charter School Funding Model

We conclude that the funding mechanism created in Chapter 19 is a reasonable funding mechanism for a charter school serving expelled/probation-referred pupils.

Chapter 78, Statutes of 1999 (AB 1115, Strom-Martin), establishes the direct funding model for charter schools, and states that "it is the intent of the Legislature that each charter school be provided with operational funding that is equal to the total funding that would be available to a similar school district serving a similar pupil population." Chapter 78 does not specify which student characteristics should be considered in defining a "similar pupil population." In creating and funding county community day schools, the Legislature recognized that educating pupils that have been expelled or probation-referred is more expensive than typical pupils. Since the cost of serving expelled/probation-referred pupils is significantly higher than standard pupils, we conclude that it is reasonable to provide a higher funding rate for a charter school serving expelled/probation-referred pupils. If the Legislature chooses to continue to authorize charter schools to serve expelled/probation-referred pupils similar to those served in community day and county community day schools, we conclude that it is consistent with charter school law and county community day school law to continue the funding mechanism established by Chapter 19.

Benefits of Operating as a Charter School

Generally, charter schools have statutory relief from much of the Education Code in exchange for greater accountability because charter schools must be rechartered every five years. We identify three major differences in how the SEA charter school operates compared to how a county community day school would operate:

Mixed Performance on Accountability Goals

We find that Soledad Enrichment Action (SEA) charter school did not meet its statutorily required outcome goals, but SEA did develop, and has begun to implement the statutorily required school improvement plan.

Chapter 19 requires the establishment of specific accountability criteria and goals to measure the performance of SEA. These accountability goals include:

Based on conversations with staff at LACOE and the State Department of Education, these outcome goals are generally ambitious for schools serving expelled/probation-referred students.

Figure 2

SEA Charter School Six Pupil Objectives


ü  Acquire the ability to communicate clearly and expressively; use oral and written language to accomplish tasks, take charge of one’s life, express opinions, function as a productive citizen and entertain and enjoy oneself and others; communicate with, understand, and respect other cultures; and use technology to acquire, communicate, and create information.

ü  Use ideas, problem-solving skills, and abstract thinking, encourage self-expression and a positive self-image through participation in the visual and performing arts.

ü  Participate in the practical skills curriculum that will augment, enrich, and integrate with the core curriculum.

ü  Possess the ability to use the knowledge and skills of mathematics, think logically and solve problems related to mathematics, and communicate their ideas about mathematics in both written and oral forms.

ü  Have sufficient knowledge, skills, and strategies of science to be intelligent consumers, responsible users of scientific information, and scientific problem-solvers.

ü  Participate in a program of service learning. Through this program, students will be provided with the opportunity to obtain work experience through volunteering at a local community-based organization or business, thus helping students become responsible and acquainted citizens in a democratic society and inter-dependent world.


The SEA Meets Only One of the Three Statutory Goals. Figure 3 summarizes SEA charter school's achievements with regard to its accountability requirements in 2000-01. It shows that the SEA char ter school met one of the three goals established in statute, and fell somewhat short on the other two.

Figure 3

SEA Charter School's
Goals and Achievements





Met Statutory

Goal 1: Students either graduating or returning to their school district




Goal 2: Students meeting educational objectives




Goal 3: Parental Participation





Figure 4

SEA Charter School
Reasons that Students Left During 2000-01 School Year


Number of Students

Percent of Total

No Outcome

  Transferred to other education setting



  Moved out of area






Positive Outcome

  Returning to school district



  Graduated/Passed GED



  Left to workforce






Negative Outcome




  Terminated for expellable offense



  Ran away from home, pregnancy, or deceased






      Total Students Leaving SEA




The SEA School Improvement Plan. If SEA was not able to make its statutory goals, Chapter 19 required it to submit a comprehensive improvement plan to the COE. In 2001, SEA submitted to LACOE its improvement plan that focused on helping the school meet outcome targets established in Chapter 19 by the 2002-03 school year. Major components of that plan include:

We conclude that while the SEA charter school did not meet its statutorily required outcome targets, it did develop and has begun to implement a school improvement plan to help the school meet its outcome targets in 2002-03. Based on our assessment, SEA met the requirements of Chapter 19, and has developed a plan to help it meet its statutory goals in the future.

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