Baldy View ROP future unknown as staff is given pink slips

With Governor Jerry Brown proposing a new K-12 funding system, the future of the Baldy View Regional Occupational Program is uncertain.

At the Thursday, March 7 meeting of the Claremont school board, board president and Baldy View ROP Commissioner Mary Caenepeel reported that employees of the local Joint Powers Authority—which provides career technical education (CTE) to residents of Claremont, Upland, Chino and Chaffey Joint Union school districts—have all been given pink slips.

Unlike her staff, Baldy View ROP Superintendent Shelley Adams doesn’t stand to lose her job come June 30, when the state budget is finalized, because she is in the first months of a 3-year contract. Nonetheless, “It’s so disheartening to go through this process,” she said.

Flexible funding poses risks

Ms. Adams had hoped to devote her tenure to updating Baldy View’s classes to reflect current standards and trends, including new digital and green technologies. Instead, she is fighting to make sure CTE programs don’t get lost in the funding shuffle.

The crisis began on January 10, when Governor Brown unveiled his proposed 2013-14 budget, which introduces a new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) to the state’s education system. Currently, some $7 billion in funding for 62 categorical programs, from oral health exams for kindergartners to CTE, is doled out to an array of departments and agencies. It is a process that critics argue has led to too many layers of bureaucracy, financial waste and iniquity.

“Under the current system, districts receive notably different per-pupil funding rates based on historical factors and varying participation in categorical programs,” the Legislative Analyst’s Office notes.

Under the LCFF, categorical funding would be consolidated and given straight to school districts. On top of a lump sum base grant based on enrollment, districts would receive additional funding for traditionally underserved students such as English learners, foster children and low-income students.

Another categorical program, class size reduction, would be replaced with extra funding for children in grades K-3, while CTE funds would go straight to districts based on how many high school students are enrolled. Districts could use CTE money as they see fit, including for areas other than vocational education, in keeping with Governor Brown’s belief that individual districts are the best judges of what their students need.

Baldy View ROP, which has an annual operating budget of $8 million, currently has $7 million in reserves, according to Ms. Caenepeel. As a Joint Powers Authority, it is required to have enough money in its coffers, or enough guaranteed state funding, to pay for the program for 3 years. Under the proposed LCFF system, they cannot be sure they will be getting CEF funds—and getting them at the same levels they have enjoyed—in the coming years.

Ms. Adams believes this flexibility may have the “unintended consequences” of undercutting CTE programs as California districts, which have been under-funded for years, are tempted to dip into vocational education funds for other pressing needs. 

Ms. Adams headed to Sacramento earlier this month to lobby legislators regarding the importance of CTE programs in advance of the April 19 assembly budget hearing. Like other providers and advocates of CTE, she is pressing for vocational education funding to be excluded from the LCFF, or earmarked specifically for career development programs.

The conversations she and her colleagues had with lawmakers left her hopeful.

“We understand where [the governor] is wanting to go,” she said. “We just want to be part of the conversation.”

Important local support

Closer to home, Ms. Adams is hoping that the districts which currently partner with Baldy View ROP will continue to fund the Joint Powers Authority, regardless of potential funding changes.

Along with opting to use CTE money for non-CTE needs, a district might also decide to hold on to CTE money to serve programs directly operated through their high schools. Ms. Caenepeel said she feels this would be a mistake. Over the years, the CUSD board president said, she has come to appreciate the economy of scale available through a regional ROP program.

“Baldy View ROP offers programs and classes in 11 out of 15 industry sectors. Any one school is going to find it very difficult to do that,” Ms. Caenepeel noted.

Baldy View ROP offers a number of CTE classes at Claremont High School, including Automotive Technology, Criminal Justice, Sports Medicine, Stage Design & Tech, Video Production/Digital Design and Virtual Enterprise.

CHS students may also, if their schedules permit, attend courses offered by other schools in the Baldy View Joint Powers Authority, such as Architectural Drafting or Forensic Science/CSI at Upland High School, Floral Design & Sales at Chaffey High School and Culinary Skills at Don Lugo High School.

Additionally, Baldy View ROP offers many courses at its career-training center in Ontario, including training in Dental Assistance and Emergency Medical Response. Baldy View participants can also head to an alternate location, such as the Ontario Airport for training in airport careers or the Salon Success Academy in Upland to learn cosmetology.

Another benefit of a regional ROP program is that it can coordinate with business and industry throughout the region to secure opportunities for students without the districts competing against one another, Ms. Adams said.

Advocates say that keeping CTE programs alive is more important than ever now that schools are switching over to a Common Core curriculum, which stresses the real-world application of knowledge.

“An ROP class can explain why geometry is important—if you take a construction class, you’ll understand what angles mean,” Ms. Caenepeel said. “In a pharmacy class, you learn that dosage calculation is so important, it can mean life or death.”

ROP courses are also vital in a time when the economy is just rebounding and employers are looking for young people with real-life skills, Ms. Adams said. If Baldy View ROP and similar programs evolve in the way she anticipates, they can also help prepare youths for the green jobs that many say will mark the economic landscape in the coming years.

“I would like to believe that people will start to understand what a loss it would be to lose ROP and CTE programs, and what’s to be gained by keeping the structure in place,” Ms. Adams said.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com

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