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ERS’ Work in California: Ensuring Every Child Is Ready for Tomorrow

A Golden Opportunity to Change the Odds for Students

The Golden State serves over six million diverse public school students - nearly one out of eight nationwide.

California school systems face big challenges such as low per-pupil funding, rising pension debt, declining enrollment, and a high-need student population. Yet California school systems are responding with innovation and optimism. ERS has worked with and studied issues in the state such as strategic budgeting and planning (especially under LCFF), resource equity, absenteeism, and teacher professional learning.

We’re committed to working alongside leaders and sharing best practices. We hope you’ll reach out with any questions.

Tackling legacy cost structures in Los Angeles Unified

The second largest district in the country faced a budget deficit and leadership changes as they sought to help nearly 600,000 students reach rigorous academic standards. ERS partnered with leaders to assess how resources were allocated, build the foundation of a long-term financial plan, and identify targeted strategies to address high absenteeism.

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Analyzing the budget to help a California district facing enrollment decline

A small urban school system in California faced significant enrollment decline and a worsening budget deficit. Leaders wanted to understand how they could best use their limited resources to serve a high-need student population and improve outcomes. ERS performed a quick turn-around analysis of budget, HR, and student data and uncovered several opportunities - from teacher professional learning to strategic school design - to help prepare every child, in every school in that district, for tomorrow.

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Supporting strategic finance leaders across California

Twice a year, finance leaders including chief financial officers and budget directors from six California districts meet as part of an ERS-run network to discuss how they can lead strategically, often in the face of rising costs, flat or declining revenue, and high expectations for student success. Leading strategically means going beyond just accounting to understand how the budget reflects the district's priorities - especially under the unique conditions of LCFF.

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Aligning HS schedules to graduation in Oakland Unified

After analyzing course schedules at Oakland Unified high schools, we found that only 54 percent of high schools were set up to ensure that a typical student could graduate in four years and meet the requirements for the University of California system. So our team worked closely with school leaders to redesign their schedules to ensure all students were on a path to graduation, teachers had sufficient collaborative planning time, and students with exceptional needs were well served.

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Budgeting for Equity and Excellence in Tough Times

LCFF: Origins and Possibilities

District-Charter Relations and Opportunities

  • Informing Equity [Report]
    Analyzes data on student demographics, spending, and resource allocation in Oakland Unified School District and the Oakland charter community to build a common fact base.

Teacher Recruitment, Retention, and Compensation

  • Toolkit: Connected Professional Learning for Teachers [Report and case studies]
    Dives deeply into how four school systems (including Sanger Unified, outside Fresno) redesigned professional learning and saw student growth - focusing on rigorous curriculum, expert-led collaboration, and growth-oriented feedback.

Joe McKown, Partner

Joe leads the ERS San Francisco office and works closely with school system and state leaders on budgeting, teacher professional learning, equity, school design, and more. He served as a teacher and administrator in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area for nine years, and also has a background in strategy consulting and designing schools for extended learning time.

For more than a decade, ERS has worked with school systems to transform how they use resources. We are ready to partner with your school system or connect you with other service providers. Contact Joe for more information.

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California districts have a unique opportunity to use resources strategically, given the flexibility afforded by the LCFF. ERS’ Strategic School System framework identifies seven areas that are crucial to student success, and is built on nearly fifteen years of experience working with school districts around the country.

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