Vernon M. Billy CEO & Executive Director
he defining moment of 2021 was the incredible leadership school and county boards demonstrated throughout the year to ensure students had access to educational opportunities during the pandemic. Being a trustee is never easy, even in the best of times, and it became even more complicated as board members navigated the latest phase of the pandemic.
Recognizing the challenges facing school districts and county offices of education, CSBA focused on both the immediate needs of schools returning to in-person instruction as well as the policy framework and resources needed for the long-term success of California public schools. Whether at the Capitol, in the courts, or through virtual trainings, events and webinars, we dedicated the past year to supporting school board trustees and advocating for the tools you need to serve students during this difficult time.
We know the past two years have been challenging and that school and county boards have been presented with an almost impossible task and plenty of unfair criticism. The hard work, resourcefulness and initiative you have demonstrated in navigating the pandemic have too often gone unnoticed. We are determined to reverse that trend, which is why we launched a special multimedia campaign called School Boards in Action to highlight the actions trustees have taken to support students and families under the most challenging circumstances ever experienced by public schools.
While focusing on the current moment, we also continued to address longstanding issues for public schools and to introduce new services that will benefit members long after COVID-19 has faded into memory. Most notably, in 2021, we introduced CSBA District and County Office of Education Legal Services, which allows us to establish an attorney-client relationship with our members and provide you with legal advice — something we receive requests for every day. CSBA Legal Services is designed to provide local districts and COEs with the same kind of vigorous legal representation our Education Legal Alliance (ELA) has long offered on a statewide level.
In 2021, ELA saved millions of dollars for California schools, challenged erroneous decisions by the State Controller’s Office that denied schools $1 billion in funding, and served the interests of public schools on issues related to state mandates, special education, tort liability, First Amendment rights, lease-leaseback agreements, Proposition 39 facility costs, and access to developer fees.
CSBA’s aggressive advocacy in 2021 was not limited to the courts. In the Capitol, we also achieved significant victories for members, eliminating all apportionment deferrals, securing a 5.07 percent cost-of-living adjustment and a 4.05 percent COLA for special education, as well as additional Prop 98 funding to pay for transitional kindergarten expansion, continued funding to reduce employer pension contributions, and $6 billion for broadband at a critical time for California’s public schools.
CSBA also expanded our services in recognition of the exceptional demands that school districts are facing. In the past year, we revised and enhanced our training curriculum and delivery options to make the courses more accessible and more topical, retained new partners and affiliates to provide critical COVID-19 mitigation services, and produced a suite of webinars on topics of particular importance in the COVID-era.
Our School Boards in Action campaign highlighted the dedication and hard work of trustees in supporting students and families during this challenging time. From expanded learning initiatives to food distribution, wellness centers to mental health services, school trustees have stepped up to serve students and families in a time of crisis. CSBA values your efforts and is proud to showcase the hard work of our members through the videos, radio and internet ads, blog posts, and feature articles that comprised the School Boards in Action campaign.
In 2022, we will continue to elevate the essential work that trustees are doing to provide California students with a high-quality education and press onward with the advocacy needed to strengthen schools and create the conditions for student success.