California's model for school funding has been turned on its head, leaving educators in Sonoma County scrambling to figure out what the new landscape means for valued and established programs.
Some say the radical change that gives local boards more control over money matters is a long time coming and a welcome change, while others are expressing concern that the shake-up will leave valued programs out in the cold.
The change could affect funds once designated for everything from agriculture classes to high school exit exam preparation.
"This is huge, huge, huge," Mickey Porter, assistant superintendent of educational support services for the Sonoma County Office of Education, said of the way the state is now allocating school funding under the Local Control Funding Formula.
"LCFF has changed how we view and how we answer the question of 'Which programs should be in schools?'" she said.
Under the new formula, all school districts will receive a base amount of funding with markedly fewer restrictions as to where those dollars can be spent.
In addition, districts are slated to receive supplemental funds based on the number of English learners, socio-economically disadvantaged and foster children who are enrolled.
Districts with disadvantaged enrollments of more than 55 percent will get even more money.
The change comes at a time when California's coffers for education are the fullest they have been in years.
In addition to revenues from voter-approved Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget calls for $6.3 billion in additional funds for K-12 and community colleges next year.
It is the change in how those funds are doled out that has dominated the conversations among educators and administrators across Sonoma County as they craft their 2014-15 budgets.
But with the new freedom comes additional pressure from various constituencies that are now lobbying local officials for financial consideration -#8212; in some cases for well-established programs.
"That is the push and pull of it," Porter said. "Along with local accountability comes responsibility."
And for the first time, districts are required to include an explanation -#8212; dubbed the Local Control and Accountability Plan -#8212; of how their spending will improve student learning.
"Districts complained for years that they were told how to spend their money. Now they are not telling you how to spend it," said Denise Calvert, deputy superintendent of business services for the Sonoma County Office of Education.
"It's a complete shift in thinking," she said.
That overhaul is prompting some self examination among district leaders about which programs are working and which might need re-assessment.
"We are highly encouraging people, 'Don't let go of these programs if they are meeting needs in your district.' But if you have them because you have them -#8212; take a look at them," Porter said.
Some anxious educators contend the new rules are making it difficult to plan courses and design curriculum.
"It's a tough time. As a teacher, in the spring, we are all worried about numbers and enrollment and now we have to worry about other stuff that we didn't have to worry about before," said Kim Arntz, chairwoman of the Petaluma High School Agriculture Department.
Petaluma City Schools in 2012-13 got more $14,000 through a state agriculture incentive grant. That money -#8212; which is part of a community matching program -#8212; is coming this year, but is no longer automatically tied to agriculture classes. So it could mean the loss of $28,000 to the ag program, she said.