Statewide Initiatives May Affect MIS Departments of School and County Agencies

Standardization: Guidelines proposed for network infrastructure and budgeting.

Phil Branstetter, Riverside County Office of Education

Two statewide initiatives which are, or should be, of particular interest at this time to the technology community are the long-awaited RFA for building a statewide network infrastructure, and the progress toward a standardized accounting code structure. Each of these initiatives is supported by the California Department of Education and has high visibility. Either or both of them could have significant impact (positively and negatively) on district and county office technology planning.

The RFA is a grant of $600,000 from ECTL administered by the Orange County Department of Education on behalf of CDE. The grant process will identify a lead LEA (school district or COE) to partner with other educational agencies (K-12, higher education, consortiums, non-profits, etc.) and private industry to implement a statewide networking plan supporting Internet access, information services, and "educational content" data servers according to the guidelines and parameters described. The RFA has been released and responses are due to OCDE by May 22, 1995.

COEs have basically banded together under the CCSESA (California County Superintendent's Education Services Association) umbrella to respond in unity to the RFA with a statewide plan emphasizing coordinated regionalized services based on the county regions--which coincidentally neatly correspond to LATA boundaries in California. Skip Sharp (San Diego County Office of Education) is the chair of the Telecommunications/ Technology Task Force's sub-committee charged with developing the CCSESA response. The Telecommunications/Technology survey recently distributed to COEs by the Task Force (again a sub-committee effort, in this case chaired by Kathleen Barfield) will be used as a primary source to identify the state of readiness of individual COEs to participate in the network infrastructure. Ultimately this RFA could be the first step in sanctioning a common communications vehicle for assimilation and transmission of data for a variety of applications for both instructional and administrative purposes. It will be interesting to see what, if any, consortiums other than CCSESA forward RFA responses and how the statewide information server and connectivity strategy evolves.

The second issue of note is the development of a standardized account code structure pursuant to SB 94. In a March 27, 1995, CDE memo we understand that a draft account code structure exists and a discussion phase is beginning. The proposed structure (see related article elsewhere in this issue) is based on Federal guidelines. This basis, implied from the beginning as a priority consideration, makes logical sense as a starting point. Ernst and Young conducted a survey to reasonably examine implications to LEAs of converting to the standardized account code structure proposal. The budget implications for a statewide implementation have been estimated to be as high as $15 million.

The standardized account code structure project is at a pause and review point. While it is not a foregone conclusion that the structure will be implemented, nor does a timeline exist, it is certainly a strong possibility that we will have a standardized account code structure for education in California by the year 2000. At this point CDE has complied with SB 94 by submitting a proposed structure to the Legislature. If implementation is mandated and funded, indications from CDE are that it would be over a period of years. Initially a few (2 or 3) COEs would pilot the conversion and results for a year. A second phase of volunteer COEs and districts would follow in a subsequent step to validate and build on the experience of the pilots, and then the plan for conversion (or cross-reference implementation) of remaining existing systems would be fully developed.

This is vaguely reminiscent of the minimum day attendance legislation in the sense of scope and impact on data processing. However, there is much more momentum for data standardization among systems in general today (it is an aggregate "cost of doing business" issue) and there's fundamental logic behind a standardized account code structure. CDE is also obviously aware of the practical issues, costs and general trauma associated with major changes such as this (particularly acute given the plethora of systems utilized in the state) as their approach to the requirements of SB 94 demonstrate. Now is the time to take a look at the draft. It's available either on the Goldmine server (FTP or on the FCMAT BBS, and evaluate the impact on your system and give CDE feedback. CEDPA will again present an update session, from CDE staff, on the progress of the standardized account code initiative at the fall CEDPA conference.