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Santa Cruz County Office of Education: Building Confidence through Clarity
Santa Cruz County Grand Jury
There are nearly 40,000 K-12 students enrolled in public schools in Santa Cruz County. They attend school in ten diverse local school districts, ranging in enrollment from 110 to nearly 20,000. All of these districts are served by the Santa Cruz County Office of Education (SCCOE), which offers an impressive array of services. Two examples that stand out are the mental health services provided by the Student Support Services Department and the Regional Occupational Program (ROP) which provides students with the academics and job skills to find meaningful employment. When the Grand Jury learned that SCCOE had a large budget surplus during times of fiscal restraint, we investigated how education in Santa Cruz County is funded, how the SCCOE surplus was amassed, what services SCCOE provides to local school districts, and how funds are disbursed from the county level to individual districts. This investigation provides insights into educational funding at the state and local levels, the relationship between SCCOE and local districts, and the services provided by the county office. Although SCCOE offers financial support to every district in the county, it lacks policies for maintaining reserves beyond those required by the state and for allocating excess funds. Furthermore, SCCOE is not guided by well-defined procedures and policies for the application, disbursement, and utilization of financial support to local school districts.

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