The California Legislature made historic progress in June 2013, when it enacted a simpler, more rational state school funding system affecting its more than six million public school students. But the new system's potential for increasing educational opportunity and achievement will depend on whether or not it is funded adequately and implemented well.
Control Funding Formula (LCFF)
replaces California's old, complex and convoluted funding system, which had
many separate, small funding streams. The LCFF provides $7,643 for base per-pupil
funding (the number varies by grade levels), plus an adjustment to promote
reasonable class sizes in the early grades. An additional 20 percent of base
funding is provided to address the needs of students who are English learners
(EL), those eligible to receive a free or reduced-price meal (indicating poverty),
foster youth, or any combination of these factors (unduplicated count). This
is called "supplemental grant funding."
If more than 55 percent of the students in a district are in these high-need
categories, additional funding is provided for the portion over 55 percent.
The district receives 50 percent of the base amount to address this concentrated
need in order to provide funding for the programs these students require to
reach the state's learning standards. This is called "concentration grant funding."
At this time, however, the state is under funding the new formula. Full formula implementation is projected to take eight years, and in the meantime school districts will receive about the same amount of funding they received in 2012--13, plus an additional amount each year to bridge the gap between current funding levels and the new LCFF target levels.
On the plus side, as a result of the new formula, funding should be distributed more equitably among school districts. On the negative side, the formula's base funding varies by student attendance, not enrollment. This approach underfunds schools in low-wealth, high-need communities where student attendance can be affected by poorer healthcare, difficult housing situations and other factors.
Furthermore, much remains to be decided in terms of state and local implementation of the new formula. The State Board of Education (SBE) must adopt regulations that govern expenditure of supplemental and concentration grant funding. These regulations should require school districts "to increase and improve" services for targeted students and should provide authority for school districts to spend funds "school-wide" when significant populations of high-need students attend a school. Also, school districts must obtain parent and community input in developing local accountability plans and in updating them annually.
California advocacy organizations urged state leaders to enact the LCFF system,
and they plan to continue to work to "make it real." Public
Advocates and Campaign
for Quality Education broad coalitions of education advocates, such as
the and Parents & Students
for Great Schools, have testified at SBE sessions on how the new formula
should be implemented.
"We plan to continue our advocacy at the state level to ensure there are strong rules and regulations governing LCFF implementation," said John Affeldt, Managing Attorney at Public Advocates. "Most importantly, funds generated by low-income students, English learners and foster youth must be used to improve programs and services for them, and parents and the community must play a key role in local decision making."