Understand Your Local School Districts Funding

Understand Your Local School Districts Funding
Hardy L. Brown

Hardy L. Brown

It is important that all community members understand local control funding as explained by the Department of Education. It will be up to local citizens to engage local school districts to find out how much is coming into their districts? How it will be spent? Where it will be spent and who will get the funds. Please do not wait until after the decisions are made but go attend the next school board meeting and ask questions during the public comment section on the agenda. Before attending, look up the district data on student achievement, college going rate, dropout and other indicators about the student population in the district. It is up to you, the local parents and taxpayers, to help in this process. If you wait then you will have no one to blame but yourself.

California’s New School Finance System:
On July 1, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the 2013-14 state budget package and instituted a new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) that overhauls how California funds its K-12 schools.

The new funding formula replaces the old system of “revenue-limits”—general-purpose funding from the state, which was based on complex historical formulas and made up approximately 70% of a district’s budget—with a per-student base grant that varies by grade span.

The transition to the new formula begins with the 2013-14 school year, but full implementation of the new funding formula is slated to take eight years. Although the majority of school districts will receive more funding under the new formula, districts that were already receiving more funding than what they would get under LCFF are protected by a provision specifying that no district will receive less state aid than it received in 2012-13.

At full implementation, districts will receive 20% more money for high-needs students, based on unduplicated counts of low-income, English learner and foster youth students, and even more for schools with large concentrations of these populations. This additional funding for high-needs students replaces most of the state’s categorical programs—funds the state previously provided to school districts for specific purposes such as summer school programs, school safety or helping certain student populations.

Until the new LCFF is fully funded, districts will receive roughly the same amount of funding they received in 2012-13, plus an additional increasing amount during each year to bridge the gap between current funding levels and the new LCFF target levels.

Unlike categorical programs that come with restrictions on how the money can be spent, schools will have broad discretion over how they use the base grants they receive under the new system. The extra money they receive for their high-needs students must (as written in the law) “increase or improve services for unduplicated pupils in proportion to the increase in funds apportioned.”

In January 2014, the State Board of Education passed emergency regulations telling districts how much money they must spend each year on high-needs students and when that money can be used to fund schoolwide and districtwide programs.

Under the new funding formula, school districts are subject to new rules for transparency and accountability, which include creating—with input from parents and the community—and adopting a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) that lays out how the district will spend the funds and its goals for improving student outcomes according to eight priorities set by the state. Districts that fail to meet their goals and improve student outcomes will receive help through a new system of interventions.

The State Board of Education and the California Department of Education are still working out some of the details and developing new systems for identifying whether schools need help or intervention and for providing that support.

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