California is about to embark on the most comprehensive reform to its school finance system in 40 years, putting local communities in the driver’s seat and making a historic investment of more than $10 billion in high-needs students. The compromise Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) to be voted on by the state Legislature by the June 15 deadline also fairly addresses the earlier “winners-losers” concern by increasing the base grant and ensuring that all districts receive additional funding.
The new funding formula also benefits all districts by increasing local flexibility. Communities will be able to craft locally determined approaches to how they will educate all students, and develop their own specific services and support for high-needs students. In addition, if a student begins to show poor academic outcomes, educators can now respond quickly to address the situation and get that student the services needed to get back on track. Districts can also look to neighboring regions that are yielding quality results for new ideas and solutions, and tailor them to meet their local needs.
With this flexibility also comes accountability. The public will have more information on how a district is addressing key state and local priorities and how the district is budgeting to meet those expectations. If student outcomes are faltering and greater action is needed, the requirements in LCFF call upon the county and state to get engaged and make adjustments.
The big picture is that this is a huge win for kids. But rather than celebrate, our collective work must now immediately focus on ensuring that LCFF is implemented to achieve the intended results.
California is well positioned to begin that successful implementation process. LCFF has brought together an impressive variety of leaders and organizations from across the state. What started as a small core group pushing for fundamental change is now a network of more than 100 diverse organizations, including education, business, parent, civil-rights and community organizations, which have helped to get this historic reform accomplished.
Every one of these groups has somewhat different and compelling reasons for supporting LCFF. But what we have heard time and again from all of our partners are three goals: 1) a more rational and transparent finance system; 2) fostering community ownership and innovation, while maintaining and strengthening accountability; and 3) a finance system that is fundamentally equitable and invests significantly in our most vulnerable student populations.
There’s no one-time solution or quick fix to address all the challenges and issues that we face in California’s education system, and there’s much more policy and funding work to do to ensure that all of our kids reach their full potential. However, LCFF is a major improvement and a historic step in the right direction.
Children Now applauds the efforts by policymakers, statewide organizations and leaders and, most importantly, the teachers, administrators, parents and community advocates who are ready to step up to ensure that this opportunity translates into tangible, positive outcomes for all of California’s kids.
Ted Lempert is the president of Children Now, the leading nonpartisan, multi-issue research, policy development and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting children’s health and education in California, and the leader of The Children’s Movement of California.