Civil rights groups dispute memo to State Board on new funding formula

Money-photoIn a sign of a skirmish to come, leaders of 30 civil rights and nonprofit groups representing disadvantaged children are disputing a memo to the State Board of Education characterizing the purpose of the Local Control Funding Formula.

In a letter written Friday to State Board President Michael Kirst and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, the organizations issued essentially a shot over the bow in what is expected to be a contentious, closely watched debate over how new money that the formula allocates for low-income children, foster youth and English learners should be used. The organizations are worried that districts will be given too much latitude to spend new money as they choose. Instead, the letter said, the “fundamental civil rights and equity principles at the heart of the Local Control Funding Formula” should “remain front and center.”

The law creating the funding formula says districts should spend the extra money “proportionally,” based on the numbers of high-needs students enrolled, to increase programs and services for those students. The law also shifts authority for deciding how to spend education funding to local districts and removes most restrictions that Sacramento had imposed on the money.

The challenge will be “to balance maximum flexibility with maximum accountability,” the staff of the State Board acknowledged in a two-page memo that caught the advocates’ attention.

The memo was part of a larger update by staff of the State Board and the Department of Education prepared for the board’s meeting on Wednesday. The memo summarizes the concepts behind and important questions on the Local Control Funding Formula for the State Board to consider as it creates regulations. What upset the advocates was a short section summing up the intent of the law that cited two quotations by Gov. Jerry Brown, who authored the funding legislation, on local control.

One was from his news release when he signed the law; the other, from his State of the State speech, was his lengthy definition of the “principle of subsidiarity,” which Brown has often cited to explain the shift of government control from the state to local authorities most familiar with ground-level problems. It is, Brown said, “the idea that a central authority should only perform those tasks which cannot be performed at a more immediate or local level.”

What’s missing, the advocates’ letter says, are Brown’s quotes in which he says the purpose of the formula is to address funding inequities. The letter supplies several examples, including one from Brown’s budget summary.

This distinction is important because, when faced with two seemingly conflicting values, policy makers will decide by turning to the intent of the legislation, and the intent described in the memo is not balanced, said John Affeldt, managing attorney for Public Advocates, which took the lead in writing the advocates’ letter.

“This very short and one-sided view of the intent ignores the importance of equity,” Affeldt said. “I was dismayed to see the staff thinking about this narrowly and hope the board is not.” The groups signing the letter include two chapters of the ACLU, Californians for Justice, Education Trust-West, the California Association for Bilingual Education and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

How the State Board defines proportional spending and the limits of flexibility will have significant practical effects for districts, particularly in the next few years as they restore programs that have been cut since the recession and negotiate with teachers to restore pay increases. High-needs students – low-income children, foster youth and English learners – will generate an extra 20 percent funding per student, and more for districts in which they are highly concentrated. If the State Board grants a lot of latitude over spending decisions, then school boards could spend the extra money on districtwide programs, such as adding counselors to every school or granting training money to all teachers. If the State Board says that the extra money must be spent primarily on services for high-needs students, then pay incentives and larger staffs might be concentrated in schools with those children.

A lot will ride on the State Board’s word choice. By the end of January, the board must pass regulations spelling out how how the money under the formula can be used.

In an email on Tuesday, Judy Cias, chief counsel for the State Board, wrote that, in preparing the update, the staff selected “a broad representation of comments that the governor made over the six-month period from State of the State to the bill signing.”

“While I understand the sensitivity around this item,” Cias wrote, the focus of the Board’s discussion will be on the guiding principles and preliminary themes from information based on testimony and comments gathered at forums and meetings (see this section of the staff memo). The civil rights groups have participated in those gatherings, she observed.

The State Board’s discussion is item six on the agenda and will be webcast live.

John Fensterwald covers state education policy. Contact him or follow him @jfenster.

Filed under: Local Control Funding Formula, State Board

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13 Responses to “Civil rights groups dispute memo to State Board on new funding formula”

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  1. Manuel on Sep 9, 2013 at 3:11 pm09/9/2013 3:11 pm

    • 000

    El, if you look at this file:

    2012-13 Adjusted Local Control Funding Formula Categorical State Aid – Education Code Sections 2575(h) and 42238.03(e)(2)(A)

    (available here) you’ll see how the CDE (likely with help from the Department of Finance, but I don’t really know) “rolled the funds” into the Advance Apportionment. I don’t believe all the funds that go to districts from the state are accounted for (I know they are not for LAUSD).

    And if you want to know when the checks will be sent, take a look at the Payment Schedule Summary – LEA detail. Interesting, no?

    But, yeah, if they are going to allocate money for the Supplemental and Concentration grants why aren’t some of these funds earmarked for them? My best guess is they don’t have the money and the two grants were put in there for political reasons. I hope I am wrong, but that’s what it looks like to me.

  2. Sergio Cuellar on Sep 9, 2013 at 10:03 am09/9/2013 10:03 am

    • 000

    Monies received this year weather Advanced or Principle are part of LCFF Funding. In a letter sent by the Superintendent and State Board President Kirst lays out a more detailed mandate as to how funding should be used. Along with the SB 97 language that lays out how monies should be spent. Districts need to start using the money how it was intended. We cant leave out the equity that is mandated in the new LAW!


    • Manuel on Sep 9, 2013 at 11:39 am09/9/2013 11:39 am

      • 000

      Mr. Cuellar, nothing in the letter you reference (dated August 7, 2013) addresses the use of Supplemental and Concentration grants. In fact, they are not even mentioned.

      Not surprising, none of the “eight state priorities” refer to the manner on which these particular grants must be handled. SB91 may have language on how they should be spent but it is a single sentence, if I recall correctly.

      I’d love to agree with you on this, but the letters that have gone to the districts are extremely vague on this subject. Perhaps if the orgs that signed the letter demanding that “money follow the child” had concentrated on getting explicit acknowledgement of where the monies that fund the Supplemental and Concentration grants are, we would be in agreement. The fact is that I can’t find any evidence that these two grants will be funded for 2013-14 while keeping the “base” grant at the same level as 2012-13, regardless of what, in your opinion, the Ed Code says.

      But this could be to my inability to not identify any school revenue streams that are not controlled by the CDE, which was no longer to happen under LCFF’s much vaunted “simplification.”

      Again, do you have any evidence that the CDE is indeed sending funds to the districts and labeling them as being the Supplemental and/or Concentration grants? If you don’t, I’m afraid you are throwing pedradas a la luna. YMMV.

      • Manuel on Sep 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm09/9/2013 12:43 pm

        • 000

        Forgot to add: I think you need to start talking to Perez’ staff. They are the ones who steered SB 91 and put that language there. And they are the ones who must have known there was not enough money in the budget to even cover the advertised “base grant.” Of course, they also put language in there (thanks, John!) to give them a way out when the money is not there. I have not re-read SB 91/Ed Code to see if they gave themselves a way out for not funding the Supplemental and Concentration grants. by now, though, I would not be surprised if they did. It’s all politics, after all.

    • el on Sep 9, 2013 at 12:47 pm09/9/2013 12:47 pm

      • 000

      The letter is nice but our district still doesn’t know how much we are getting. You can’t revise the budget without knowing that amount. There are quite a few details regarding what funds are rolled into LCFF and what are not, and how exactly hold-harmless is implemented that will matter. Reality is that if there is new money for any district, most will probably not be able to spend it until next school year, when the amount is concrete and there has been time to think through the best targets for it and to hire the right people to carry it out.

      We would say that we already work in line with those priorities. We think our priorities are very child-focused and very appropriate for the needs of all students. There’s no magic in the list, of oh, it never occurred to us to think about attendance or chronic absenteeism.

      If it happens that after all the details of LCFF go through that our district has additional money, my district will have no problem thinking of valuable ways to spend it. But, spending it before it arrives is not such a good idea after so many years of deficit spending, and our year is already in session. YMMV.

  3. Manuel on Sep 4, 2013 at 10:52 am09/4/2013 10:52 am

    • 000

    From what I have seen in the published budgets, both at the state and local level, the extra money is not even there because the current funding does not even cover the 2012-13 levels.

    I understand the need to put a shot across the bow of the SBoE, but to me it is a fight over resources that have not been made available and the public is not being told that. I wonder if any of these organizations are even aware of this.

    OTOH, several of these organizations are known to be “water-carriers” for those who wish to deregulate public education and end it like we know it. Their involvement in this call for “equity” seems to me nothing more than a smoke screen.


    • Sergio Cuellar on Sep 4, 2013 at 12:17 pm09/4/2013 12:17 pm

      • 000

      California School Districts have received the money, and have done so without regulations. LCFF is being implemented starting this current school year 2013-2014. It is imperative to the implementation that school districts get regulations and are held accountable for the intent of the law which under the finance formula that states that districts must use Supplemental and Concentration grants to benefit and improve programs and services for EL, Low-Income, and Foster Care students.

      To have the state board leave out this piece in the summary for todays state board meeting is disturbing and plays right into the hands of the district officials who want to game the formula to leaver equity out and sell that giving full flexibility to districts is the best move.

      • navigio on Sep 4, 2013 at 1:37 pm09/4/2013 1:37 pm

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        Personally, I think it was a mistake to use the term equity. LCFF starts with ‘local control’. Period. No mention of equity in that acronym. In addition, some of the mention of equity has nothing to do with disadvantaged students, rather with making funding more consistent. Finally, using the term ‘equity’ to mean giving some districts more money that others is misleading (irrespective of whether that is the right thing to do). I tend to agree with the smokescreen..

      • el on Sep 4, 2013 at 1:45 pm09/4/2013 1:45 pm

        • 000

        Fun fact: I don’t believe we have actually seen any LCFF cash yet, and as of our district’s last budget adoption, we didn’t know how much we would get. General strategy was to assume we’d have the same money as last year. Still a work in progress, here in the trenches.

        • Manuel on Sep 4, 2013 at 5:02 pm09/4/2013 5:02 pm

          • 000

          El, according to Torlakson’s letter dated July 19, the funds allocated for your district (and the first two checks have already been sent) are not technically LCFF money because there are no SBoE regulations in place yet. What you are getting is an “Advanced Apportionment” which should allow your district to pay its bills. This is how the letter puts it:

          While the new LCFF is effective July 1, 2013, the CDE has not yet incorporated many of the LCFF provisions into its apportionment systems. Consequently, this Advance includes only minimal changes enacted by the 2013 Budget Act and implementing legislation, including AB 97. Because this apportionment is merely a means to begin allocating funds in accordance with EC Section 41330, it should not be used for budget purposes. Actual final funding under the new LCFF formulas will differ from this Advance. The CDE intends to calculate LEA funding using the new LCFF formula in the 2013–14 P-2 apportionment, which will be certified on or before July 2, 2014.

          The money you are supposed to get is there already (but it may not be all that you were expecting either!). You are nevertheless correct: that is not LCFF money until the regulations come down and allow you to justify writing a budget. You may then ask for forgiveness for not spending the money right or to be allowed to carry the money forward if you did not spend it all.

          Good luck out there in the trenches!

      • Manuel on Sep 4, 2013 at 4:51 pm09/4/2013 4:51 pm

        • 000

        Mr. Cuellar, you say the “districts have received the money.” Are you perhaps referring to the “Advance Apportionment” that is described in this CDE web page?

        If so, I’d like to point out that the “Total Principal Apportionment” given in the pasummary2013adv.xls Excel file is not even close to the 2012-13 state costs that, for example, LAUSD received, as “promised” by the “compromise.” It is short by nearly $1 billion.

        Incidentally, other Excel files available at this web page indicate that this amount of money was arrived at by following the “old funding” formula but, of course, the districts are not required to spend it according to the old requirements. No mention whatsoever is made of Supplemental and Concentration grants.

        All this makes me think that all the promises made during the lobbying to get LCFF approved by the Legislature were simply empty promises. I really want to know where your information is coming from and why it does not coincide with what the CDE has in its web page.

    • Skeptic on Sep 4, 2013 at 11:03 pm09/4/2013 11:03 pm

      • 000

      A good test for their call for “equity” will be to see if they advocate for identical restrictions/oversight over ALL types of schools receiving public monies.

  4. Paul Muench on Sep 3, 2013 at 9:28 pm09/3/2013 9:28 pm

    • 000

    If teachers’ pay is matched to student funding allocation by school then at least it seems the surface problem has a chance of being resolved. Would teachers want such a solution?

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