Louis Freedberg

Louis Freedberg

Less than a year after convincing voters to approve a multi-billion dollar tax increase for the state’s schools, Gov. Jerry Brown is on the verge of accomplishing a task that few California governors have dared to take on, let alone accomplish: reforming a school finance system that researchers and education advocates have for years labelled as inequitable, irrational and excessively complex.

Recognizing that it costs more to educate children with greater needs, Brown’s plan would funnel one in five education dollars to school districts based on the number of low-income students, English learners and foster children enrolled there.

The plan would affect millions of students. One in five students – 1.2 million – are classified as English learners, and almost half – close to 3 million students – are from sufficiently low-income backgrounds to qualify for free- or reduced-priced meals.

Victory for Brown – partial or complete – now seems inevitable, according to Sacramento insiders close to the legislative process.

When Brown first introduced his plan 18 months ago, it generated almost immediate opposition from most education groups, as well as resistance in the Legislature, where lawmakers insisted that the plan go through the regular legislative process rather than as part of the budget approval process.

Exactly a year ago, a potent coalition of education organizations, representing parents, teachers, administrators and school board members, issued a joint statement opposing his plan. The coalition said it would result “in some districts receiving additional funds at the expense of others.” Some also expressed concerns that if the plan were approved it would undermine the push to convince voters to approve the tax increases called for in Proposition 30 on the November ballot.

This year, the political – and economic – environment has been completely transformed.

With his fortunes vastly improved as a result of the passage of Prop. 30 against the backdrop of an improving economy, Brown reintroduced a revised version of his plan in January, making adjustments in response to criticisms and renaming its core feature from a “weighted student funding formula”  to a “local control funding formula.”

He also made made passage of his plan the No. 1 priority on his legislative agenda, promising legislators who opposed it “the battle of their lives.”

So far, no major player on the education landscape one has come out directly in opposition to the core elements of his plan, although many are supporting it with reservations, or have proposed significant amendments to it.

Last year, the California Teachers Association opposed his plan, but this year has endorsed its goal of providing funding “on the basis of equity among all of California’s students and (providing) equal funding for students most in need,” even as it has expressed concerns about a number of its elements.

Remarkably, Brown appears to have victory in his sights despite not having completely resolved the issue of “winners and losers” under his plan. Brown has argued that there would be no winners or losers, just “relative winners,” as all districts will get more funds than they are getting now, just that some will receive more than others. But districts with a small number of high-needs students, especially in suburban areas, feel they would be disadvantaged under Brown’s plan, and that more of the projected billions of dollars in projected new school revenues in coming years should be included in the “base amount” going to all districts.

Even StudentsFirst, the organization started by former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, who has typically promoted reforms at odds with Gov. Brown’s education agenda, last week called on supporters to urge their representatives in the Legislature to back what it called Brown’s “bold plan.” “Not only is the local control funding formula more equitable, but all schools will benefit under this plan,” the organization declared.

In the Legislature, Brown seems to have won the debate over whether the plan should be taken up as budget process, as he has pushed for, rather than having it to through the regular legislative committee process. Budget committees in both the Senate and Assembly have endorsed the central thrust of his plan – giving all districts a base amount, and on top of that directing funds to high needs children – but have recommended several key modifications.

The Senate, for example, has approved legislation (SB69) that would increase the base amount every school district would receive, while eliminating the more controversial “concentration factor” that would provide extra funds to districts with more than 50 percent high-needs student enrollment. At the same time, it would increase the “supplemental amount” that would go to all districts for each of their high-needs students.

Last week the latest version of the bill was approved with an unusual amount of Republican backing. Out of 11 Republicans in the Senate, three actually voted in favor of it, two didn’t vote, and only six voted against it.

The Assembly version calls for various amendments as well, including calling for additional spending on child care and increasing the amounts going to suburban districts. Although some tough bargaining is expected, legislative insiders say they expect to be able to work out their differences, and that some form of the school financing plan is likely to be approved over the next few weeks.

For the past dozen years, the nation’s reform agenda has been focused on rewarding or punishing schools for how their students do on test scores, and more recently, on linking teacher evaluations to how well their students perform on tests and other measures. Given its prominence as home to the nation’s largest school system, California’s new funding plan has the potential to broaden the reform agenda to include a closer look at what resources – financial and otherwise – schools need to educate their most disadvantaged students.

 


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  1. Sonja Luchini 3 years ago3 years ago

    When our LAUSD Special Education Community Advisory Committee representatives were in Sacramento this last May 1st, we were emphasizing these things related specifically to Special Education funding: 1. We support LFCC (the Gov's budget), but it doesn't address inequities of special education and that should be considered down the line. 2. Help support us in providing funds of mental health services. Maintain separate allocation for Educationally Related Mental Health Services(ERMHS - as funding in flux and SELPAs … Read More

    When our LAUSD Special Education Community Advisory Committee representatives were in Sacramento this last May 1st, we were emphasizing these things related specifically to Special Education funding:
    1. We support LFCC (the Gov’s budget), but it doesn’t address inequities of special education and that should be considered down the line.
    2. Help support us in providing funds of mental health services. Maintain separate allocation for Educationally Related Mental Health Services(ERMHS – as funding in flux and SELPAs still trying to figure out what is actually needed as more students are being served under this model – especially in LAUSD as we provide Mental Health Clinics in several high schools for family access).
    3. We seek stable funding for programs Special Education Local Planning Areas(SELPAs) are now responsible for (ERMHS transfer from AB 3632)
    4. Keep ERMHS separate from AB 602
    5. We seek stable funding to sustain the level of services that meet student needs.
    6. We are receiving less funding, but Special Education costs have risen. ADA has dropped, (465 per pupil in LAUSD but other SELPAs have up to 750 per pupil) yet the needs of services continue to increase & we have not secured additional funds for these rising costs.
    7. COLA and equalization consideration would be welcome, but simplifying Special Education services could end up detrimental to our children.
    8. Charters taking more ADA away from Special Education, we are receiving less funding, but Special Education costs keep going up. ADA has dropped in regular public schools, yet the needs of services continue to increase (as charters are not taking moderate/severely disabled) & we have not secured additional funds for these rising costs.
    9.Charters not taking moderate/severe students. What do you propose we do?
    10. Taking funds specifically away from Sped will not help our children.
    11. Workability grants have yielded excellent documented outcomes. Merging two existing Workability grants is acceptable but putting it into the base is not. This program should be replicated and new revenues are needed. Funding needs to be allocated to schools with secondary students with disabilities, not each and every LEA in general. Watering down existing revenue will water down results.
    12. 20 billion cut from education in CA in last 5-7 years
    13. LCFF funding decisions being placed on districts when they’re still trying to figure out cuts from 2007-8 recession.
    13. Gov wants accountability local (removing SELPA Director from smaller districts that share services and give decisions to each separate school board), but it only works IF PARENTS HAVE A VOICE. (can we trust School Boards to fulfill Special Education state compliance obligations? Many (in other smaller districts) not only don’t understand the Ed Code, but are uninformed about Special Education Federal and State mandated requirements in order to receive funding. Suggested target date for LCFF is July 2014.
    15. School safety HUGE issue nationally – we need to push mental health as it relates to students and community.

    The budget does not address special education, but we want our legislators to understand that it is complicated and difficult to do right. Take the time needed to make sure our students with disabilities receive the assistance and support they are entitled to under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

    The budget affects students negatively in other ways outside of the classroom as well. The Lanterman Act seems to be put into a death spiral. We’ve asked the Governor to please withdraw the Trailer Bill Language contained in the Department of Developmental Services Budget Item that would forbid reimbursement by Regional Centers for deductibles and severely limit their ability to payco-pays/coinsurance for critical intervention services for persons
    with developmental disabilities, including autism. We were begging to save the Lanterman Act and not undermine Senator Steinberg’s
    SB 946, but efforts failed in the Budget Conference Committee yesterday. It will be more difficult for families to receive help outside the school system and we’re already facing a funding deficit in special education services now.

    Our children are at risk, but because it is hard, it is complicated…our legislators are kicking the can down the road. Our children can’t wait – they only have one shot at these services that will determine whether they will lead a productive life in their community (with or without support) or whether we’ll pay for 24/7 institutional care, which is way more expensive in the long run.

  2. Mr. B 3 years ago3 years ago

    Who were the original architects of LCFF? Seems like there isn't enough talk about how excited corporate ed. reformers are about these changes. I found an interesting hearing from Ohio where "reformers" such as a Students First and the American Enterprise Institute are pushing for local control. Is this going to make it easier to privatize our kids' education? The "local control" accountability measure appear to give all of the power … Read More

    Who were the original architects of LCFF? Seems like there isn’t enough talk about how excited corporate ed. reformers are about these changes. I found an interesting hearing from Ohio where “reformers” such as a Students First and the American Enterprise Institute are pushing for local control. Is this going to make it easier to privatize our kids’ education? The “local control” accountability measure appear to give all of the power to the County superintendents. Am I wrong to think that they may be pressured to close schools and privatize them? Here is the link I referenced:
    http://www.hannah.com/DesktopDefaultPublic.aspx?type=hns&id=191354

  3. Jerry Heverly 3 years ago3 years ago

    (Forgive me if this is a repost. I sent one comment but it seemed to have disappeared into the ether.) My own district (which would be a big winner under LCFF) surprisingly is very dubious about the new money for two main reasons. First they are angry about losing the money "owed" to the district from past underfunding during the recession. They're also upset that there is no COLA under LCFF. Second, they feel that the extra money … Read More

    (Forgive me if this is a repost. I sent one comment but it seemed to have disappeared into the ether.)
    My own district (which would be a big winner under LCFF) surprisingly is very dubious about the new money for two main reasons.
    First they are angry about losing the money “owed” to the district from past underfunding during the recession. They’re also upset that there is no COLA under LCFF.
    Second, they feel that the extra money (35%?) will come with so many strings attached that it won’t really allow them to restore items sacrificed over the past few years. They think the accountability provisions agreed to by the Governor will hand significant control of district finances to the county office of education.
    There seems to be real confusion among administrators about how the extra money could be spent:
    Would every dollar need to be accounted for with the county so that it all would only benefit the three target groups? (EL’s, poor students, and foster youth) That seems to be the prevailing assumption.
    Or would it simply be that the district would need to demonstrate that it is improving scores among these groups (thus allowing the money to be spend any way the district desires so long as scores go up)?
    And there was an allusion in a previous report about monetary penalties to districts whose scores didn’t rise. I wonder if this is in the Senate or Assembly proposals?

  4. Richard ONeill 3 years ago3 years ago

    Brown's wsf/lcff will have to pass the equity test in the suburbs. When suburbanites do the math they'll perceive that they are in fact getting less, just when the Federal ACA starts to dig into every LEA's budget. Moreover, this will all come to pass before folks are convinced we are in the era of the fat kine( cf Brown's Exodus reference). Voters will need to understand that the additional dough going … Read More

    Brown’s wsf/lcff will have to pass the equity test in the suburbs. When suburbanites do the math they’ll perceive that they are in fact getting less, just when the Federal ACA starts to dig into every LEA’s budget. Moreover, this will all come to pass before folks are convinced we are in the era of the fat kine( cf Brown’s Exodus reference). Voters will need to understand that the additional dough going into struggling schools will be effectively spent, and suburban schools,crticially, will need to be allowed to fully compete for the students who carry greater ADA allocations. If big bad LAUSD or its ilk exerts a monopoly on these students then the whole point is moot. The genius of WSF is that it makes schools compete programmatically for struggling kids. California ed politics is in the main dominated by the urban districts, so we will have to be both creative and effective( these are not native virtues) if we are to keep the suburbs from rebellion. Brown should be advised to keep reminding Californians that other people’s children are in fact our children as he mounts a reform of, it bears stating, Pharonic proportions. Thanks.

  5. LindaOakland 3 years ago3 years ago

    What about students with disabilities?
    What about repealing Prop 13 to remove some underlying inequities?

    Replies

    • CarolineSF 3 years ago3 years ago

      I think it's safe to say it's not realistic to talk about *repealing* Prop. 13. The story about elders getting kicked out of their homes en masse before that because of rising property taxes has become too entrenched (even though as someone who was an informed California voter at the time I know that's not true; admittedly, the taxes were burdensome, not that anyone complained about being showered with vast, unprecedented increases in home equity). But … Read More

      I think it’s safe to say it’s not realistic to talk about *repealing* Prop. 13. The story about elders getting kicked out of their homes en masse before that because of rising property taxes has become too entrenched (even though as someone who was an informed California voter at the time I know that’s not true; admittedly, the taxes were burdensome, not that anyone complained about being showered with vast, unprecedented increases in home equity).

      But it’s not that unrealistic to dismantle parts of it. That already happened with the supermajority requirement for school board measures, cut to 55 percent by Prop. 39 in 2000. A “split roll,” under which Prop. 13 no longer applies to corporate property taxes, is the most likely feasible remedy, though it remains to be seen how feasible. Here’s a history of Prop. 13 that will be very illuminating to most people interested enough to read it. http://democracyctr.org/how-big-corporations-became-proposition-13s-biggest-winners/

      • Paul 3 years ago3 years ago

        Splitting the property tax roll is an idea that bleeding-heart liberals (as opposed to intelligent/sincere liberals) have advocated for some time. Recently, they figured out that rental property is commercial property, and that property tax increases stemming from a split roll would be passed on to tenants. The proposals being discussed this year add an important qualification: increases in commercial NON-RESIDENTIAL property taxes would no longer be capped. That change makes the idea less distasteful … Read More

        Splitting the property tax roll is an idea that bleeding-heart liberals (as opposed to intelligent/sincere liberals) have advocated for some time. Recently, they figured out that rental property is commercial property, and that property tax increases stemming from a split roll would be passed on to tenants. The proposals being discussed this year add an important qualification: increases in commercial NON-RESIDENTIAL property taxes would no longer be capped. That change makes the idea less distasteful to me.

        Still, voters aren’t economists, and they seem to forget that individuals are indirectly responsible for all commercial taxes. We can pay higher taxes directly, or pay higher prices so that businesses can pay higher taxes on our behalf.

        As usual, Californians want something for nothing!

        P.S.: Conservatives have their own ideological block about Proposition 13. Prop. 13 amounts to “property tax control” for property owners, clamping increases in property taxes at an arbitrary 2% per year, which is always well below the annual increase in real estate values in California. The same people who support Prop. 13 tend to oppose local rent control ordinances, which cap rent increases for tenants at a VARIABLE, non-arbitrary, indexed-to-CPI rate.

  6. CarolineSF 3 years ago3 years ago

    Michelle Rhee (founder/leader of StudentsFirst) has made presentations specifically making the case that schools DON’T need more money.

    Replies

    • navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

      SF policy agenda: "While per-pupil funding for public education in the United States has more than doubled over the past 40 years (accounting for inflation), the most recent international data shows that U.S. students are lagging far behind students in other industrialized nations. U.S. students scored “below average” in math on the PISA examination, placing the U.S. 25th out of the 34 OECD participant nations. Despite this significant increase in spending, student achievement in the U.S. … Read More

      SF policy agenda:

      While per-pupil funding for public education in the United States has more than doubled over the past 40 years (accounting for inflation), the most recent international data shows that U.S. students are lagging far behind students in other industrialized nations. U.S. students scored “below average” in math on the PISA examination, placing the U.S. 25th out of the 34 OECD participant nations. Despite this significant increase in spending, student achievement in the U.S. has remained relatively flat.
      In today’s challenging fiscal climate, states must consider the possibility that school districts long accustomed to budget growth must now learn to reallocate the resources they already have

      Provide equal funding for all public school students, regardless of the school they attend, as long as the schools prove results over time.

      • el 3 years ago3 years ago

        Of course, over that same time frame, the cost of housing in California increased by a factor of 10, as did health insurance. The 40 years number is cherry-picked, by the way: it covers a significant change of which kids are educated and what we expect. IE, at the beginning of that period, public schools were not expected nor required to take inconveniently disabled (or in some cases, inconveniently brown) students. It wasn't until the mid … Read More

        Of course, over that same time frame, the cost of housing in California increased by a factor of 10, as did health insurance.

        The 40 years number is cherry-picked, by the way: it covers a significant change of which kids are educated and what we expect. IE, at the beginning of that period, public schools were not expected nor required to take inconveniently disabled (or in some cases, inconveniently brown) students. It wasn’t until the mid 70’s that the law changed to reflect that every single child is entitled to a free and appropriate public education, and those kids are now part of expenditures and part of scores.

        In addition, kids in my cohort, if they graduated from high school, did not have to complete algebra to do so. That’s just one of many changes of increased expectations for students over that period. No one minded if some kids were “left behind” – they would go to work in the factory or building houses and that was all fine with everyone.

        (I know navigio is not advocating this position, just supporting him in the wrongness of it as it applies to our schools today.)

        • Educator 3 years ago3 years ago

          I've also read that when we compare U.S. to other countries, they use data based on averages. When one disaggregates, the U.S. doesn't do so bad. Another point -- do these international tests really mean anything? If it's in fact true that our students score worse off on these international tests for years...decades...why is the U.S. still the international leader on most of everything? Why hasn't Finland or Singapore or Shanghai taken over? Read More

          I’ve also read that when we compare U.S. to other countries, they use data based on averages. When one disaggregates, the U.S. doesn’t do so bad.

          Another point — do these international tests really mean anything? If it’s in fact true that our students score worse off on these international tests for years…decades…why is the U.S. still the international leader on most of everything? Why hasn’t Finland or Singapore or Shanghai taken over?

      • Educator 3 years ago3 years ago

        It’s hard to interpret intent, but here’s my take: Students First needs some public relations wins after their ongoing Rhee debacle. I think (emphasize think) that policy makers are taking her less seriously now.

        http://takingnote.learningmatters.tv/?p=6232

    • Paul Muench 3 years ago3 years ago

      Education has so many moving parts I agree we have to make progress on providing all necessary resources even if they are not sufficient. Expecting everything to show up all at once is expecting too much of ourselves.

      And as long as one of the legislative branches budget passes, I’m happy to declare Governor Brown the victor 🙂

  7. navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

    I am confused why the legislatures move are interpreted as being akin to 'victory' for brown. Those proposals wont take effect this year, and in some cases differ significantly from brown's proposal. 'Victory' for brown seems only possible if the legislature approves his budget with the LCFF trailer so that it takes place this upcoming school year. I have to admit the support by SF surprised me. I have never seen them come down on an … Read More

    I am confused why the legislatures move are interpreted as being akin to ‘victory’ for brown. Those proposals wont take effect this year, and in some cases differ significantly from brown’s proposal. ‘Victory’ for brown seems only possible if the legislature approves his budget with the LCFF trailer so that it takes place this upcoming school year.

    I have to admit the support by SF surprised me. I have never seen them come down on an item looking for more funding since one of the foundations of their policy agenda is that increased money does not improve education. This is perhaps a way to buy some acceptance within the CA legislature given the other things they have pushed here have been defeated.

    Lastly, the statement, “Brown has argued that there would be no winners or losers, just “relative winners,” as all districts will get more funds than they are getting now, just that some will receive more than others.” is curious, if not entirely wrong. In fact, prop 30 was supposed to increase education spending more than LCFF will, and would not have done away with categoricals in the process. Irrespective of whether LCFF is actually a good thing, it appears we have been duped yet again into accepting reduced commitment to our schools.

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