In a nod to suburban districts that argued they would be shortchanged, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders negotiated a new version of Brown’s plan for school finance reform that will increase the base funding level for all students and lower the extra dollars for some high-needs students.

Late Monday, the Joint Legislative Budget Conference Committee, made up of lawmakers from the Senate and the Assembly, approved a compromise version of Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) with little discussion. The full Legislature is expected to take it up as part of the state budget later this week. Legislative leaders circulated only a one-page summary of the new version, along with a district-by-district breakdown that the state Department of Finance had prepared, but no other information on Monday.

The expected approval of the LCFF would hand Brown a huge victory for his top legislative initiative and lead to sweeping changes in how education money is distributed. Although the ratios in the final funding formula differ notably from what Brown had proposed, the essential framework, steering substantial dollars to low-income students and English learners and giving more authority over spending decisions to local districts, remains intact.

“The big picture is that this represents a huge win for kids who need it,” said Ted Lempert, executive director of Children Now, which has led the campaign to pass the school funding reform plan.

Brown had proposed a formula with three components: base-level funding for all of the state’s 6.2 million K-12 students, a supplement for every high-needs child – English learner, low-income student and foster child – and bonus dollars above the supplement for districts with the largest concentrations of high-needs students. Under the compromise, an extra $3 billion in base funding will assure that nearly every district, especially those with few disadvantaged students, will get back state funding that had been cut as a result of the state’s budget crisis since 2007-08 plus cost-of-living increases moving forward. In addition, about 40 districts that would not get all their funds restored under the new formula – including the Berkeley, Pleasanton, Santa Barbara and Dublin Unified Districts – will receive an “economic recovery payment” to ensure they do not lose funds under the plan.

To make room for this, the supplement for every high-needs child will be cut. However, the concentration grants in districts with especially large numbers of high-needs students, which Brown had staunchly defended as critical to his plan, will increase. How much each district will get as a result of the changes will depend on the percentage of high-needs students it has.

Brown had proposed to phase in the formula over seven years. The new plan calls for an 8-year implementation, ending in 2020-21.

Details of the compromise

Based on summaries circulated among legislators, here’s how it would work:

Base funding: Each student will get an average of $537 more, rising from the statewide average base grant of $7,103, including average grade-level add-ons for class size reduction and career technical education, to $7,640. The specific amounts will vary, depending on the grade of the student, with high school students receiving the most (about $8,410 per student). The higher base will cover most of the categorical programs that districts had in 2007-08, such as teacher training, textbooks and materials, and building maintenance. Districts with fewer high-needs students had protested that Brown’s previous proposal wouldn’t have given them enough supplemental money to make up for what they would lose in categorical dollars.

Supplemental money: Brown had proposed an additional 35 percent of base funding for every high-needs student – an average of $2,385. To accommodate the bigger base grant, the compromise plan will lower the supplemental amount  to $1,470 per student, the equivalent of an additional 20 percent. That’s a drop of $915 per child.

Concentration factor: The loss of supplemental money will be offset in those districts with the most high-needs students, because the compromise plan raises the concentration grant from a bonus 35 percent of base funding per student to 50 percent  – $3,676 per student or nearly $1,300 more than under Brown’s plan. Only districts in which 55 percent of students are high-needs will be eligible for any of this money, however; Brown had proposed a threshold of 50 percent high-needs students.

Graphic by John Osborn, EdSource.

Infographic by John C. Osborn, EdSource.

Districts with the most high-needs students will get the largest proportion of concentration money. A district with 57 percent high-needs students – barely over the qualifying threshold of 55 percent – will get only 2 percent of the concentration factor or $74 per student districtwide, while a district, like Fresno, with 92 percent high-needs students, will get a concentration grant of $1,360 per student districtwide. This is on top of the 20 percent per student supplemental grant.

The chart on this page comparing three districts’ allocations shows the different impact of the new distribution formula.

  • Because of the bigger base funding, San Ramon Valley Unified, with only 8 percent high-needs students, will see nearly $800 more in funding per student under the compromise plan than under Brown’s formula ($8,317 rising to $9,111).
  • Chico Unified, no longer qualifying for any part of the concentration grant with 52 percent high-needs students (3 percent less than the threshold), will get $377 more.
  • Fresno Unified, with 92 percent high-needs students, will get $600 more per student than under Brown’s previous formula as a result of the 50 percent concentration grant. Fresno will get $3,153 more per student than San Ramon at full funding in 2020-21.

As another graphic on this page shows, base funding will now consume 84 percent of the total dollars under the formula, compared with 80 percent under Brown’s plan; the supplemental portion will drop from 16 percent to 10 percent of dollars; the concentration grant will rise from 4 percent to 6 percent of total dollars.

A short explanation distributed to legislators on Monday said that there is very little difference between a lower base grant with a higher supplement and a higher base grant and lower supplement. That will be true for Clovis Unified, 40 percent of whose students are English learners and low-income students. Steve Ward, Clovis’s associate superintendent for administrative services, said that the district will get about the same amount under the compromise plan. But the big difference is that the rise in the base and drop in the supplemental grant will provide Clovis with more unrestricted dollars, which will be critical to restore funding for services and programs for all students, he said. “The base went up; that’s still not high enough but it’s a good start,” Ward said.

For  those districts, however, that have a sizable proportion of high-needs students but not quite enough to qualify for a concentration grant, the loss of supplemental dollars will be greater than the gain in base funding. They’ll still come out ahead, but not as much as under Brown’s original proposal.

The compromise plan did not address one of the Senate’s principal objections. As with Brown’s earlier funding formula, concentration grants will be based on the percentage of high-needs students per district. Districts like Clovis, Mount Diablo Unified and Elk Grove Unified, with high concentrations of poor students at individual school sites, but with an overall district average of high-needs students near or below 55 percent, will get no concentration dollars. In Clovis, five schools have 75 percent or more high-needs students, including an elementary school with 93 percent English learners and low-income students, Ward said. “The biggest issue we have is these invisible kids – 1 million in districts that won’t get enough money,” he said.

Brown has refused to consider funding by school, insisting that decisions on spending should be made at the district level. What wasn’t clear on Monday was final language on accountability for spending: to what extent supplemental and concentration dollars must now follow high-needs students to their schools or the degree to which trustees and superintendents will have latitude on allocating the extra money.



Filed under: Equity issues, Featured, K-12 Reform, Local Control Funding Formula, Poverty, Reporting & Analysis, School Finance · Tags: , ,

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  1. Paul Muench says:

    Now that the easy work is done we’ll get to see how much this helps with the monumental task of actually educating children.

  2. Eric Premack says:

    The huge disparities in funding for identical student populations would appear to beg a lawsuit from those on the short end of the stick.

    Specifically, if one applies the fundamental principles articulated by the California Supreme Court in the three “Serrano” decisions, one would have a very difficult time defending the huge disparities that would be introduced by the proposed LCFF. The Serrano decisions found that funding disparities stemming from differences in property tax wealth are unconstitutional.

    In the Serrano cases, the court found that the California Constitution generally requires treating citizens equally and that a funding system that provides disparate funding is subject to “strict scrutiny.”

    Specifically, the California Constitution requires that “All laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation” and that “No special privileges or immunities shall ever be granted . . . nor shall any citizen, or class of citizens, be granted privileges or immunities which, upon the same terms, shall not be granted to all citizens.”

    The LCFF as proposed would grant very special funding privileges based solely on geography. A low-income English learner who lives in one district would be funded at a huge disadvantage relative to a student who lives down the street, but happens to reside in another district.

    The Serrano court set a target of $100/pupil in 1970s dollars, perhaps $500 per pupil today. The differences that would be introduced by LCFF are orders of magnitude larger than this equalization target.

    Defending such a system against a strict scrutiny standard could prove an uphill battle because it simply doesn’t pass the giggle test and smacks of political favoritism of the sort that the equal protection provisions of the California Constitution seeks to block.

    All but two of the current supreme court justices are Republican appointees and one of the two appointed by Brown (Goodwin Liu) might have to recuse himself given his prior writings calling for an LCFF-like system. If short-funded school districts and charter schools challenged LCFF, its proponents might have a helluva time defending it.

    Given EdSource’s unusually deep background on this topic and the amount of ink devoted to LCFF, I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten much attention on this site.

    1. Manuel says:

      I Am Not A Lawyer, but literally reading that snippet of the Serrano decision would indicate that funding for Special Education should be reduced to the level “granted to all citizens.” Or maybe the spending for all neurotypical students should equal that given to the differently abled.

      No actual lawyers were consulted while forming this opinion. :-)

      (But seriously, if the Serrano decision had been in the minds of the legal eagles that work for the myriad non-profits and think tanks that deal on educational matters, why did they allow, for many years, the funding of rural districts at levels way higher than urban districts? Just go down the list in the spreadsheets the state makes available at For example, why is the average “current expense per ADA” in 2011-12 for Alpine county $29,993 while Alameda’s is $8,852? Shouldn’t that also be a violation of Serrano’s spirit? IANAL, but this seems out of whack too because it grants very special funding privileges based solely on geography.)

      1. el says:

        Usually the very high ADA numbers are for a tiny number of isolated kids. If you were to visit those schools, you’d probably see small class sizes but not a cadillac education otherwise, because they don’t benefit from any economy of scale. Their school population I’d guess from the census number is on order 200 kids and the population density is 2 people per square mile. When you only have 10 or so teachers K-12 it gets pretty tricky to provide a well-rounded curriculum. So for those kids it’s likely something of a tradeoff – individual attention good, but you’d better hope you like both the teachers at the high school because they’re the only game in town.

        1. el says:

          Shame on me for not looking it up. The entire district for Alpine County serves 88 students currently.

          1. Manuel says:

            Well, el, to be frank I knew all that. But I could not resist pointing out that the same arguments being made against providing more services for poor children, English learners and foster children to ameliorate the effects of poverty and reduce the “achievement gap” work equally well to paying more money for services provided at rural schools. Transportation, for example, is another sore topic.

            But let me continue in the devil’s advocate position: if it is that expensive to give them an education in the traditional way, why don’t these rural districts adopt an all-on-line education model? “They” want to impose it on urban children to save money. Why not on them too?

            1. el says:

              Manuel: no internet. :-)

              1. Manuel says:

                That’s easy: it would be cheaper to give them satellite access than to put them in the bus. Plus it is greener!!

                BTW, I am more confused than ever: it turns out that Alpine is a basic aid district (the latest list in; for those who don’t know about this check for details). Hence it gets no money from LCFF because it already spends more from its own property taxes than it would get from the state.

                This changes my interpretation of the “current expense of education” listed in the spreadsheets found at The costs listed there are not the costs of the state, but what the district spends per child based on its budget.

                Going back to the basic aid list, for example, it says that LAUSD gets 42% of its income from the state for 2011-12. The “current expenses” spreadsheet for 2011-12 says that LAUSD spent $10,004/student. This would mean that it got $4,202 from Sacramento. But LAUSD’s budget says its ADA was $5,265. The LCFF will give LAUSD way more than that.

                Chasing this number makes me feel like I am playing whack-a-mole and my head hurts. I can’t imagine doing this for every district to define which is “losing” money.

                No wonder School Services of California sells that “service.”

              2. el says:

                It is whack-a-mole, Manuel. So that expenditure number could include deficit spending, potential one-time expenditures (new roof costs $50 a student say), federal money, outside grants, etc.

                Currently, ADA is only a portion of the money that is sent to districts. LCFF is supposed to be wrapping much of that money together, but the devil is in the details about exactly which money is wrapped in. You can see that the ‘hold harmless’ amount might vary substantially as well depending upon what year you chose.

                PS: while satellite internet is often better than nothing, it isn’t broadband, and it’s not always usable in the foldy parts of the world. ;-)

            2. I J Blevens says:

              A web based education – small remote rural schools do not have high speed internet access. “An all-on-line education model” – would that be two tin cans and a long string?

  3. Joan Brownstein says:

    Those of us who care about schooling need to be concerned with how the “categorical” needs will be met without mandates. There was a reason for the mandates when that legislation was enacted. We also must be aware of how much new money goes into the classrooms, how wisely it is allocated and how it impacts student success.

  4. There are big wins for college and career readiness in this budget thanks to the leadership of Senator Darrell Steinberg.

    1. $250 million (one-time) for the Career Pathways Fund: This funding will support expansion of work-based learning opportunities for students. Work-based is one of the core components of the Linked Learning approach. Work-based learning prepares students for success in college and 21st century careers by connecting what they learn in the classroom to the real world. The California Career Pathways State Fund will allocate competitive grants to local educational agencies to build stronger connections between K-12 schools and businesses. In order to foster workforce and economic development in communities of high need, priority will be given to proposals serving distressed communities with high dropout rates, and which attract capital and in-kind contributions from businesses.

    2. Extra funding for California Partnership Academies, agricultural vocational education, and Regional Occupational Centers & Programs were preserved. Partnership Academies are one delivery model of the Linked Learning approach, and Regional Occupational Centers and Programs partner with districts that have Linked Learning academies or pathway programs.

    3. $1 billion (one-time) for Common Core in 2013-14, and $250 million (one-time) the following year. Linked Learning is the vehicle with the most promise to implement the challenging Common Core State Standards at the high school level, and increase student engagement and achievement. The Common Core is the “what”; Linked Learning is the “how.” Both share the same end in mind — which is students who are college and career ready.

    Given the tide against all special funding streams, this is a remarkable win!

    1. el says:

      How can a useful expansion of K-12 school to business career pathways program be done credibly with one-time money?

      Can you be more specific on point (2): does this mean that County Offices of Ed will be keeping the CTE money and CTE responsibility (and the resulting effect on the hold harmless provisions) or is this being allocated to individual districts (and incorporated in their hold harmless). Is the funding staying at the same level? Is the distribution changing from how it is distributed currently?

      Thank you, Hilary, or anyone else who can answer.

      1. Hi el – districts and employers should be able to use the one time $250 million effectively to establish partnerships that provide work-based learning opportunities for students.

        The CA Partnership Academy funding will continue to be allocated per current practice. Details about any potential change to funding ag voc ed, and ROC/ROP have not been provided by the Budget conference committee yet.

        1. el says:

          I am no doubt slow of mind, but I would welcome some examples as to how you see this money being used, and to better understand how the partnerships once established would be funded. Thanks!

    2. Manuel says:

      From my admittedly skewed perspective, this is proof of the power of the Chambers of Commerce (or at least the L.A. Area one). Last I recall, they are the ones pushing cor “career ready.” (The college part is just a genuflection at the altar of the Church of College For Everyone, despite the fact we are doing nothing whatsoever to increase the FTEs at CSU/UC but instead are herding them all to on-line courses.)

      So they got a one-time cash infusion to keep this going. What are they going to do next year? Are they expecting the business community to tax itself via generous donations or are they thinking that it won’t be killed because it means more jobs for a many people? Busybodies want to know.

      As for Linked Learning being the “how” to Common Core “what,” well, I have an equally cynical view of this. Does this mean, for example, that making “informational text” be 70% of high school English courses is evidence of this? If so, may the gods of old and new have mercy on us as there is no proof on this Blue Planet that this will have the intended consequences. We might as well stop the charade, cut our losses and go back to the good ol’ days of tracking and bring back auto, metal, electrical, and wood shop. But this time with computer-controlled equipment.

      1. John Fensterwald says:

        Manuel: Since you have mentioned this twice, Common Core’s authors say the 70 percent informational text requirement applies not to 12th grade English classes but to percentage of total reading that students should be expected to do in 12th grade, across English, science and history. Here is their explanation.

    3. el says:

      Where we really need one-time money for Common Core et al, by the way, is expansion of computer bandwidth, computer networks, electrical capacity, and to some extent for workstations in order to be able to implement the computer based exams. The key there is bandwidth and electrical capacity, which are expensive infrastructure.

      We also need additional ongoing money to staff the schools with computer techs to keep the equipment running so that teachers don’t lose whole class periods due to network outages or workstation outages, and again to be able to administer the new exams.

      As far as I know there’s no pot of money for this.

      1. Hi again – professional development for teachers on the pedagogical shifts required by the Common Core State Standards is an equally high, or higher, priority if we want our students to get the benefit.

        1. el says:

          The thing is, Hilary, that it seems to be well understood that the professional development is needed and that is funded, as it must be.

          I don’t think y’all in Sacramento know that we cannot give the computer administered exams y’all are expecting us to give… in two years. I have not seen any document discussing how it will happen or awareness at the federal or state level that it does not happen by magic.

          In our school we cannot add more computers because we don’t have the amps to drive them without upgrading the electrical. (We do have a small lab.)

          Another example: if the expectation is that we will use computers we already are using for instruction (pretending that we have enough), how will (hundreds of) those same computers be secured so that only the exam can be accessed on test day?

          (I know how to do it… but it will require real planning and some serious IT tools… as well as staff, all of which will either not be done or it will come from the instructional budget.)

          Everyone is going to need to know how to do this, and Real Soon Now. But most districts don’t have the staff/in-house knowledge to even realize there is a task ahead.

      2. Manuel says:

        El: did you know that if tablets (or any other “thin” client) are used in a school site they don’t count as “computers” in the CBEDS numbers? (It’s in their FAQ page: Since they don’t count, they are not included in the “technological status” of a district.

        What does this do to funding that depends on the number of existing computers at a district? Will such funding allow them to buy thin clients instead of full-fledged computers? And why do they need a full-blown pc (or mac!) if all it is going to be used for is assessment, textbook replacement (a big maybe), or canned lessons? A “chrome” will be good enough for that.

        But, hey, as long as someone else pays for it, this will be front-and-center on the wish-lists of the Linked Learning crowd who would tell you that you can read manuals in them and meet the 70% informational text requirement. At LAUSD, the people paying for it are those who voted for school construction bonds. Yep, you read that right. Construction bond money will be sunk into equipment that will be obsolete in five years.

        1. el says:

          I don’t see tablets as being adequate for exams – I would think a keyboard would be minimally required.

          The cost of the actual machines is actually the least of my worries.

          1. navigio says:

            Our district says it will use mobile computer labs. I expect this means a van full of computers that drives around to each school to give the assessments. No, that’s is not a joke, but yes, I laughed.

            1. el says:

              Hey, at least the van will have air conditioning. Maybe we can cajole it into driving the kids to the beach or something so they get a field trip at the end of the exam. :-)

              Ooh, maybe we could make it a real hands-on exam. The kids have to take a picture of a salmon fry with the iPad and then identify it as Chinook or Coho! I’d be on-board if we can get that.

          2. Manuel says:

            El, the cost of the thin clients is around $300 if you go with the Samsung Chrome, which is the same cost as a cheap pc and you still need a screen and that means more power. An iPad/Samsung Galaxy can be fitted with a keyboard for around $65 retail. Either way that is a sizable investment with a high likelyhood that they will be stolen.

            As for what we should worry, well, there are too many things. But if I were to list real impediments, I’d start with the necessary technology, from the student’s desktop all the way to the scoring software. If that is not in place, I would refuse to even bother going through the PD necessary to get teachers to go through the CCSS hoops. Why bother if the assessment will make a mockery of all the hard work?

            But, hey, I am just a former parent that can see, as Paul put it, the poison pills scattered about all this rush to Common Core (I just read in Time magazine that “some people” are starting to call it “Obamacore.” Unbelievable.)

        2. el says:

          Cloud-based devices as textbook replacements assume you have internet wherever you go. We are already starting a generation of children who will believe that you do homework by going to Starbucks. Woe to the underprivileged children with no Starbucks.

  5. el says:

    What ends up happening with the CTE funding?

  6. Paul says:

    The notion of “unrestricted dollars”, whether this is grounded in the text of the budget or merely reflects an old habit of thought among school district bureaucrats, set off an alarm bell as I was reading this article. Such a distinction harkens back to (state-regulated) categorical programs, undermining the local control aspect of Local Control Funding!

    Can supplemental and concentration allocations NOT be used for improvements that benefit English Learners and low-income students but are only practical when implemented on a school-wide or district-wide scale?

    On a separate note, while I’m happy that the concept is moving forward, this update makes it clear that, like everything else coming out of Sacramento, LCF is regarded as just a numbers game. It’s hard to conceive of any solution that would be less rational than the existing school funding system, but clearly, some potential solutions are better than others. What’s the point now, given the “short explanation … that there is very little difference between” one formula and another? I’m disappointed that peacock politicians and a few greedy superintendents have reduced school funding to an arbitrary exercise.

  7. Michael Kirst says:

    This is a fine analysis of a complex issue. But people concerned with internal district allocation need to look at the extensive language in the budget before reaching conclusions. This will be released soon.

  8. navigio says:

    Brown has refused to consider funding by school, insisting that decisions on spending should be made at the district level.

    That’s interesting. It’s essentially punishing school districts that create their own poverty concentrations by ‘choosing’ to segregate.

    My guess is those districts’ responses will not be to desegregate, rather to increase the level of poverty by having those lower need schools go charter or private.

    1. Manuel says:

      Well, navigio, it is clear that Gov. Brown, like Pontius Pilate, is washing his hands of the subsequent political fight.

      I suspect that you are correct: the lower need schools will go charter in order to continue receiving state funding but will reduce their overhead because they will no longer pay for encroaching programs, mainly Special Ed and services for students with low test scores, as many charters are alleged to be already doing. These students can then go to the LEA in which they are an “overlay”. The LEA’s costs will increase and everyone will live happily ever after because the staff that formerly handled the categoricals will now handle the increased load due to these “atypical” students.

      Win win, no?

  9. navigio says:

    Ok, first things first. Since the primary goal seems to be to rid the districts of that burdensome and supposedly costly district central office overhead due to reporting and staffing requirements of categoricals, I expect the first move of school districts to be to trim all that staff in their next board meeting after this is passed. I expect the state to include authorization in the bill to do this. If these things do not happen, we will know the argument about overly burdensome categoricals was just a ruse.

  10. concerned poor advocate says:

    “What wasn’t clear on Monday was final language on accountability for spending: to what extent supplemental and concentration dollars must now follow high-needs students to their schools or the degree to which trustees and superintendents will have latitude on allocating the extra money.”
    If no information was released that means they probably didn’t do it.
    Otherwise they would be taking credit for it.