Opinion > Commentary

Local Control Funding Formula: Is there a new rulebook?


Samantha Tran

Samantha Tran

Now that the state’s new system of funding schools has been signed into law, educators and community groups are trying to get their bearings. At an event recently a colleague from a county office of education said that she was being inundated by calls from the field “wanting to know what the new rulebook is” for transitioning to the new system and ensuring successful implementation.

The old rulebook that governed how schools spent their money, which was both stifling and (let’s be honest) comforting at times, has been replaced by the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which now offers an opportunity for communities to take the reins to implement locally tailored approaches, while being held accountable for student outcomes.

Our economy and global society now requires its workers to effectively discern, communicate, create and have the ability to solve challenging problems. To foster these habits of mind among students, the environments in which they learn must embody these same traits.

Yes, the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, the Department of Finance and even the State Controller’s Office will be developing and disseminating rules and guidelines on the implementation of the new funding system. In fact, that process is beginning now. And the state and county offices of education will retain an important role around oversight, but each community will have the liberty and responsibility to map their own course of action.

Thus schools and districts will be held accountable for meeting the state’s priorities, such as access to credentialed teachers, implementation of the new Common Core standards, and improving student achievement. But they get to decide which strategies to use to reach those goals: for example, summer learning programs, collaboration time for teachers to reflect on student data and work, early childhood education programs or any number of other possible approaches.

Given this flexibility, instead of a one-size-fits-all rulebook, we need a structure that supports inquiry so that educators and community leaders can reflect on and continuously improve local practice. The challenging, and hopefully invigorating work to develop and implement a coherent, effective, locally based educational strategy under the new funding system will begin in earnest in the coming weeks and months. Here are some initial questions for districts and communities to consider as they begin this important work.

Vision and priorities

The Local Control and Accountability Plans required under the new funding system ask districts (in consultation with the community) to articulate a vision and priorities for improving student outcomes:

  • What is the vision (of teachers, principals, district officials and community leaders) for educating students? How do state and local priorities, under the local accountability plan, fit into that vision?
  • What data should be reviewed to assess progress on each of the state and local priority areas?
  • What is the evidence that particular approaches will have a measurable, positive impact on the state and local priorities that have been identified?
  • What strategies could be put into place to ensure district and school site goals are aligned?

 

Making community-wide commitments

LCFF represents an opportunity to further build and strengthen commitments between districts and the community on behalf of students.

  • Who are the local leaders that can help be a voice for students and represent diverse perspectives, including youth, parents, educators, business leaders, underserved populations, faith-based communities, elected officials, civic and community organizations and the media?
  • What commitments are these leaders willing to make to help support student success and what support do they need to allow them to effectively engage?
  • What type of commitments is the district willing to make to maintain and strengthen these partnerships on behalf of student success (e.g., holding regular forums, ensuring materials are presented in a way that supports effective community engagement, identifying staff liaisons)?

 

Assessing resources

Coming off of years of dramatic cuts in public education, it is important to begin rebuilding. Making strategic, transparent investments with the resources under the new finance system will be critical to building and maintaining public trust and restoring and improving services and infrastructure:

  • Do the district’s existing expenditures align with the state priorities, and any local priorities, outlined in the local accountability plan? How will one-time Common Core funding for technology, professional development and instructional materials be spent? How do these investments align with the local accountability plan?
  • Once the State Budget proposal for 2014-15 is released in January 2014, what additional resources does the district expect to receive from the state in the form of base funding for all students and additional supplemental and concentration dollars generated by low-income students, English learners and foster youth?
  • What portion of the funding that would be received for the 2014-15 budget year is already obligated (e.g., reserve levels, collective bargaining agreements, addressing structural deficits, restricted routine maintenance)? This is important to know so it is clear how much money is actually available for other purposes.
  • What is the cost for providing new, or augmenting existing, programs, services and strategies? Which student populations will benefit from these approaches?

 

Process for community engagement

The new funding system requires districts to engage the community in the creation of their local accountability plans, which can help support effective planning and partnerships between districts and community leaders.

  • What process will be put in place to solicit feedback from community members at the district and individual school site levels?
  • What is the timeline for this process?

A number of statewide, regional and local partners will be on the cutting edge developing more comprehensive tools and tailored technical assistance to support local communities, and leaders within communities will be doing the critical work to shape and implement practices that benefit kids. By thinking through and addressing these questions and others together, we have the opportunity to educate California’s students in ways that are more responsive and effective in meeting their needs.

•••

Samantha Tran is a Senior Director of Education Policy for 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.

Filed under: Commentary, Local Control Funding Formula

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5 Responses to “Local Control Funding Formula: Is there a new rulebook?”

  1. navigio said

    on July 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    I’ll say it again. LCFF should free up a bunch of staff who historically did nothing but service those ‘burdensome’ categorical requirements. If anything, LCFF will free up even more money when we lay those people off…. right?

    Anyway, to the point of what will change with accountability, it will be nothing. Most of this stuff is already required, and for the most part, it does not currently happen the way its supposed to. The new process is even more unrealistic. In the old one, the board did not have to do any work, it just rubber-stamped school site plans, usually without even reading them. The idea that BoE members have additional free time to spend on this that they to date have been ‘saving’, is misguided.

    The only consolation is that high-poverty districts will get more money, and it will be pretty difficult for districts to completely avoid any of that getting to at least some of their students. We should not treat LCFF as an end-all, be all, perfect solution. Even in theory, but especially in implementation.

    • Manuel replied

      on August 1, 2013 at 11:26 am

      How heartless of you, navigio, to want to put all those good people on the street. What are you? A member of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association? Shame on you!

      ;-)

      • navigio replied

        on August 1, 2013 at 11:09 pm

        Wait, there’s an association that’s dedicated to paying taxes? Where do I sign up?!

        Funny, I may be heartless, but it’s not my own doing. It was those who were arguing for LCFF that used this as a justification. I thought they were serious. Silly me.

  2. Paul Muench said

    on July 31, 2013 at 6:13 am

    I’m wondering what will change with school boards. Will there be more community involvememt? Botth with the community participating in more school board functions and with school boards reaching out to the community.

    • Manuel replied

      on July 31, 2013 at 9:49 am

      That may be possible in “smaller” districts but the problems that LAUSD will have with this are likely be reproduced elsewhere: the gatekeeper is not the Board, it is the staff. Staff, from the Superintendent all the way to the administrative assistant that mans the front desk at a school site, are the ones who interact with the public. The public has to go through them to bring about change that the Board can then approve.

      For instance, if the staff does not solve a problem, the Board would have to be approached to put it in the agenda. An agenda item will have to be presented at one meeting before it can be fully heard at the next meeting. Resolution might then require the staff to look at the problem and come back at the next meeting with a solution. By the time the problem is “solved”, it is likely that several months have passed.

      Admittedly, this is a worst case scenario. But, it can be worse. For example, the Title I, Part A, defunding of schools was presented to the Board as a done deal and schools were not left with a reasonable way of appealing the process. LAUSD is into year two of this and the Superintendent is sticking to his guns and he won’t entertain criticism of their allocation method.

      What will happen when parents say that not enough resources are being sent to their schools or that what little is sent is not spent “properly?” Yes, they have to go through the School Site Council, but then to escalate it they have to go through the principal, then the Director of principals (or whatever they are called these days), and so on up the chain. Yes, this can be short-circuited by going directly to the Board, but it is almost a full-time job to follow and advocate.

      Given that LAUSD’s current Supe did similar behind-close-doors deals (I read that it was in regards to Special Ed students, but I could be wrong) while at Santa Monica-Malibu USD, I would not be surprised if every single district in California engages in similar delay and deflect tactics when dealing with pesky issues created by the availability of new funding.

      Short of a lawsuit, how can parents compel a recalcitrant staff and board to do the right thing? Go to the State Board of Ed? Prof. Kirst stated that “A lot of accountability (for how funds will be spent) will not be stage managed from Sacramento…People will have to get active at the local level to make this (funding plan) meet their needs.”

      It will be interesting to see this happening with the blessings of the SBoE.

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