Opinion > Commentary

Shame on districts seeking to perpetuate funding advantages


John Affeldt

John Affeldt

Kudos to Jerry Brown for proposing to end the inequities in California school funding – and shame on the districts that seek to fossilize the advantages they have enjoyed for decades now.

Brown is the first governor in recent times to acknowledge what the education community and funding experts have known for years: Our public schools are funded irrationally and inequitably based on outdated formulas bearing no relation to student need. As the Getting Down to Facts studies and the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence acknowledged, similar sized districts with similar student demographics receive widely varying amounts of state support for no rational reason. A recent Education Trust–West analysis concluded that California’s highest poverty districts receive $620 less per student from state and local sources than the state’s wealthiest districts. Individual district comparisons evidence disparities running to thousands of dollars per student.

While Brown’s proposed Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) fails to correct the dramatic underfunding of public schools (more on that later), it does take on the need to distribute the available state dollars fairly based on student needs. It does so by providing all districts the same standard per-pupil amount for all students plus a supplemental amount 35 percent higher for each student who is low-income, an English learner (EL), a foster youth or any combination thereof; it further provides an additional amount for districts where such students are concentrated above 50 percent of the population.

The negative relationship between poverty and achievement is one of the best-documented findings in educational research. As discussed in an influential paper that has informed much of Brown’s proposal, the highest Academic Performance Index (API) scores of high-poverty schools in California tend to be lower than the lowest API scores of low-poverty schools. That is, there is virtually no overlap between the performance distributions of high- versus low-poverty schools. Similarly, it is well-documented that ELs significantly underperform in comparison to non-EL students and bring with them distinct needs that other students do not have, including teachers appropriately trained to teach ELs, bilingual support personnel, appropriate materials for language development and content acquisition, and additional instructional time to learn English and subject-matter content.

Moreover, when low-income and/or EL students are concentrated in the same school, they face a double disadvantage in that they lose exposure to middle-income students, who have a greater tendency to model more advanced language skills, more positive attitudes toward achievement, higher aspirations, and who exhibit lower levels of mobility. Similarly, EL students who are linguistically isolated in schools lose out on learning in an environment rich with native-speaker role models and often on knowledgeable parent advocates who can effectively monitor the school’s learning conditions.

The supplemental funding and concentration components that Brown has proposed are, thus, logical and necessary – indeed, even modest. More than 70 major adequacy studies over the past 20 years show that anywhere from 40 to 100 percent more money per student is required to teach children from poor and lower-income households than is required to teach their more affluent classmates.

Notably, Brown’s LCFF proposal does not propose an expeditious remedy to California’s immoral, unconstitutional and educationally unjustifiable school funding inequities. In the face of the political realities that change will prove more palatable if districts do not see funding decreases, Brown’s proposal creates few if any actual losers over the 7 to 10 years projected for full LCFF implementation. Instead, as more funds arrive thanks to Proposition 30 and an improving economy, the currently more advantaged districts will see their ascent to the ultimate LCFF funding target follow a more gradual slope than the historically disadvantaged districts.

That slow road to funding fairness, however, may not be enough to satisfy some districts that have long benefited from receiving a greater share of state funds for a less needy student population. Instead, these districts seek to hold on to their relative advantage by opposing the new funding system on the grounds that it would be unfair to them, donning the label of LCFF “losers.”

“This produces big winners and losers,” Jeffrey Baarstad, Superintendent of the Conejo Valley Unified School District recently told the Ventura County Star. “The loser districts like mine are not going to share the profits of [new state revenues.] It’ll be sent to the [LAUSDs] of California.”

How conveniently these districts forget that for decades they have enjoyed “winner” status to the detriment of disadvantaged students across the state. These districts could only be considered “losers” if one takes the inequitable status quo as the “just” starting point, neglecting both decades of relative funding inequities and any absolute notion of fairness.

In reality, Brown’s concept is to disadvantage no one but, rather, to rationalize and make fair what has long been neither.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Even with Prop. 30, Brown’s proposal will not address the other major issue facing California school funding: the massive underfunding of public education. California ranks 49th in per-pupil spending according to Education Week and, as a consequence, is generally 50th out of 50 states in terms of the adults per student in its schools and near the bottom as well in achievement test scores for students across the ethnic and socioeconomic spectrum. Adding the $2,700 per pupil that Brown projects will flow to K-12 funding over the next seven years will not get the state to the national spending average today, let alone the level of spending that will be necessary in seven years to provide all students the opportunity to access the Common Core standards.

As a result, the school funding lawsuits brought by Public Advocates and our community partners (Campaign for Quality Education v. California) and by our colleagues in Robles-Wong v. California will continue to play an important role in forcing the state to live up to its educational promise.

In the meantime, California’s failure to address funding adequacy cannot be, as some have urged, an excuse for deferring or delaying a fix to funding inequity. Ensuring the available funding pie is fairly distributed to all based on student needs is a moral imperative that cannot wait.

•••

John Affeldt is Managing Attorney at Public Advocates Inc., a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination, and  is a leading voice on educational equity issues. He has been recognized by California Lawyer Magazine as a California Attorney of the Year.

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25 Responses to “Shame on districts seeking to perpetuate funding advantages”

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  1. Deborah on March 1, 2013 at 6:40 am03/1/2013 6:40 am

    • 000

    While I see this as a worthy and important discussion, what I see has been completely “disappeared” from this discussion, is what is going on with students with disabilities in California, the lowest performing subgroup of all California’s subgroups. Frankly this population seems to have slipped everyone’s mind in all discussions, including the Governor’s recent public proposals regarding education funding, equity and improvement of education for California’s students including what are typically referred to as disadvantaged students (these days identified as low-income and/or ELL).

    No one seems inclined to discuss how funding pours into California’s local education agencies – and has for the past few decades – ostensibly to be used for educating students with disabilities, and yet this subgroup is NOT making progress and is totally omitted from the discussion of remediating California’s education problems. Heck, when the stimulus funds came to California as part of the ARRA, a large part of those funds were shifted to the general population to address California’s budget crisis. California’s students with disabilities are not even held to the same accountability standards that all our students are supposed to be meeting, despite the fact that it is California law! If all our students are not part of the discussion, then all our students will not benefit.

    Maybe I’ve missed something, but where is there any discussion of how the education funding we already have is being used to pay for teachers who don’t know how to teach all our students? How it is being siphoned away to pay for school district legal counsel who fight parents who advocate for services and who are the beneficiaries of our tax dollars rather than the students for whom our education dollars were intended? How it is being used to fund a state education agency that isn’t overseeing, monitoring or enforcing noncompliant local education agencies who take funds and do not educate our students, but instead is part of the problem?

    It is all well and good to talk about equity in local funding, a laudable idea. But what those local education agencies do with those funds and how they misuse them is an issue that I think needs closer examination. My sons were educated in a local education agency that is considered one of the more affluent “high-achieving” communities in the state where Title 1 and other interventions for so-called disadvantaged students were non-existent and yet where students with disabilities were neglected and allowed to languish educationally in a way that is outrageous. All the funding equity in the world is not going to improve the education of those poor kids. Who, I would like to know, speaks for them?

  2. Paul Muench on February 20, 2013 at 5:52 am02/20/2013 5:52 am

    • 000

    Education as competition is such a strong idea, especially among those who are not severely impacted by lack of resources. I think it will be very hard to not see any skewing of funding as part of that competition.

    Replies

    • navigio on February 20, 2013 at 7:54 am02/20/2013 7:54 am

      • 000

      Thats a great way to put it Paul.

  3. John Affeldt on February 19, 2013 at 5:44 pm02/19/2013 5:44 pm

    • 000

    A few final thoughts responding to some of the comments above. We all absolutely need to keep the adequacy of funding issue front and center. There is a public perception risk that if Brown’s proposal goes through on top of Prop 30 passing that the Governor will claim and some will accept that he’s “solved” the school funding problem. Prop 30 is only a temporary measure and only gets us back to not a whole lot more than the inadequate funding levels of 2007-08.

    That said, the question remains what to do while the State is ramping up to adequacy (should we be so lucky that it moves in that direction willingly or by court order). It’s not acceptable to stay frozen in inequity and use the State’s unwillingness to deal with funding inadequacy as an excuse. Brown’s LCFF proposal is a reasonable approach that doesn’t propose to “sap” funding from middle class districts (or force them to run on on fewer wheels to use el’s analogy). Districts aren’t supposed to “lose” funding under this year’s version of the proposal; those who have done better in the past will simply grow more slowly. That seems to me like a fairer way to spread the burden of underfunding, as we struggle for adequacy, rather than concentrating the burden on a subset of districts. Doing so also brings many of those middle class districts into the adequacy conversation where they may have been relatively insulated in the past. That can only be a good thing.

    Replies

    • Rusty Vardy on June 11, 2013 at 4:42 pm06/11/2013 4:42 pm

      • 000

      John… California is not a “one size fits all” state. I am from a tiny Necessary Small School District located in an isolated mountainous community in Northern California. Can you truly justify taking away money from the fewer than 100 tiny districts in the state that truly have Necessary Small School Status to send more money to LA and the like? You are commenting “out of your area of expertise”. If you would like to LEARN more about “Why it cost more to educate children in a tiny district”, please contact me at my email address. Thanks… Sincerely… Rusty Vardy (Retiring Teaching Principal/Superintendent K-8)

  4. Paul Muench on February 18, 2013 at 8:33 pm02/18/2013 8:33 pm

    • 000

    Yeah, it’s pretty clear that California education is resource poor. What’s not so clear is that money can buy the resources needed. At least anytime soon. By far the biggest expense in education is Teachers’ salaries. No matter how much money one spends it takes time to develop excellent teachers.

    Replies

    • navigio on February 18, 2013 at 8:55 pm02/18/2013 8:55 pm

      • 000

      Money can buy computers. It can buy computer teachers. It can buy a phys-ed instructor and equipment. It can buy reasonable facilities and creating environments where children (and parents) actually want to be. It can buy science resources; even dedicated science teachers. It can buy aides for teachers that need them. It can buy counselors and other student services personnel. It can buy security guards where those are needed (pretty much everywhere nowadays). It can buy enough central office administrators to actually do the jobs they are supposed to be doing. And although I know some will protest, it can also buy down class sizes to more reasonable levels, giving both students and teachers a fighting chance at getting something productive done. About a fifth of all human beings in this state are in public schools for almost half the days out of the year. It seems clear that that would be neither cheap nor easy. But maybe the real question as it pertains to resources, is what the alternative is. For those of us who stay in this state, we will end up paying for this one way or another, even if it is not now.

      • Paul Muench on February 18, 2013 at 10:34 pm02/18/2013 10:34 pm

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        Yes, at some scale that is true.

  5. Lowell on February 16, 2013 at 2:54 pm02/16/2013 2:54 pm

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    Unfortunately, from a CBO/practitioner’s perspective, the tragedy is that the LCFF formula is so flawed that it lacks integrity and therefore encourages disregard for using the supplemental and concentration amounts for the students who generate those funds.

    I hope that all rational people can agree that extra resources are needed in order to enable certain students to succeed in school. Whether that extra amount is 10% more or 200% more clearly varies by child, by circumstance, and certainly by the conditions of the base program.

    The flaw in LCFF is not necessarily in the design, but is primarily the abominably low base level. It is like designing a marvelous school but building ceiling heights at only five feet. By failing to address California’s dreadful underfunding of education and failing to provide adequate funding for the base, the lopsided supplemental and concentration amounts become a target for disrepute rather that a moral and just commitment to the success of all students.

    LCFF is obviously a better design than the current school finance system, but its debilitating flaw could easily derail the goals that are intended. Hopefully solutions can be found that will provide for a funding formula that has both equity and integrity.

  6. Paul on February 15, 2013 at 8:21 pm02/15/2013 8:21 pm

    • 000

    I support the goal of funding the extra services that low-income students and English Learners need. This acknowledgement of reality is coming far too late in California. It is a fundamental change, in that it challenges the conservative ideology exemplified by the Gann spending limit. Factors other than overall population growth and general inflation influence the need for government services.

    It would be wise not to sap revenue from middle-class schools and districts in the process. Students in those schools and districts represent, for the time being, the bulk of the academically successful students in our public schools. Their parents represent the main political constituency for public education. If middle-class schools and districts are allowed to decline, we will no longer have success stories to point to, or a political constituency whose support we can count on. Middle-class families can and will opt for private schools if they have to.

  7. Manuel on February 15, 2013 at 2:56 pm02/15/2013 2:56 pm

    • 000

    I cannot point to any research on whether or not it costs more money to educate a poor child and get her/him to achieve at the same level as a well-off child.

    Anecdotally, I can assure you that my children achieved because I put in a lot of resources into ensuring that they had many worthy educational experiences. If I had been a poor person, that would not have happened because a) I would not have been able to afford them, and b) I would not have known they needed those opportunities.

    In regards to “achievement,” well, the fact of the matter is that our current tests, the CSTs, are normed for the entire population of California. This means that the distribution of scores is set essentially in stone. You can teach kids until the proverbial cows come home and the score is not going to change by much. To put it in terms that most of us will understand, it is no different than the SAT score: the only way to “improve” it is if you are trained in a very specific way to take the test but it won’t mean that you are any “smarter.”

    So, since the poor kids are mostly in the bottom half of the distribution, they will stay there until the kids in the upper half get less educational opportunities. Since that won’t happen given our current obsession with test scores, well, you can throw money at the achievement gap and it will never go away.

    But that is cheating since the deck is stacked. The only way we’ll get out of this one is if the test (Common Core, I’m looking at you) is designed to actually test against the curriculum and not against some hypothetical “norm” population. What are the chances of this actually happening? Probably nil because the testing outfits are not going to know how to design the tests nor process the data. All they know is the Gaussian Distribution.

    The elephant in the room is that there is not enough budget transparency nor true accountability. LAUSD, for example, bases a school budget (salaries and some supplies) on the state’s “minimum”. What does LAUSD do with the rest of the money that it gets per child from multiple sources? It spends it on a lot of things, some that are clearly related to the classroom and many, many more that aren’t. Who is going to make LAUSD spend all that new “extra” money on resources (teacher aides, books, language specialists, technology, librarians, etc.) to really teach the child at the actual school? It will probably be easier to squeeze water from a stone so I agree with Mr. Premack on that.

    Obama praised a particular school in New York as a model to be emulated. Have any of you looked at its resources? Each kid has an assigned mentor who is an IBM employee. Do you realize how much that costs? Same with Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone. They serve a small population of poor children (15,000?). Have any of you looked at its budget? It is $15 million/year and its two schools are about $8 million a piece. If there are no studies that prove that spending more on educating poor children produces greater achievement, why are these examples trotted out by the “reform” movement as examples to be replicated?

    Like I wrote above, if we want to fund education properly, we need to also watchdog how the funds are spent. There is no doubt in my mind that some will try to profit from this “new” money. It happens in all of human endeavors, why should education be any different?

  8. Eric Premack on February 15, 2013 at 2:11 pm02/15/2013 2:11 pm

    • 000

    I’d be curious to learn of any credible research that documents that it costs 40 to 100 percent more to serve English learners and/or low-income students. The study that Mr. Affeldt links to seems to be a thin gruel of a handful of brief papers (http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/options), none of which seems to include any serious data on point.

    Moreover, the “influential paper” that Mr. Affeldt says is influencing much of the governor’s thinking does not appear to make any reference to research that indicates that spending more money on high-poverty and/or high-EL schools will increase student achievement. In fact, the influential paper notes that “after reviewing several cost studies, Gándara and Rumberger conclude that ‘some needs of English Learners are indeed different from other students with similar socio-economic backgrounds and their needs cannot all be met with the same set of resources, however it is not clear to what extent—if at
    all—they require more resources.'”

    Can anyone point to any real, credible research that speaks to why it costs 35 to 70 percent more to serve EL and low-income kids? While it seems perfectly plausible that serving them is more costly, my experience in helping to build budgets for hundreds of successful schools and districts tells me that 35 to 70 percent is off the chart.

    Perhaps more important, why would we expect that the districts that receive the additional funding would actually spend it on high-needs students? Those of us who have spent “quality time” at the collective bargaining table are profoundly skeptical–especially given that governing board members of many of California’s larger urban districts were elected due to strong financial support from their employee unions. The governor’s proposal does call for districts to prepare spending plans, but the requirements contained in the proposed legislation would do little to ensure that needy kids benefit from the additional funds.

    While I’ve long advocated for a transparent, equitable, needs-based funding formula, it’s far from clear that the governor’s LCFF proposal gets us there. The current LCFF proposal would permanently ensure that three of the most inequitable funding programs (special education, transportation, and TIIG) remain un-equalized. These three are among the state’s largest categorical aid programs. The LCFF also would do too little (and too late) to equalize the spectacular amounts of excess local tax funding available to many “Basic “Aid” districts and would continue to allow a privileged few to benefit from parcel taxes. These are not minor “imperfections” as Affeldt would have it, but rather are huge and glaring flaws that need to be addressed. The LCFF also appears to continue funding for so-called “necessary small” schools that, if one buys the Legislative Analyst’s report on point, are often not “necessary” and can cost upwards of $190 thousand per student.

    Kudos to Governor Brown for advancing a proposal and engaging interest groups and others in the policy discussion. Now it’s time to have a more serious talk about real versus perceived needs/costs, along with a candid discussion about what we expect districts (and bargaining units) would do with the money, and revise the proposal accordingly. Neither Affeldt’s bashing of “loser” districts nor readers counter-bashing of Affeldt as “anti-middle class” gets us there.

    Replies

    • John Affeldt on February 15, 2013 at 4:03 pm02/15/2013 4:03 pm

      • 000

      Eric, the 6th NEPC paper (“Effective School Expenditures”) cites to previous published work of Mathis’ on the costing-out of implementing NCLB in which he reviewed the 70 major adequacy studies done over the last 20 years that support his statement that 40% to 100% more spending is needed to give poor students equal access to the curriculum. These studies represent the combined professional judgment of thousands of educators, researchers and other individuals involved in education, not one person’s anecdotal conclusion. What’s more, many of these studies have been done for school funding cases and subjected to the heat of cross-examination and opposing expert opinion. (And though judges don’t typically fix details like specific spending levels and weights for poor kids and ELs, nearly every adequacy case that has gone to the factual trial stage has resulted in a victory for plaintiffs claims, often relying on such studies in support.)

      Your point re the need to make sure the new money is actually spent on the target low-income and EL populations is a good one. We have been suggesting improvements to the Governor’s proposal since it first emerged last year and significant improvements in this regard have been made. More work remains.

      P.S. A technical correction. I read your comment (re “35 to 70 percent more”) to suggest that the concentration factor will result in a district with 100% low-income or EL students receiving funding 70% above the base for each such student. I read the trailer bill to set the upper limit weight for all students in a 100% poor/EL district at 52.5%, not 70%, more than base funding. The biggest concentration factor now possible is 17.5%, i.e., base x 35% x 50% (where the latter number is the % of students above the 50% poor/EL/foster concentration grant threshold).

  9. Manuel on February 15, 2013 at 1:08 pm02/15/2013 1:08 pm

    • 000

    Sigh. Here we go again: class warfare.

    Anyway, middle and upper middle class kids do better because their parents have more resources at their disposal to increase educational opportunities for their kids. It doesn’t mean they are any smarter than the poor kids.

    Yes, there are some of us who have gotten away from our poor beginnings, but was it easy? Wasn’t there some adult (teacher, employer, friend, etc.) who gave us a chance to escape poverty by showing us the way? I’d like to think I made it on my own but the truth is that there were many mentors and others who helped me get where I am.

    We like to talk too much about individual responsibility, but this clashes with the interest of the State (yes, with upper case). The State needs its citizens educated so that they can participate in its civic and economic life. We are not a wealthy society because we spend money on things, but because we use knowledge to advance our collective welfare. If we don’t ensure that a quality education is available to the poor, what chance do they have of significantly contributing to California’s economy? Should 50% of the children in California be punished for having poor parents? Shouldn’t we spend the resources necessary for a good portion of them to aspire to something better than a minimum wage job?

    Yes, there have always been winners and losers but it is now more obvious to us all. For a time, I lived in Santa Monica when there were only two middle schools. Care to guess which one had the Olympic-size pool and multiple indoor gyms? The funding was all local-based back in those good ol’ days and there was not much that could be done about those inequities. Now the funding comes from the state coffers and the differences between poor and well-off districts are becoming stark. The push to publish standardized test results has made it even more obvious.

    And what do we do? We continue to use formulas based on idiotic rules (“well, you see, since your school has only 70% of its students in poverty, we cannot give you Title I funds, it must first go to schools with 75% because that’s what the federal regulations mandate!”) and models of education that assume all children are identical. They are not and it costs more money to educate a child who is poor and even more if they are English learners, even if there is no more bilingual education stipends.

    Back in the good ol’ days, the state could care less that its poor did not graduate from high school (an old teacher once told me that Mexican Americans had a 60% high school dropout rate and I am sure it was about the same for poor whites and blacks). Now everybody wants kids to be “ready for college” even if there are not enough seats to serve them all because, surprise, we don’t want to fund more UCs (instead, we are going to use on-line courses! yipeee!)

    Bottom line: we get the education we are willing to fund and it is up to all of us to become advocates and political interests so that the professionals do not hog all the action.

  10. John Affeldt on February 15, 2013 at 12:55 pm02/15/2013 12:55 pm

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    A few additional thoughts generated by some of the comments thus far: el, I agree that it’s appropriate for boards and superintendents to advocate for receiving the funding their students need to succeed. But that instinct needs to be balanced with a broader view. Indeed, I am a board member of a small urban district that has received some advantages from having a necessary small high school. Initial assessments indicate that the district may lose some of this advantage under the LCFF proposal which will only partially be made up from the fact that our student population is 87% low-income. Of course, I’ll want to see the hard numbers and understand better the rationale at play but knowing that we may lose relative advantage as a district hasn’t prevented me from supporting the concept as a whole. As public officials, we also take an oath to uphold the Constitution and that includes the promise to ensure that all the students of California enjoy basically equal educational opportunities. Board members and superintendents should resist the notion that their job is to get the most for their kids and the rest of the State be damned. (Not suggesting, by the way, that you said that; but I have seen that attitude plenty over the last year.) We all have an obligation to the public school SYSTEM. And to be part of a system means that the constituent components, including the funding, function together rationally and systematically.

    There are imperfections in the LCFF proposal and the purpose of the piece was not to dissect each detail, but as Jack does, to support its conceptual framework. Basic Aid districts should, in my view, absolutely be part of the funding reform scheme. They are part of the proposal to the extent state aid will decrease or possibly be eliminated to them over time. But they should also not be permitted to retain excessive amounts of local property tax dollars when others, often in neighboring districts, go without. Property tax dollars used for public education are after all, as the courts have said, state dollars for a state purpose. Retaining TIGG and Home-to-School Transportation as is (obviously as a result of political calculations) is anamolous to LCFF’s conceptual framework. TIGG ought to be folded into the funding pot; Home-to-School probably should be retained for rural and large districts, but should be updated and rationalized based on current distict populations, not where they were in the 1970’s.

    To the charge that the author does not care about the education of middle-class students, I point again to our school funding litigation in which Public Advocates has now invested several years of time and energy and most likely will need to invest several years more. Yes, we seek to ensure that low income and English Learner student needs are addressed, but the suit seeks more broadly to ensure that all of our state’s children have the funding and the educational resources they need to succeed in learning the content standards and becoming engaged and productive citizens.

    Replies

    • el on February 15, 2013 at 2:30 pm02/15/2013 2:30 pm

      • 000

      John, maybe part of my irritation with your piece is your use of the phrase, “keeping an advantage.” Maybe this is me giving people more credit than they deserve, but I don’t think it’s about “My wealthy kids deserve more than your other kids” — ie, it’s not about “keeping an advantage.” It’s about adequate funding.

      If some schools are cars running with four wheels and some schools are cars with two wheels, it’s not really an advance to end up with all the schools having three wheels. :-) And I think there’s legitimate concern that if all the schools end up with three wheels that the politics and the policy won’t recognize that they’re still underfunded.

      I’m aware of the funding realities and it’s really important to me that all schools are adequately funded for their mission. I’d like to see more people writing about their needs and their view of the finance puzzle, especially those districts who don’t have affluent parents who have access to the internet during the day. ;-) I’m also very interested in how districts end up spending the supplemental and concentration money, and what services they add with them.

    • navigio on February 15, 2013 at 11:40 pm02/15/2013 11:40 pm

      • 000

      John, that is a quite intriguing comment.

      Since, at the local level, your vote does not impact state policy, its seems the only real impact your support for a more fair system could take is if you were to vote against access to some additional funding, for the reason that it would put you at an advantage over some other district, and that that would be unfair.

      As great as that sounds, I cannot imagine a board member being able to make such a decision without jeopardizing their responsibility to the electorate that made them their trustee. Perhaps its truly the case that they would be wrong to have a problem with that, at least from a legal standpoint (setting aside the political one :-) ). Is that what you are saying?

      In addition, it seems that this realization would require a clear understanding of what fair and/or adequate actually mean. Have you made that determination for yourself? It seems clear from the comments that there is not a consensus on that point. Obviously dollars can be one measure, but that seems like a simplistic (albeit not meaningless) one.

      • John Affeldt on February 19, 2013 at 5:58 pm02/19/2013 5:58 pm

        • 000

        Navigio, my point is that board members and superintendents should be communicating their support for Brown’s more equitable distribution of funding to state legislators, the public and their local media rather than resisting it if their district’s individual funding will not grow as fast as others because they have a less challenging student population. I wouldn’t recommend a district board member reject on principal funding available to them under the flawed current system. That would be as pointless as an individual deciding to give the State an extra few grand in taxes because he or she believes Sacramento should be spending more on public education.

  11. Paul Fettig on February 15, 2013 at 9:44 am02/15/2013 9:44 am

    • 000

    Education is about students and parents. Money does not make up for lack of Parent involvement.Suggest parent involvement be addressed first. If you get the parent involved, student achievement goes up. Why do you think the middle and upper middle kids do better? The same happens with the lower class if the parent gets involved, students do better.Its not about money. Its about parent involvement.

    Replies

    • el on February 15, 2013 at 5:44 pm02/15/2013 5:44 pm

      • 000

      Parent involvement is really important.

      Parents who are working two or three jobs to make ends meet are stressed, impatient, and probably don’t have time to help with homework, let alone attend school meetings that happen during their shift. These parents also don’t have time to model lifelong learning and reading, or to increase their own language skills.

      And so somehow, the school is supposed to make up for that.

      I’ve said (only mildly tongue-in-cheek) that we can probably do more to increase test scores by giving all workers 6 weeks paid vacation, as they do in Finland, than by all the crazy reform schemes. Alas, I don’t see the Gates Foundation funding that study.

  12. Rw on February 15, 2013 at 9:37 am02/15/2013 9:37 am

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    the author clearly has no concern for the middle class pupil in the State or those children in low wealth districts who if the total pupil population is not more than 50% will lose funding. He also perpetuates the Sacramento and lobbyist/advocate belief that public school district and officials do not seek to raise the educational level of all the pupils in their districts. In yet another first for CA, the Governor does not address in any detailed way funding for 2013/14 deciding instead to provide detail for funding in 2020/21. In my district if I extrapolate the current revenue limit funding model, that is the law in CA, out to 2020/21, all children would generate about $7900 per average daily attendance in unrestricted funding. This is opposed to the maximum base funding under LCFF for 7th and 8th graders of $7600 per ada. The governor calls funding complicated and inequitable as it does not fund demographic changes, yet the Governor keeps the home-to-school transportation funding as is that has a 1970’s base that has not changed in 40 years. My district has 9000 enrolled and gets $134,000; neighboring districts have 10,000 and get $600,000; 22,000 and get $88,000. And this is not an error. While I do not either support or oppose a funding change especially one that gets the political interests in Sacramento out of the local governance, don’t for a minute think that advocates and political interests are pulling strings in closed door meetings

  13. Jack on February 15, 2013 at 8:58 am02/15/2013 8:58 am

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    We need to start somewhere and the Governor’s proposal is a respectable starting point. It will require an openness to looking at funding in a new way and it most certainly will not make up for years of financial disregard of some district’s and its students. But better to start than to perpetuate a funding system which harms so many students. The real test will be in how the leaders in each district use the funds to improve student learning. It will test the strength of many leaders and will force boards and superintendents to display a level of courage in their decision making which often goes lacking. Ultimately, the test will be measured not on level of funding but on how resources are allocated within each district and what competing forces will prevail. Educational leaders across the state will be tested and should be held accountable for their decisions by the local community each district serves. We may witness a significant shift in power from state dictated to local control. Sometimes we get what we say we want. Hope we are up for the challenge.

  14. el on February 15, 2013 at 8:38 am02/15/2013 8:38 am

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    Bah.

    Drop the shame, dude.

    The real shame is that the base for the formula is not really adequate for any school, as you state. It is appropriate and necessary for districts to point that out and to advocate for the kids they serve. I don’t think anyone wants to take money from another district – they just want enough to meet their obligations and responsibilities.

    Much of this is about uncertainty. The first formula did create ‘losers’ – schools that would have to make do with even less than they have now. The new formula is supposed to ‘hold harmless’ which is better – but keep in mind that just because a couple of people say it ‘holds harmless’ doesn’t mean it actually does. In the first round, the governor’s proposal completely forgot CTE, for example. School finance is complicated – I’ll agree too complicated – and it’s easy to miss factors that affect the smaller districts.

    My district is small, rural, and Title 1. We’ll be eligible for concentration money – and yet we still don’t quite know where we will land with this proposal relative to our current funds. That’s because of these other funding streams like Transportation and CTE and Necessary Small Schools and the like that admittedly aren’t uniform. We’ve been scratching around for information to figure out how this all plays out. It’s not just rich districts who are worried that the new funding system won’t meet their needs.

    Because of the pushback last year, this year’s proposal is substantially better. The feedback and criticism is fair and appropriate.

    Fundamentally, we all have a responsibility to ensure that all schools in California – even in wealthy areas – are adequately funded to meet the expectations of the citizens. Superintendents and board members have an active responsibility to advocate for the kids they serve and the budget they manage – it shouldn’t be a zero sum game, as was originally proposed.

  15. Mark on February 15, 2013 at 8:34 am02/15/2013 8:34 am

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    Mr. Affeldt is way off base. Brown’s proposal clearly creates winners and losers. It does not add funding to half the District’s in the State, you will have Districts that receive $12,000 per student and Districts that receive $7,000 per student. Is that equity? California needs to provide adequate funding for all students not just English Learners and Lower Income students.

    Money alone does not improve learning. Students must be committed and parents must encourage learning at home regardless of background. I personally grew up in a very poor household but managed to go to college and pursue a professional path.

  16. Bea on February 15, 2013 at 7:51 am02/15/2013 7:51 am

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    When I read this “Notably, Brown’s LCFF proposal does not propose an expeditious remedy to California’s immoral, unconstitutional and educationally unjustifiable school funding inequities.”, I expected the next sentence to address Basic Aid.

    Huh.

    Anyone going to touch that one?

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