State releases district breakdowns under school funding formula

Districts and charter schools now know how they’d make out under Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed Local Control Funding Formula, his plan for sweeping school finance reform. The state Department of Finance posted the long-awaited district-by-district breakdown and a two-page overview Wednesday. The 80-page chart calculates districts’ base per student funding for 2011-12 as a comparison and lists funding for the next two years and full per student funding in seven years – if projected state revenues hold up.

Brown outlines increases in education spending in a news conference last month.

Brown outlines increases in education spending in a news conference last month.

Brown’s proposed formula promises to simplify and rationalize the state’s idiosyncratic and irrational funding system, with its complex rules governing dozens of “categorical” programs with funding designated for special purposes. Starting off with what districts now receive in base funding (known as “revenue limit” funding), it would create a new financing system as additional money becomes available from increased revenues generated by an improving state economy, and past debts that the state owes to schools are paid off.

Brown’s plan would provide additional funds to districts having to meet the extra costs of educating economically disadvantaged and other high-needs students. There would be a “phase in” period, with annual funding increases, leading to full funding in 2019-20. The Legislature, which reacted cooly last year to an earlier version, must now consider whether to approve or change it.

Under the plan, no district would receive less than they receive this year in state support, and “the vast majority” – 1,700 districts and charter schools – will get “moderate to significant” funding increases over the next five years, according to the overview. During this time, the average per-student funding under Proposition 98 is projected to rise $2,700 per student.*  Receiving little or no increase in money would be 230 charter schools and districts – among them “basic aid” districts that already receive more in funding from property taxes than they would be entitled to in state funding.

The formula would work this way:

  • Every district would receive a base grant for every student – an average of $6,800 when fully funded, with more for high schools and less for elementary schools. The base  grant would include restoring the dollars the state owed to districts from past years’ budget cuts and unpaid cost-of-living increases. It would not include money for special education and a few other categorical programs that would be funded outside of the formula. No district, including basic aid districts, would receive less than they get today. Schools would get an extra $700 per student in grades K-3 for smaller classes, though districts could spend the money otherwise.

Districts with disadvantaged students – low-income students, English learners and foster youth – would get additional dollars:

  • A supplement of $2,385 per student, which is equal to 35 percent of the base grant for every disadvantaged student in the district.
  • An additional grant for those districts in which high-needs students comprise 50 percent or more of students, reflecting the need for additional money to counteract the demands on districts with a high concentration of poor children and English learners. Districts with 60 percent high-needs students would get 38.5 percent more revenue per high-needs student ($2,624); a district in which every child is an English learner or low-income student would get a maximum of 52.5 percent more ($3,578) in per-student funding than a district with no high-needs children.

Looking at  how the formula will play out  in Orange County (pages 39-40):

  • Magnolia Elementary School District in Anaheim has 6,142 students, 73 percent of whom are low-income students and 49 percent of whom are English learners. Its base grant of $6,122 last year would rise to $11,190 per student when fully funded by the state as projected in seven years.
  • Los Alamitos Unified, with 9,343 students, got about the same base grant last year as Magnolia: $6,132. But, with only 12 percent low-income students and 2 percent English learners, its funding would rise to only $8,616 per student at full funding, $2,574 less than in Magnolia.
  • Laguna Beach Unified, with 2,878 students, is a “basic aid” district, with enough income from property taxes from high-priced homes to generate an enviable $13,362 per student without any additional support from the state. It wouldn’t lose any money under Brown’s formula, but it wouldn’t gain any either.

Although the formula for when the plan is fully implemented is pretty straightforward and simple, determining funding during the  phase-in period would be anything but. That’s because each district’s starting point is different, reflecting differences among districts’ current revenue limit funding and funding from categorical programs. The rate of yearly increases, to get to the fully-funded target amount, would be quicker for low-funded districts and slower for those already getting above-average funding.

A comparison of Los Angeles Unified (page 23) and Fresno Unified (page 10) is illustrative. Based on Department of Finance calculations, Fresno, the fourth-largest district in the state, received $6,547 per student in the equivalent of base funding under the formula last year. Los Angeles Unified got $7,509 in base funding, nearly $1,000 more per student than Fresno, because of funding from a categorical program – desegregation money now called TIIG (Targeted Instructional Improvement Block Grant) – that Fresno never got, and Los Angeles will continue to receive, even though they serve roughly the same proportions of high-need students. At full funding, both Los Angeles Unified and Fresno Unified would get close to the same amount: $11,635 for Fresno, $11,993 for Los Angeles. Over the next two years, Fresno would get $968 more per student; Los Angeles would get $830 more per student.

The Department of Finance overview doesn’t detail the formula for determining the amounts that districts will get each year as this plan is phased in: it’s complex. Consult your district’s chief finance officer or, if you’re ambitious, it’s spelled out in the 500-page trailer bill on Brown’s proposed funding formula.

* The Department of Finance doesn’t make projections beyond five years; it uses what is describes as “conservative” Proposition 98 forecasts beyond that.

Filed under: Local Control Funding Formula, School Finance, State Education Policy



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17 Responses to “State releases district breakdowns under school funding formula”

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  1. navigio on Apr 7, 2013 at 7:38 pm04/7/2013 7:38 pm

    • 000

    So I was just reading the LCFF text for fun and noticed that, for the purposes of the calculations, a student cannot be considered ELL for more than 5 years. I wonder whether the calculations provided by the website took that exclusion into account. If it applies right away, the amount would definitely be non-trivial, especially for concentration districts.


    • el on Apr 7, 2013 at 9:44 pm04/7/2013 9:44 pm

      • 000

      That would make the math a lot more challenging, but how many kids are out there with 6+ years in ELL who are not also free/reduced lunch status?

      • navigio on Apr 7, 2013 at 11:10 pm04/7/2013 11:10 pm

        • 000

        Excellent point el. Probably very few. I wonder if that distinction will impact the decision of how to use the money.

  2. D on Feb 26, 2013 at 8:39 am02/26/2013 8:39 am

    • 000

    Hi El
    Not trying to turn this thread into a debate on Gifted Education, but since it isn’t mentioned under the new plans and the gifted are the most underserved population in schools I think this is a pretty good place to voice some of the frustration. Hopefully, someone that can actually do something for them will.
    I sent my very bright and inquisitive child to public school. I thought he would glide right on threw, this won’t be a problem. He absolutely loved learning and was a sponge. He sat there for three years waiting to be the challenged while the teacher worked with the other kids. He actually spent time out side during instructional hours because the teacher knew he already had learned what she was going over and over again for the other kids. The reason he sat outside is because by the end of the third year, he was a wiggling, pencil tapping, rolling on the floor ball of boredom. By the time I pulled him he hated school. So this gifted child ended up being a problem. Have you ever had to sit for 3 years, 6 hours a day and listen to the same thing over and over again that you knew the first time it was explained. Better yet knowing more than what the book is telling the kids, feeling like they are being cheated and wanting to add to the curriculum because it is a passion that you want to share with your peers.
    Anyway my point is, some of the problem children are quite simply not being challenged. Gifted children are the most underserved population of the student body. Our ESL students had pleanty of challenge, meanwhile my son sat idle, bored and frustrated. His flame and love of learning absolutely dimmed. This child would have never reached his full potential if I didn’t figure out some way to bring it back.
    Please fight for more funding for these children. We are losing their sparks.


    • el on Feb 26, 2013 at 10:33 am02/26/2013 10:33 am

      • 000

      D, I was a gifted student and I agree with everything you wrote. I would add that I’ve known a few hypergifted kids who ended up distinctly not okay, or perilously close to not being okay, using their sharp, inquisitive minds in ways, ahem, society would not prefer.

      A friend of mine in another state had her kids in a gifted magnet that was under constant attack, because people had convinced themselves that THEIR KIDS would have gotten great test scores if only they could go there. Gifted kids benefit from and truly need a different kind of education, one that is all wrong for more neurotypical kids.

      I like to refer people to the first season Simpsons episode, “Bart the Genius.” Sometimes that helps them get it. :-)

      At the same time, most of our school systems don’t have an adequate concentration of these highly gifted kids to create that kind of environment. In those cases, finding solutions has to be highly individualized and is frequently more frustrating. I am hoping to some extent in the future that a rich set of online options can help create more options for gifted self-starters to explore more material.

      My child turns out to have no gift for languages but I always imagined that one of the ways I might address the problem would be to ask for her to be given the Spanish worksheets for her homework instead of the English. :-) It would have worked well for me.

  3. D on Feb 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm02/22/2013 4:15 pm

    • 000

    Also interesting of note, Montessori receives the same amount of money per child, out of my pocket as our local public school which failed to meet my child’s needs. And yet, they seem to be able to make having 3 different grade ages in one classroom, 1 teacher and every child working at their own pace successful. My child is in the top 3 percent nationally according to his Terra Nova testing. Maybe the state should look into how they make it work with the same amount of resources.


    • el on Feb 24, 2013 at 9:55 pm02/24/2013 9:55 pm

      • 000

      D, among the ways they make it work is that they don’t have the high stakes per-grade level testing and they don’t have the really expensive special needs kids that your local public school likely has. They also can turn away any child who doesn’t work out in their setup – if he doesn’t get along, if he’s disruptive, etc.

      I agree that gifted kids are getting overlooked in a lot of this, and that highly gifted kids are special needs as well. And, that contrary to public assumption, the really gifted kids will not necessarily just do fine in a regular classroom. They really benefit from magnets and other arrangements that congregate the gifted kids.

      Of course, when this does happen, there has to be real commitment to keeping it alive. Otherwise people get mad that “that school with the high test scores” is being limited to the gifted kids.

      I’m glad you found a good situation for your son.

  4. D on Feb 22, 2013 at 3:45 pm02/22/2013 3:45 pm

    • 000

    Thank you for the reply John. I am just a frustrated parent of a gifted child who is fortunate enough to pay for Montessori where all the kids are able to work at their own pace. He started at our local district and by the time he was in 2nd grade he was screaming I want to learn SOMETHING too! Their only answer was to give him a box of advanced work that he could work on all by himself. I have to say the box was better than what the teacher was orignally doing in having him go sit outside because he already knew what she was teaching. The only way I found out was the psychologist found him on the playground all by himself while class was going on. Teacher said, “Oh he’s not in trouble, I just told him he could go outside.” It was terrible, an absolute mismanaged nightmare. And the Gate programs are just getting smaller, and even worse, non existant. Like I said I am fortunate that I am able to afford to send him to Montessori but I have to feel for the kids that are stuck. I can attest to the fact that these kids don’t do just fine on their own.

  5. D on Feb 22, 2013 at 10:59 am02/22/2013 10:59 am

    • 000

    So, our magnet schools who are serving our brightest minds from all races/classes (at least the ones who have not been frustrated and turned into underachievers) will be getting the least amount of money per student? No mention of how much money, if any, will be increased for our learning disabled and gifted programs? Special needs wasn’t even considered or broken down in the increase in amount of resources for them. These kids are just as important and disadvantaged in the fact that they are not being challenged and engaged to meet their full potential. We are losing our future scientists and engineers here guys. Does no one feel the need to fight and make sure we invest in them as well?


    • John Fensterwald on Feb 22, 2013 at 2:59 pm02/22/2013 2:59 pm

      • 000

      D: Money for magnet schools and the gifted will be flexed — left to the school board and superintendent to decide. State special education money will not be part of the formula, in part because money for it goes through inter-district SELPAs, and the funding for it is even more complex than district funding.

  6. Fred Jones on Feb 21, 2013 at 11:32 am02/21/2013 11:32 am

    • 000

    Providing districts with funding flexibility over existing Categoricals without correspondingly loosening/broadening policy pressures that have led to our state’s intolerably narrowed curricular exposure for students will simply exasperate this narrowing phenomenon. And in light of the fact that Career Technical Education programs have been outside those narrowing drivers, it will particularly be hard on them (since their Categorical funding streams will be obliterated under the LCFF).

    Moreover, while districts will be “held harmless” with current funding levels, what happens as disparities arise as this is fully funded between low socio-economic districts (who benefit the most from the extra “adjustments/weights”) and other districts? Will there be bidding wars for personnel, driving up costs for all districts? Your comparison between two “like” districts ignores this inevitable dilemma between districts with differing student populations.

    Policymakers need to consider more than just intentions when passing sweeping reforms. Unintended consequences can be more severe than the original intent of any given reform.


    • el on Feb 21, 2013 at 1:40 pm02/21/2013 1:40 pm

      • 000

      I would point out that within the state there is already a broad range of teacher compensation. A district brings many attributes to the table. Salary and benefits are obviously important, but also there are class sizes, classroom facilities, location, administrator quality, the existing staff, the community, school reputation, projected job stability, opportunities for advancement, etc.

      And honestly, I’m okay with the most disadvantaged schools having the money to offer more money to their staff.

      However, we do need to ensure that each school is adequately funded at the base level.

  7. John Fensterwald on Feb 21, 2013 at 9:14 am02/21/2013 9:14 am

    • 000


  8. Peggy Ward on Feb 21, 2013 at 9:11 am02/21/2013 9:11 am

    • 000

    Certain programs, like the longstanding California Partnership Academies, which have been the ONLY thing that allows a student to do things in school other than the “drill and kill” strategies to chase higher test scores, will be in critical danger of being discontinued if the funds become discretionary for our district. Our district’s leadership has proven themselves to be WAY less than trustworthy with monies they administer. It’s like putting the fox in charge of the hen house!


    • el on Feb 21, 2013 at 1:32 pm02/21/2013 1:32 pm

      • 000

      Go to your board meetings, build a constituency to advocate for programs that are important, and if necessary, recruit and field your own candidate(s) for the school board. Your board members are there to represent the needs of all students. If you do not trust them to do so, it is your responsibility as citizens to find new representatives.

  9. el on Feb 21, 2013 at 8:53 am02/21/2013 8:53 am

    • 000

    This is a very helpful chart; thank you.

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