Legislators to state board: Consider changes to school funding rules
Mar 21, 2014 | By John Fensterwald | 29 Comments
Non-profits and community groups that want to tighten the Local Control Funding Formula regulations to ensure more money will go to minority students have enlisted an influential ally: legislators.
One quarter of the 120 members of the Legislature wrote to State Board of Education President Michael Kirst this week urging the board to adopt changes to the regulations that mirror what many of the advocacy organizations are recommending.
“We made a promise to help underserved students when creating the (Local Control Funding Formula). It cannot be reduced to lip service as billions of education dollars are spent under the biggest change to education funding in decades,” said the letter, which was co-written by Assembly members Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, and Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, and co-signed by two dozen Assembly members and three senators.
Both Weber and Ting testified at the state board hearing in January, when the board adopted temporary regulations on how supplemental and concentration money under the funding formula should be used for low-income children, foster youths and English learners. The board also established a template that all districts, county offices of education and charter schools must use in filling out the Local Control and Accountability Plan. The LCAP outlines a district’s goals and how it will spend supplemental dollars to achieve them.
The board is now collecting proposals for permanent regulations, which it will adopt this fall. The Ting-Weber letter serves as a subtle warning to Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration – which wants the Legislature to guarantee annual increases to the funding formula – to seriously consider changes.
The nonprofits and advocates for minority children include Children Now, Public Advocates and Education Trust-West. They have argued that the regulations give districts too much latitude to spend money for general purposes that might not substantially benefit the high-needs students who generated the dollars. But the changes they’re proposing are more nuanced than drastic, designed to close potential loopholes in the language. The advocates also want the regulations to require more involvement of local school site councils, which include teachers and parents, in creating the LCAP and to require districts to better document the site council’s participation.
The one-page Ting-Weber letter highlights those suggestions.
- The temporary regulations allow using supplemental and concentration money for districtwide and schoolwide purposes that benefit high-needs students – as opposed to direct services like tutoring – when those students are less than a majority of school or district enrollment. The letter suggests that districts be required to show that the money “principally” serves high-needs students. So instead of adding an extra counselor, say, for all students, a school would have to hire a counselor whose primary job would be to work with English learners or low-income students. Expenses such as buying iPads for all students would have to be paid for out of base expenditures, not supplemental dollars.
- The temporary regulations already require using metrics and quantifiable outcomes when setting goals and expenditures. But districts could cite the metrics they will use (suspension rates) without citing numbers. The letter wants the template to require more specificity using data already being collected. And it urges the state board to require “strong school site council engagement” while leaving it to the board to define what that means. The LCAP requires the participation of district advisory committees but not school site councils per se, although that is recommended. Gov. Brown has rejected the idea of requiring an LCAP for every school.
The State Board will spend much of its May meeting discussing the suggestions it has received.