Legislators want districts to be explicit about how they’re targeting dollars

Source: California Channel webcast

Al Muratsuchi, chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance.

Behind closed doors in coming days, legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown will decide whether to address a complaint that civil rights and parent groups have about the new state funding law: It does not require districts to spell out how they plan to spend the money they are getting for high-needs students, which include low-income children and English learners.

Advocacy groups that fought hard for passage of the Local Control Funding Formula argue that the ability to track expenditures for high-needs students is critical to fulfill the law’s promise of funding equity. They want the state to add a category to the statewide financial accounting system so that districts will be required to report the money they received each year for these targeted students and how they used it. Parents could verify that supplemental dollars went to the students who generated the money.

Under the new funding formula, districts receive an extra 20 percent in supplemental dollars for every low-income child, English learner and foster youth they enroll, plus money on top of that, called concentration grants, if they have large proportions of high-needs students.

“Setting clear guidelines on reporting how districts both receive and use the money is simply a matter of giving the public the information they need to hold policymakers accountable,” Jonathan Kaplan, a senior policy analyst with the nonprofit California Budget Project, wrote in a column in the Sacramento Bee on Tuesday.

At the urging of advocacy groups, budget committees in both the Assembly and Senate adopted the same placeholder language indicating they plan to revise the state accounting manual to include supplemental and concentration grants. The exact language will be negotiated with the governor’s office as part of the trailer bill, which contains the technical language explaining expenditures in the state budget.

Persuading Gov. Brown to go along may take some hard bargaining. The 2013 law establishing the Local Control Funding Formula requires that districts increase or improve programs and services for high-needs students. Districts have to document how the programs will benefit these students in the three-year Local Control and Accountability Plans that they are in the process of writing for the first time. And the LCAP requires districts to calculate and state the annual increase in their supplemental funding. 

But, consistent with Brown’s view of local control, the state board didn’t want to tie districts’ hands too tightly. In the temporary funding formula regulations they passed this year, board members did not explicitly require districts to spend all the supplemental dollars on the students who generated the money. And board members did not require districts to distinguish all expenditures in the LCAP by sources of revenue, whether base or supplemental and concentration funding.

At a hearing last month before the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance, Chairman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, and Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, said they were surprised the state board did not require more detailed accounting of supplemental funding.

Assemblyman Phil Ting questioned the inability to track expenditures under the funding formula. Source: California Channel.

Assemblyman Phil Ting questioned the inability to track expenditures under the funding formula. Source: California Channel webcast.

“We are making everybody go though LCAPs with money that’s supposed to be targeted toward these students,” Ting said. “It’s no wonder the public does not have faith in the school system if they don’t know where the money goes.”

The state board may tighten the reporting requirements and make it easier for the public to follow expenditures in final Local Control Funding Formula regulations and the LCAP template, which it will propose at its meeting next month. It has been taking suggestions from the public for improvements for several months.

The Legislature could also take the first step in the trailer bill by requiring districts to designate supplemental funding expenditures as a revenue source in the statewide school accounting system known as the Standardized Account Code Structure, or SACS. Debra Brown, associate director of education policy for Children Now, acknowledged that alone would not enable detailed comparisons of how districts spent their supplemental grants, comparing, say, the effectiveness of an extended day versus smaller classes. SACS expenditure codes currently are very broad, such as books and supplies, salaries, instruction, and pupil services. But Debra Brown said a revenue code for supplemental grants would be the cornerstone, and it must be established in the first year of the new funding system.

Gov. Brown might view establishing a SACS code for supplemental dollars as the first step toward reasserting state control. Before the Legislature started giving districts more authority over spending during the recession, each district had to report how it spent dozens of state-regulated pots of money, called categorical funds – each with own SACS code. Brown, who wanted to get the state out of the role of telling districts how to spend money, eliminated most categoricals with the Local Control Funding Formula,.

Or Gov. Brown might buy advocates’ case that a SACS code for supplemental and concentration funding is critical for parents and others to verify that money intended for low-income kids and English learners is being spent on them.

“We were very clear in supporting LCFF (the funding formula) that in exchange for local control, there would be greater transparency,” said Liz Guillen, director of legislative and community affairs for the nonprofit Public Advocates. She said the issue is not reestablishing state power over spending. “For local control to be meaningful, people have to have information,” she said. “This request is not around the use of funding, it’s on the visibility of it.”

John Fensterwald covers education policy. Contact him and follow him on Twitter @jfenster. Sign up here for a no-cost online subscription to EdSource Today for reports from the largest education reporting team in California.

Filed under: Local Control Funding Formula, Parent Involvement, School Finance, State Board

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20 Responses to “Legislators want districts to be explicit about how they’re targeting dollars”

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  1. Steven Nelson on Jun 9, 2014 at 2:39 pm06/9/2014 2:39 pm

    • 000

    I support the comments on SACS financial coding. As a school board trustee in a mid-sized district, with “unduplicated” school student numbers ranging from about 75 (20% concentration) to over 250 (90% concentration) , it was disappointing to have over $1700 per target student assigned to the 75 students (school API 950s) and a much smaller $625 or so to the larger/ poorer school(s) with APIs near 800. Clear accounting – easily accessible to the press and parents – will make this ‘rich-get-richer’ problem easier to counter. “In the mean time, in between time …”

  2. Fiscal on Jun 6, 2014 at 8:59 am06/6/2014 8:59 am

    • 000

    If SACS is used correctly, each dollar can be tracked by Goal and School. LCFF and LCAP requirements are twofold when doing the actual accounting of the dollars: (1)goals on what programs for which dollars are to be spent and (2) the supplemental/concentration spending including the mimimum proportionality percentage requirement. There is not any guidance on how to track any of these dollars because of the emphasis on “local”. The LCAP is most appropriate to track in the GOAL field since that is the very definition of the GOAL field. However, the ability to code costs for the increased dollar amount of supplemental/concentration grant services is not addressed in SACS. Sure we can code supplemental/concentration dollars in local fields but they are rolled up into generic buckets and therefore cannot be seen on SACS reports.

    In my 25 year career, there are many districts who do not use SACS as intended because the staff thinks it’s too much work to maintain. Detail in the chart of accounts is more complicated but is well worth it when trying to pull data such as requirements of LCFF and LCAP. There is no reason why a spreadsheet is necessary to which only one person has access when your financial system can do it for you.

    I am very much in favor of having a specific revenue code for receipt of supplemental/concentration grants monies but not a separate resource. I would also like to see a completely separate field for the supplemental/concentration grant services that will report separately on the SACS reports. A new revenue code and a new SACS field in conjuction with the requirement for districts to use them would not tie anybody’s hands. It’s accounting.

    LCFF was supposed to be “easier” and “more transparent”. It has been an accounting nightmare to implement because of the questions that are reported in this article. But, does anyone in the legislature or CDE ever really listen to the people that have to implement the laws they approve?


    • el on Jun 7, 2014 at 11:23 pm06/7/2014 11:23 pm

      • 000

      I think “goal” is not necessarily the way that parents really think of school budgets when they look at them and try to figure out whether funds are wisely spent and whether needed services are properly funded.

      What “goal” is served by toilet paper? Or office paper? And yet, as a parent, I want to know you have budget for an adequate quantity of each, that the bathrooms aren’t going without (as happened during my whole school career, so this isn’t even hypothetical for me), that the teachers aren’t hamstrung by the inability to make photocopies.

      There are places where the goal-based budgeting does work; I don’t mean to disparage it entirely. It’s ideal for pull-out programs and for certain specific initiatives. But we do need to all accept that there are certain basic needs that aren’t sexy and aren’t (or shouldn’t be) improvement. It’s the table stakes to call yourself a school at all. These things cost money and they need to be visible too.

      • Karen Swett on Jun 9, 2014 at 8:28 am06/9/2014 8:28 am

        • 000

        “Goal” as defined by the CSAM is a part of the “SACS language that” – if one intends to read expenditure reports and know how the money is spent – describes (in the SACS code-string) “… a set of objectives for the LEA. Another way to view goal is to look at the instructional setting or the group of students who are receiving instructional services:…” (CSAM p 320-1) The SACS code-string components provide a descriptive sentence for all expenditures.: resource, object, goal, function, location — just about tells you everything.

    • Karen Swett on Jun 9, 2014 at 8:34 am06/9/2014 8:34 am

      • 000

      A separate Revenue code would be helpful in tracking the “getting” of the money…. a Resource code will allow parents who know how to read SACS code-strings which pot of LCFF is being spent on what… We will get what we will get. I want to know how it is being expended. Having been a teacher in an at-risk high school program I learned how to read SACS so that I couldn’t be told “there isn’t any more money” when I asked for improvements for my program for the kids who needed it the most.. When I was told “there isn’t enough money” I said “Show me”. What I saw was millions of unspent resources….

  3. Don on Jun 6, 2014 at 8:36 am06/6/2014 8:36 am

    • 000

    Reason Foundation
    May 2013 Lisa Snell

    But while Governor Brown’s plan distributes money to school districts with larger numbers of disadvantaged students, it does not do enough to ensure that the money gets to these students’ schools or to the students themselves—aside from threatening audits or sanctions if disadvantaged students fail to meet performance targets. Brown’s plan would be greatly improved in this respect by integrating the following recommendations:

    Distribute all the extra weighted funding for at-risk and English Language Learner students on a per pupil basis to the particular schools in which those students enroll, funneling funding for disadvantaged students directly to them, rather than to the district.
    Authorize school principals, rather than districts, to spend the funds for their students as they see fit, according to their students’ needs.
    Implement a modern school-level financial reporting system, ensuring that extra funding reaches the disadvantaged student and that school district finance allocations are transparent to the public.
    If California adopted these recommendations, it would be following in the footsteps of Colorado, which recently passed comprehensive school finance reform legislation along precisely these lines. Moreover, California could easily incorporate such reforms in its school finance plan by adapting the current language in the charter school sections of Assembly bill 88 and Senate bill 69, which are legislative alternatives to Governor Brown’s budget proposal.

    Charter school student funding is weighted per pupil to customize to each student’s needs, and individual schools are held accountable for how they spend those dollars. For true accountability and equity, every school in California should have to follow these charter-school reporting requirements.

    – See more at: http://reason.org/news/show/weighted-student-funding-for-califo.html#sthash.eH4MW61G.dpuf

  4. Don on Jun 5, 2014 at 7:07 pm06/5/2014 7:07 pm

    • 000


    Reason Foundation
    Policy Brief No. 106
    May 2013

    -Three Reasons Governor Brown’s School Funding
    Plan is Better than the Status Quo and Three Big
    Ideas to Make the Plan Even Better-
    by Lisa Snell

    “While Governor Brown’s plan distributes money
    to school districts with larger numbers of disadvantaged
    students, it does not do enough to ensure that the
    money gets to these students’ schools or to the students
    themselves—aside from threatening audits or sanctions
    if disadvantaged students fail to meet performance
    targets. This is worrying, since studies of staff-based
    budget allocation and within-district inequities show
    that money already devoted to disadvantaged kids is
    often not reaching their individual schools, even when
    specific funding streams like Title I are designated for
    disadvantaged students.

    “Brown’s plan would be greatly improved in this
    respect by integrating the following recommendations:

    1. Distribute all the extra weighted funding for at-risk
    and English Language Learner students on a perpupil
    basis to the particular schools in which those
    students enroll, funneling funding for disadvantaged
    students directly to them, rather than to the district.
    2. Authorize school principals, rather than districts,
    to spend the funds for their students as they see fit,
    according to their students’ needs.
    3. Implement a modern school-level financial reporting
    system, ensuring that extra funding reaches
    the disadvantaged student and that school district
    finance allocations are transparent to the public.”

    Don says – His recent comments indicate that Brown is dead set against returning the CDE to a monitoring agency or giving schools more direct control as advised in the policy paper excerpted above. Don’t see much chance for a big change without huge pressure. And the parent and community groups just don’t have the clout to deliver that kind of political influence. I don’t see any self-supporting reason why admin or labor would want to increase accountability.

  5. Doctor J on Jun 5, 2014 at 5:54 pm06/5/2014 5:54 pm

    • 000

    OMG, Mt Diablo took down its Spanish translation of the LCAP this morning, substituting this statement: “The draft LCAP is in progress being translated. As soon as we receive it back from the translators, the draft will be uploaded to this website. Thank you for your patience.” Are they going to extend the comment time now ? It’s doubtful since they have boxed themselves into a corner or up the proverbial creek without a paddle. I guess they read my comment this morning. Too bad no staff member had even tried to read the Spanish LCAP before today. It’s a real three ring circus in Concord these days as the “central office” as Nellie Meyer likes to avoid calling it by its real name — the Dent Center — sounds too real for her liking.


    • navigio on Jun 5, 2014 at 9:07 pm06/5/2014 9:07 pm

      • 000

      our district ‘forgot’ to translate its EL master plan… :-)

      • Doctor J on Jun 5, 2014 at 10:05 pm06/5/2014 10:05 pm

        • 000

        “forgot” is almost as hilarious as Mt Diablo publishing in ENGLISH the above statement I posted about the Spanish version being taken down and sent to the translators ! Maybe they ought to publish that statement in Spanish ! I wonder how some of them passed the CBEST test, let alone got their Bachelors and some a Masters or EdD. I have been chuckling all evening.

  6. Karen Swett on Jun 5, 2014 at 12:31 pm06/5/2014 12:31 pm

    • 000

    SACS Coding allows parents, teachers, admin, board and even students to track WHAT (LCFF, CCSS, QEIA, ETC. ETC.) dollars have been spent, on WHAT (teachers-in the class-room) teachers doing admin work, teachers doing all sorts of things, classified doing clerical work, and on WHAT: parent engagement, foster-youth activities, EL activities, ETC.ETC. You cab see admin doing admin work, classroom books, library books, after-school books, toilet paper, construction paper, balloons, ETC. ETC. ETC. and all sorts of other services: contractors, vendors, consultants, bus services, professional development vendors, ETC.ETC.ETC. You get the picture. You can see every penny. AND YOU CAN SEE WHERE all money HAS BEEN SPENT: each school site individually, each department at headquarters.. Ask your district for their “Chart of Accounts” code book. Then ask for a SACS expenditure report for what you want to see.


    • el on Jun 5, 2014 at 6:10 pm06/5/2014 6:10 pm

      • 000

      I have rather more experience with school finances than your typical parent, and there’s no way in my district I could tell you expenditures down to $X on toilet paper and $Y on office paper. IME, the buckets are larger than that (often ‘Materials and Supplies’) and don’t so much line up with what parents want to know, like how much is spent on science consumable supplies.

  7. el on Jun 5, 2014 at 11:12 am06/5/2014 11:12 am

    • 000

    One of the things to keep in mind here is that the 1,000 or so districts within California have some quite different circumstances with respect to supplemental dollars.

    Some districts have a very low concentration of these students, 10% or less. Some districts have a very high concentration, 80% or more.

    Some districts have a uniform distribution of supplemental students across the schools they administer. Others have schools within their boundaries that range from 10% to 80%.

    Each of these situations really have quite different accountability needs. In some cases, what you want to see is that individual students are getting specific extra help. In some cases, you’re more interested in seeing that the money is accounted more on a school-specific basis, that the low income school as a whole is getting those supplemental dollars, whether or not they then use those dollars for programs that happen to also benefit the other 20% that are not counted as disadvantaged, like a longer school day or smaller classes.

    It is my impression that the coding system doesn’t necessarily break down to individual schools. I could be mistaken about that. If that is so, to me that is the first thing that I would look for, that it is easy for any member of the public to see an expenditure total per school (which can then be worked into an expenditure per pupil per school). You never expect them to be completely even but it should be transparent to everyone that Middle School A is spending $6,000 per pupil and Middle School B across town is spending $9,000 per pupil and with some rationale as to why that’s appropriate.


    • el on Jun 5, 2014 at 11:26 am06/5/2014 11:26 am

      • 000

      I should add that I personally find the idea of having to account the money for a particular program to the supplemental versus the base grant to be a red herring. At the end of the day, what matters is that there are expenditures that meet the needs of supplemental students, not which fund they came from. The question is, what are the needs of the general students, what are the needs of the supplemental students, and how are you spending money to meet those needs. If a smaller class size meets the needs of both groups of students, and you have 60% supplemental students, funding it 40% from the base grant and 60% from the supplemental grant or funding it 100% from the base grant or 100% from the supplemental funds does not add clarity to the process for the average observer.

    • Educator on Jun 5, 2014 at 11:43 am06/5/2014 11:43 am

      • 000

      I believe you’re correct – the coding system does NOT break down to individual schools. Although I generally agree it should, it will raise other confusing problems, especially for staff that serve a few schools – how to differentiate a staff person who serves many schools. Still, I’m sure that can get worked out and it’s worth considering.

      • el on Jun 5, 2014 at 12:05 pm06/5/2014 12:05 pm

        • 000

        In my small experience, it’s common practice for a staff member to be paid out of multiple funds in the old system of lots of restricted dollars. It would seem to be even easier to divide that 1 FTE into 0.2 FTE for school A and 0.2 FTE for school B and 0.6 FTE for school C or whatever.

  8. Doctor J on Jun 5, 2014 at 10:56 am06/5/2014 10:56 am

    • 000

    Last night the Mt Diablo USD Supt waived a 200 page book entitled LCAP, produced behind closed doors by district staffers. the lone speaker in Public Comment, Debra Mason, said it simply. “I’m disappointed. It doesn’t say anything except we will continue to do the same things.” No new ideas, no programs directed at the under-served. the Board who had not read it, was impressed with the volume of pages. the proposed district budget was pulled from the agenda — not ready yet and put over two weeks. what do the non-sensical numbers in the LCCAP mean ? so I will provide the link in English. there is an automatic Spanish translation available too. I’m told not very understandable by native Spanish speakers. Mt Diablo USD could be the poster child to require specifics, not generalities. as the military says, you get what you inspect, not what you expect. read this and weep as you think of the tens of thousands of dollars spent to produce a 200 page LCAP that says nothing, instead of getting money to the students who need it most. I should note that MDUSD in May gave all administrators raises, restored athletic funding, and 5th grade music, but failed to identify funds for low income, Enlish learners and foster youth. http://www.mdusd.org/lcap/Documents/MDUSD%20LCAP%20DRAFT%20June%202014%20(b).pdf


    • tom on Jun 5, 2014 at 11:49 am06/5/2014 11:49 am

      • 000

      Hi Doc,
      I’m an East Bay resident too and your observation is yet another knock against the Mt. Diablo USD problems – something is seriously wrong over there. Per the Contra Costa Times, they appear to have protected/hired two serial molesters (Martin and Guinto) and failed to report suspicious behavior. Have too many no-bid contracts, etc etc. Is it any wonder some schools in Walnut Creek want to break off and form a separate district? Hang in there and keep up the vigilance.

  9. Tressy Capps on Jun 5, 2014 at 7:51 am06/5/2014 7:51 am

    • 000

    I attended an LCAP meeting at Etiwanda School District. 2 parents out of s 13,000 student body showed up to comment about our desire for busing dollars. Will that input be reflected? I’m not holding my breath. We want transportation dollars for our children’s school climate (safety). We have low and reduced lunch bus riders who need assistance getting to school. We want to be engaged as parents but they conducted the survey with a unique codes that locked most parents out of the survey. I am a public advocate for our kids safety and it got me banned from school district property. The battle for school bucks gets very ugly unfortunately. There must be transparency. At least the discussion is on the table which gives me a glimmer of hope for this seemingly “all talk no action” LCFF law.

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