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Jim Wunderman

Jim Wunderman

Many of us in the business community supported Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to overhaul the state’s antiquated and cumbersome school funding system and replace it with the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). We have long advocated for a system with greater transparency, accountability and coherence that would invest in the achievement of all students to generate an educated citizenry and skilled workforce. This is key to California’s prosperity, growth and well-being.

Now comes the hard part. The State Board of Education this week will begin crafting the detailed policies to determine how school districts will be expected to 1) use supplemental funding they receive to benefit high-needs students, and 2) develop comprehensive plans for student achievement and success called Local Control and Accountability Plans, which must also demonstrate how the district’s budget will achieve that vision.

In the lead-up to the State Board’s work, there is growing tension between two seemingly laudable but increasingly oppositional goals of flexibility and accountability. At issue is how much discretion local school districts should have in determining how best to achieve the new funding formula’s intended goals versus whether the state should map out explicit and measurable standards.

The problem we see with this dynamic is that neither flexibility nor accountability is the goal we must strive to attain: student achievement is. Flexibility and accountability are simply tools we can use to get there. So, the question we should be asking is not whether school districts should have more flexibility or increased accountability, but which approach – or more realistically what balance between them – is likely to yield the best results for students.

The bottom line is that while we know what the new funding formula intends to achieve, we do not yet know exactly how school districts will be required to achieve it. For example, while we expect that streamlining the funding system and bringing decision-making authority to the local level should increase transparency and community engagement, what will school districts actually be required to share and what will the community’s seat at the table look like?

We also must be honest and acknowledge that there will be significant pressure on local school boards and superintendents to influence their spending decisions. The State Board must create robust and meaningful implementation policies that safeguard against these forces and protect the students the new funding formula was designed to serve.

Our members realize that the accountability process cannot be overly cumbersome. We want to be realistic while being extremely careful to get the incentives right. Therefore, accountability cannot be about just spending more money or adding more programs. It must be about continuous improvements in outcomes and cost effectiveness. It comes up in surveys time and again that the public does not believe education funding is being spent effectively and efficiently. If we hope to have more of it to invest in California students in the future, we must be able to demonstrate that it is.

Our business members are greatly concerned about the possible direction the State Board may take. It is imperative that we pay close attention at their next meeting on November 7, to ensure the Local Control Funding Formula implementation structure now under construction meshes with the blueprint we all bought into to close achievement gaps and improve California’s economy.

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Jim Wunderman is president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, a nonpartisan public policy organization representing more than 250 of the largest businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley.


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  1. Swavaise 3 years ago3 years ago

    The author gets kudos for illuminating the tension that the LCFF creates among various interest groups, but Naviglio also hits the nail on the head. Public perceptions about public education are shaped by the politics of and resulting propaganda about education, not facts. For example, since the Academic Performance Index (API) was first adopted as a statewide measure of the effectiveness of public schools, student achievement overall and reduced variability in student achievement (the achievement gap) … Read More

    The author gets kudos for illuminating the tension that the LCFF creates among various interest groups, but Naviglio also hits the nail on the head. Public perceptions about public education are shaped by the politics of and resulting propaganda about education, not facts.

    For example, since the Academic Performance Index (API) was first adopted as a statewide measure of the effectiveness of public schools, student achievement overall and reduced variability in student achievement (the achievement gap) have improved dramatically, across the state. Public school haters ignore or choose to not believe the data because it doesn’t support their preconceived view.

    Any business person knows that accountability for results must be accompanied by the freedom to make the choices needed to achieve the result. If those choices are made in Sacramento, then we need a state-run and administered school system, not one with locally elected boards. If we continue to believe in the importance of local boards, then they must have the authority and discretion to make the decisions that lead to the results for which they will be held accountable.

    We’ve tried to have it both ways since Proposition 13. Governor Brown deserves a lot of credit for seeing this problem for what it is and trying to achieve a new and better balance. If you fear the result, review 8th grade civics lessons about representative government, with all of its flaws and benefits.

  2. Manuel 3 years ago3 years ago

    I would add that it is even worse because "we at LAUSD" have no idea how much money came in for the various components of LCFF grants (base, supplemental, and concentration). Maybe that will happen next year (2014-15), but not for this year (2013-14), the first year under LCFF. If we have no idea what the resources are, how can they be deployed, let alone assess their effectiveness? And what form will those assessments take? The Smarter … Read More

    I would add that it is even worse because “we at LAUSD” have no idea how much money came in for the various components of LCFF grants (base, supplemental, and concentration). Maybe that will happen next year (2014-15), but not for this year (2013-14), the first year under LCFF.

    If we have no idea what the resources are, how can they be deployed, let alone assess their effectiveness?

    And what form will those assessments take? The Smarter Balanced Tests results? Graduation rates? SAT scores? Completion of A-G requirements with at least a B+?

  3. navigio 3 years ago3 years ago

    I dont know. I think calls for accountability have the notion of achievement built-in. And flexibility can manifest in two ways: an alternative path to achievement, or and alternative definition of achievement. So it may actually be the case that achievement is the thing those two goals actually have in common. Flexibility exists because no one can agree on what achievement actually means (it would have helped for you to clarify your own take). It comes … Read More

    I dont know. I think calls for accountability have the notion of achievement built-in. And flexibility can manifest in two ways: an alternative path to achievement, or and alternative definition of achievement. So it may actually be the case that achievement is the thing those two goals actually have in common. Flexibility exists because no one can agree on what achievement actually means (it would have helped for you to clarify your own take).

    It comes up in surveys time and again that the public does not believe education funding is being spent effectively and efficiently. If we hope to have more of it to invest in California students in the future, we must be able to demonstrate that it is.

    Your mention of the public’s impression of effectiveness and efficiency is irrelevant unless that is the basis of your support for withholding the funding that you also admit the system needs. It seems odd to try to evaluate a system based on its performance when it admittedly does not have sufficient resources to perform its task.

    Regardless, countless surveys also show that the public doesn’t understand much of anything, let alone anything related to public education. I would even wager that education administration and funding is quite likely the thing the public understands least of all.

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