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’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.