CREDIT: FERMIN LEAL/EDSOURCE TODAY
Freshman students at Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy in Los Angeles Unified review a lesson before final exams.

Los Angeles Unified has steered additional money to high schools with large concentrations of disadvantaged students over the past three years, but failed to do so for elementary schools, a report released Monday concluded. For those schools, the district ignored the requirement of the Local Control Funding Formula to direct extra resources and establish effective programs in schools with low-income students, foster youths, homeless students and English learners, which the law defines as high-needs students.

The report was produced by the United Way of Los Angeles and the Communities for Los Angeles Student Success, a coalition of nonprofit groups. Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at University of California Berkeley, directed the research.

The report examined how the district spent $372 million in extra dollars – a portion of supplemental and concentration funding under the formula ­– that the funding law said should be targeted for high-needs students.

Per-student funding has risen 25 percent above pre-recession levels in L.A. Unified, after adjusting for inflation. The report said that spending in 31 high schools with the highest concentrations of high-needs students rose the most, nearly 50 percent, to $9,596 per student, as schools particularly added nonteaching staff, including counselors and psychologists, to support the district’s requirement that all graduates pass courses required for admission to UC and California State University.

Since 2013-14, spending on high schools where high-needs students or TSP (targeted student populations) constituted 90 percent or more of students increased more than high schools with smaller percentages of those students. The pattern differed for elementary schools.

Source: United Way of Greater L.A. and CLASS Year 4 LCFF Interim Report Card

Since 2013-14, spending on high schools where high-needs students or TSP (targeted student populations) constituted 90 percent or more of students increased more than high schools with smaller percentages of those students. The pattern differed for elementary schools.

But the story was different for spending in elementary schools where “student composition bears little association with gains in per-pupil spending,” the report said. Elementary schools with fewer than 60 percent high-needs students had a 20 percent gain in per-pupil spending over two years, compared with a 14 percent increase for schools with 90 percent high-needs students. Spending in middle schools was more weighted than in elementary schools toward a more equitable distribution of funding, but less than in high schools.

L.A. Unified received $1.1 billion in supplemental and concentration dollars for high-needs students this year, about 13 percent of its total. Under the funding law, the district is required to increase programs and services for those students above what the district spent in 2012-13, when the formula was adopted. But the report said that the district has not stated what the pre-LCFF base level is. Also, advocacy groups are disputing $250 million in funding that the district had been spending on special education services for high-needs students. The district is also counting this expenditure as meeting its obligation under the funding formula for additional services and academic programs. Public Advocates and the ACLU of Southern California have filed suit over the issue.

The $372 million is what constitutes the Investment Fund, which the district created to meet its obligation for high-needs students under the formula. It makes up 4.5 percent of total spending – “the bare minimum,” the report said.

The report said that “hold-harmless policies” protecting elementary schools from budget cuts as well as concentrations of the most experienced teachers in wealthier neighborhoods, who earn the highest salaries, are “systematic barriers to achieving budget equity.” And increased pension obligations, plus a double-digit salary raise after years of no increases, “make real change difficult,” the report said.

The report also criticized the lack of a coherent approach on spending funding for high-needs students. “There are no commonly held strategies to close the opportunity gap” in the district, and best practices that are empirically identified are not reflected as budget priorities, the report said. Since the district is facing a projected budget deficit in the next few years, “the modest gains that high-needs schools and pupils have made are at risk without a cohesive strategy or equity formula,” it said.

“The challenge is simple,” the report said. “Now is the time to be courageous.”

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  1. Kim 9 months ago9 months ago

    Hi – the link for the report didn’t work for me – is there another way to find it?

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 8 months ago8 months ago

      Thanks for alerting us; try this link.

  2. Manuel 9 months ago9 months ago

    As always, how numbers are generated from reports is problematic if one does not know the underlying assumptions. This report, released on March 20, relies heavily on a previous report, released in June 2016. There, the authors state that LAUSD spent "$9,361 per pupil in 2006-07." The Revenue Limit for that year was $5,540.48 per Average Daily Attendance of 639,109 (including affiliated charters), according to LAUSD documents. Indeed, there were other sources of revenues identified … Read More

    As always, how numbers are generated from reports is problematic if one does not know the underlying assumptions. This report, released on March 20, relies heavily on a previous report, released in June 2016. There, the authors state that LAUSD spent “$9,361 per pupil in 2006-07.” The Revenue Limit for that year was $5,540.48 per Average Daily Attendance of 639,109 (including affiliated charters), according to LAUSD documents.

    Indeed, there were other sources of revenues identified in the Superintendent’s Budget of that year. If those funds are included, the General Fund adds up to $5,949.9 million, which when divided by the ADA yields a per-pupil expenditure of $9,309.68. However, it may be reasonably argued that those extra funds were not earmarked to deliver educational services.

    In fact, LAUSD itself recognized in 2010, as part of its “Budget for Student Success” effort, that costs of delivering Special Education services, district-wide programs, central and local offices, etc., caused the actual per-pupil expenditures to amount to 28% of its General Fund, which was $6.6 billion in the 2009-10 year.

    Thus, to say that LAUSD, and likely every district, spends its entire budget to improve the academic knowledge of students is patently wrong. Who is to say that the rest of the numbers in this report are not equally wrong?

    Of course, districts will argue that these non-classroom expenditures are necessary to run a district. They are, also of course, correct. Can you run a school without librarians, nurses, janitors, office staff, etc? Certainly not. But who is keeping track of whether or not districts have accumulated too much overhead? Interestingly, the authors recognize that such distinctions must be made in footnote #9 where they admit they “do not include the ‘Undetermined’ category on the Target Investment List.” Yet, they have no qualms about putting everything in the hopper when calculating per-pupil expenditures.

    Speaking of balance, the report states in its p. 6 that “The equity community believes that under the Equity is Justice Resolution, the District should allocated all the Investment Fund dollars to schools who have a high-concentration of TSPs.” All funds to a selected set of schools? How many? The top 10%? 20%? What about the rest, which, as Figures 7 and 8 show, are many? Where is the “equity” in that? Where, one must ask, is the “justice?” This is deeply disturbing.