Will Governor Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula improve the ability of districts to meet student needs compared to the former system?
Brief Background and Aims of the Research
The current education system in California lacks transparency and is extremely complicated. All the participants, be it policymakers or parents, struggle to comprehend the current system, which offers different pupil per rate across various districts. There were many allegations that affluent schools ended up getting more per pupil rate than the other schools. To negate this inequity in the distribution of federal funds, Governor Brown in the year 2013-14 introduced the Local Control Funding Formula. (LCFF)
In 2005, the ‘Getting down To Facts’ (GDTF) project was established by California’s political leaders, to study the state of the education system in the State. The GDTF criticized the education system of California on three grounds. First, it said that the funds provided by the State were inadequate to achieve the educational goals of the districts. Second, it found that the schools that needed help the most did not receive the aid, and finally, it noted that there was too much intervention from the States over schools in the allocation of funds. Brown’s LCFF specifically aims to eradicate the third problem cited by the GDTF, by allowing the schools districts more discretion over the finances.
There are two types of state funding given to districts – general purpose and categorical funding. While general funds are spent at the discretion of the districts, the category funds, under which the districts receive money for education programs, are earmarked for target programs. The revenue limit for these funds used to be calculated through an outdated and complicated formula, which differed from district to district, and did not take into consideration the needs of individual students and school districts. The LCFF has eliminated close to 40 of such categorical funds and has established uniform per-student base grants. Under LCFF, out of the funds allocated, 80% go to the base grant for each student, 16% to supplemental grant for students falling in the category of English-learner, low-income and foster youth (EL/LI/FY) categories and the remaining 4% go to concentration grant, for students in districts with more than 50 percent EL/LI/FY students.
The Government believes that LCFF would bring in more transparency into the fund allocation, and offer increased flexibility to districts to meet the needs of disadvantaged students. LCFF aims at bringing in more equity, in fund distribution, by operating on the basis of a student focused formula. For over forty years, California depended on a system which included forty different categorical funds, which are eliminated under LCFF. Almost 230 schools are slated to receive no additional funding because of this formula, while others are going to receive increased funding.There are various strict auditing and accountability criteria attached to this proposal, and in short it focuses on replacing an overtly complicated system with a uniform formula.
The aim of this research is to gauge the effects of this new plan, and establish whether this new system would improve the ability of districts to meet student needs compared to the former system. It also aims at making some suggestions, to improve the system to better serve the need of the disadvantaged students.
The major questions this report would aim to explore are:
- What does the Brown government aim to achieve by introducing LCFF and through what steps they plan to achieve these goals?
The governor while tabling the project and during the various subsequent discussions, reiterates the following points as the goals of the LCFF - a) directing more funding where challenges are greater B) creating a template for accountability and c) make school funding less complicated and more transparent. The components of the policies too indicate strongly towards the above mentioned goals. These are the goals this research will evaluate the LCFF proposal against.
- What were the major disadvantages of the old system and in what ways does the new system proposes to negate these drawbacks?
The old system’s drawbacks would be first presented and discussed in the research report, and later the clauses of LCFF will be explored to find out whether these drawbacks are addressed in the new system. For example, the old system had 40 different categorical funds which are abolished in the new LCFF and LCAP proposals. But there are not enough clauses that addresses within the district inequity in distribution of funds. Likewise, the policy will be compared with the older system to find out how effectively it eliminates the drawback.
- What groups of students/schools require state financial assistance and does the new system provides them with the necessary assistance?
Groups of students and their necessities can be found out from old data, and the research would measure the possible assistance the new program would provide them. For example, disabled students and low-income students are given a higher weight age in the LCFF formula.
- Does the LCFF ensure equity in the distribution of funds?
This may be found out by applying the new formula for a few school districts, and evaluate them with the help of the previous years’ data.
- Will LCFF have an impact on the student performances?
It is a part of the broader debate as to whether increase in funding will increase the student performance. Since the LCAP proposes an accountability mechanism, whereby the districts are expected to give specific academic plans for the funds allocated, and there is a mechanism for evaluating districts based on students’ performances, the program’s impact on student performances can be forecasted.
- Are there any grey areas in the proposed policy and what are the possible improvements that can be made and what are the possible hurdles the policy might encounter in the implementation stage?
This question refers to the possible drawbacks in the proposed system. While it will be difficult to assess the shortcomings of a project before implementing, possible repercussions of the policy can be estimated. For example, the additional revenue generated by tax increases from Proposition 30 will cease from the year 2018, so the state has to plan new revenue sources to cover the cost of the new proposals etc. This question aims at finding out possible suggestions and recommendations.
- What is the reaction of various stakeholders (teachers, parents, students) to this new policy?
This might be recorded from already existing resources (published responses) or through interviews.
It is a widespread belief that ‘throwing more money’ alone will not improve the quality of public schools. Such attitudes and perceptions may sometimes lead to resistance to policies like the LCFF. Some others argue that more transparency and fair distribution of funds would lead to improvement of quality in the education system. This paper will form hypotheses based on such assumptions and use data gathered from various sources to test these hypotheses.
The study will begin by collecting background information of the old system. Statistics concerning various per pupil rates and the rate of fund distribution administered under the old system will be collected, from sources such as government websites, school reports, journals, books, and other published articles. The merits and demerits of the LCFF will be analyzed, by scrutinizing the Governor’s budget proposal and reactions by various social and financial experts to his proposals, and by studying the possible impact of LCFF on school districts with highest poverty rates.
California department of Finance. (2014, April 11). District and Charter School Local Control Funding Formula Modeling Estimates. Retrieved April 11, 2014, from http://www.dof.ca.gov/reports_and_periodicals/district_estimate/documents/LCFF_Funding_Estimates.pdf
California Teachers Association. (2014, April 11). Local Control Funding Formula. Retrieved April 11, 2014, from http://www.cta.org/Issues-and-Action/School-Funding/Local-Control-Funding-Formula.aspx
Plamk, D. N., & Loeb, S. (n.d.). California's Education System. In E. Rarick, Governing California (p. 367).