School Finance Reform
What is the Local Control Funding Formula?
On July 1, 2013, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), the most comprehensive reform to California’s school funding system in 40 years. It was a huge win for schools and students and was passed with bi-partisan support as part of the 2013-14 California State Budget. The transition to LCFF should be complete by 2020-21. According to state law, LCFF will:
- Restore K-12 funding to pre-recession levels over time.
- Provide an investment of nearly $10 billion at full implementation that will benefit high-needs students – defined as lower-income households, English learners and students in foster care.
- Ensure state funding is more consistent throughout California among schools by providing 20 percent more funding for high-needs student. Districts with concentrations of high needs students – at least 55 percent – will receive 50 percent more funding for students over that threshold.
- Require that every school district create its own Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), to help ensure that student outcomes are the driving factor for how districts and communities invest scarce resources.
- Hold districts accountable for devising strategies to engage the community and parents in their spending priority and program decisions.
- Establish a set of state priorities – including college and career preparedness, student engagement and parental involvement – that every district must address.
Why and how LCFF was approved
Prior to LCFF, California‘s school funding system was complex, confusing and didn’t ensure equity for students or schools. Supported by compelling research and data that demonstrates how a weighted formula approach would make the funding system more effective, student-centered and results-driven, education policy experts pushed for its adoption to fix California’s broken K-12 school funding system for many years.
Governor Brown recognized that if this issue was not addressed, student achievement would continue to suffer and districts would continue to be hamstrung from making swift and impactful decisions to help them. He first introduced a weighted formula school funding proposal in May 2012 but the effort was unsuccessful.
Following the passage of Proposition 30 in November 2012, which stopped the cycle of cuts and made new resources available education, Governor Brown’s Administration spent a great amount of time listening to concerns raised by stakeholders about the weighted formula approach to determine what made most sense for California. In January 2013 as part of his budget proposal the Governor introduced LCFF, built upon the input and recommendations from leaders in the education community. This level of input and engagement continued throughout the effort to enact the reform. A diverse cross section of stakeholders in education, business, civil rights, faith, community development and children’s advocacy supported LCFF and worked to shape the proposal’s development during the budget process.
What Your Community Can Expect
At the center of Local Control Funding Formula implementation is a document called the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). The LCAP, which districts must submit to their County Office of Education no later than July 1 each year, will require districts to meet specific requirements to engage parents and the community in their budget process, as well as demonstrate how they will meet specific state priorities related to quality of instructional material, alignment to new academic standards, improving student outcomes and facilitating a supportive school climate.
The role for parents and community members
LCFF is clear that LCAPs must include a plan to seek parent input in making decisions for the school district and each individual school site. Because districts have a very short amount of time to plan, write and implement their LCAPs, parents and the community must be aware of how districts are required to engage them. By law, districts must, at a minimum, engage parents and the community by establishing the following roles for them:
- LCAP public review – A district’s LCAP must be reviewed by the public, who must be given an opportunity to comment on the LCAP in a hearing that is separate from the hearing in which the LCAP is adopted.
- English learner advisory committee – Districts with at least 15 percent English learners also must engage an English learner advisory committee to provide input on the development of the LCAP.
- Parental advisory committee – The district will need to solicit input from an advisory committee of parents/guardians who represent the students of the district, especially parents of low-income students, English learners, and foster youth throughout the development of the LCAP.
- Community transparency – The Superintendent must notify the community of opportunities to provide comments regarding the proposed LCAP, and must respond to these comments in writing
What parents should expect from their districts
The LCAP requires school districts to devise long-term, multiyear strategies. Parents and community members need to work with their school districts and ask these questions:
How are kids doing now?
- Is the community receiving easily accessible and understandable data on student outcomes?
- How are students doing along a broad array of outcomes? What are the most pressing needs and priority areas?
- What are the unique assets in the district, schools and broader community that can support improving student outcomes?
What’s the plan for ensuring student success?
- What student success goals should drive the work locally and be included in the LCAP?
- How do these goals reflect the unique needs of individual school sites and varying student populations, including low income, English learners and foster youth?
- Are these goals both challenging and achievable in a three-year time frame?
- How will these goals be tracked each year? What data will be used?
- How will these goals be used to determine local funding priorities?
How should local collaboration continue?
- How should students, parents and community members continue to be engaged in an ongoing way during the planning, budgeting and local implementation review progress that happens each year?
- How would parents and community members like to be involved in the process locally?
- What can a district do to spark and support parent and community interest in getting involved?
An important time of transition
While many important decisions about how LCFF will be implemented are still being made, stakeholders must stay engaged to ensure the law is implemented as it was intended. While the law is clear that community and parental involvement are an important part of a school district’s budget process, the State Board of Education still must adopt permanent regulations for school districts to develop their budget and report the use of funding.
In addition, the overall investment in schools through LCFF will take time and is occurring after several years of deep cuts to public education in California. Because LCFF is tied to the state budget it is estimated that it could take eight years for LCFF to be fully funded. If the economy has accelerated growth and/or voters or the Legislature prioritize greater investments in education, the full implementation of LCFF could occur faster.