California’s new school funding formula is not just a way to distribute money to schools (“School gap needs more than money,” Dan Walters, Nov. 17). It also includes a budget process and a link to priority outcomes for students.
The Legislature and governor intentionally linked fiscal decision-making to instructional programs in the creation of Local Control Funding Formula, which gives school districts more control over funding. It is true that more funding is provided to students with the greatest needs, specifically English language learners, low-income students and foster youths. But the law also requires each school district, county office of education and charter school to adopt a Local Control and Accountability Plan focused on actions and expenditures to support student outcomes and overall performance.
Local Control Funding Formula drastically altered the budgeting process for local schools. Prior to it, school districts adopted budgets, and county offices of education approved them, with little alignment to actual student needs or outcomes. Local Control and Accountability Plans are comprehensive tools that include a description of annual goals for eight state priorities as well as any local priorities adopted by school boards. The state priorities focus on everything from academic achievement and student engagement to school climate and parental involvement.
Information about student performance on state standardized tests; the number of students that become English proficient; the percentage of students meeting requirements for entrance to UC and CSU; the number of students passing Advancement Placement exams; school attendance rates; dropout rates; suspension and expulsion rates; graduation rates; efforts to seek parent input; the status of school facilities; implementation of state academic standards; and pupil access to core classes are among the elements that must be addressed in the Local Control and Accountability Plan.
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Local Control Funding Formula also established a system of support for districts that seek assistance and remediation for those that fail to meet identified goals. With 1,000 school districts, more than 1,000 charter schools, 6.2 million students and 280,000 teachers, such support and remediation will be an enormous undertaking. The foundations for oversight and support are just being set, and system effectiveness will evolve and improve over time.
It’s been one year since Local Control Funding Formula was enacted, and it is expected to take eight years to reach full funding levels. With time and proper implementation at the local level, it has the potential to minimize achievements gaps, especially among our most disadvantaged students.
Mike Kirst is president of the California State Board of Education and a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University.