Another View: New school funding is a formula for success

A recent report by the Public Policy Institute of California focuses on the implementation of the new school funding formula.

But The Sacramento Bee’s editorial about the report (“Brown’s school funding formula needs tweaking,” March 19) failed to acknowledge why the law intentionally targets concentrations of high-need students, and how county offices of education are helping ensure these students receive additional services.

The new funding formula directs additional dollars to districts with high-need students. Regulations require a district to increase or improve services for these students in proportion to the increase in funds.

In a district such as Folsom Cordova (mentioned in the editorial), where supplemental funds are largely generated by students concentrated in a few of the district’s schools, the expectation is that these funds will be used in those schools, thus targeting resources on schools with the highest needs.

The law requires local districts to develop outcome goals and related spending plans, and to update them annually in collaboration with community stakeholders. County offices of education now have a significant oversight role in ensuring that funds for high-need students result in additional or improved services for them.

To improve outcomes for high-need students, districts must provide their schools more resources and support. Folsom Cordova’s first-year Local Control and Accountability Plan shows how additional funding will help support translation services, classroom bilingual aides and lead teachers, with a focus on targeted students.

The concentration of need, and its relative scope in a school district, all affect students’ performance in the classroom. Large concentrations of poverty in a wide geographic area, rather than a particular school, lead to fewer jobs in close proximity, lower quality in many public and private services for children, and weaker social networks.

When school-level poverty is the basis for additional funding, it creates financial incentives to segregate low-income and minority children in a few schools within a higher-income school district. This has occurred in some states through excessive identification of special education students and as a result of previous formulas that increased funding for students designated as English learners.

California purposely avoided such negative incentives by creating a funding formula that focuses on the districtwide concentration of high-need students.

Michael W. Kirst is president of the State Board of Education.