California is in its second year of using the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) to fund K-12 education.
This change was considered by many to be revolutionary in that it streamlined the state’s funding formula to allow school districts to exercise greater discretion in deciding how funding should be used to serve local needs and better support the neediest students.
With LCFF, the allocation has changed from the state’s former flat, per-student allocation to one that has equity at its core. Now, California school districts that have higher concentrations of students with greater needs, such as low-income students, English learners, and foster youth (referred to as “focus” students in San Diego Unified), receive proportionately more funding to support those students. And, although there are some important guidelines with this funding model, the state does not dictate how the funds must be spent; that decision is left up to local districts. Under LCFF, the number of categorical funds – those with ‘strings’ attached for their use – was cut from 30 to 14, allowing districts far greater flexibility in determining how to support their respective student populations most effectively.
Under LCFF, districts receive two types of allocations per student. One is called “base funding” and is received for all students. The second type of funding, “supplemental and concentration funding,” is allocated based on the concentration of focus students (low income, English learners and foster youth) at each school.
As required by LCFF, extensive community engagement is conducted to ensure transparency in the process and to help all stakeholders more fully understand the new model. In addition to presentations conducted throughout the year, the Board of Education conducted a special workshop focused on LCFF on May 6, 2015. Superintendent Cindy Marten, Chief Financial Officer Jenny Salkeld, and other district leaders presented information to explain how the district receives and spends LCFF dollars.
Superintendent Marten emphasized that the LCFF supports a district focus on equity that began several years ago.
“Our Vision 2020, developed in 2009 with its 12 indicators for quality schools in all neighborhoods, reflects a moral imperative that one’s zip code should not dictate a student’s access to or success in a rigorous college- and career-ready education,” she said.
The superintendent also stressed that LCFF funding supports strategies and actions that are prioritized by data analysis and community feedback. Given that over 63 percent of district students are considered focus students, many supports are provided districtwide; however, they are designed to principally benefit focus students.
Some strategies —ones that emerged as top priorities from community feedback— not only benefit focus students but all students. These include lowering class sizes and increased counselor support. In addition to these districtwide strategies that provide additional resources at each school campus, schools also receive funds to implement site-specific strategies.
During discussion, board trustees emphasized the need for clear communication to continue reaching out to all stakeholders in the San Diego Unified community. Vice President John Lee Evans suggested including “equity” in the name for the new funding model, thereby coining a new acronym, LCEFF. Trustees noted that there are positive trends for some of our metrics (e.g., improving graduation rate and decreasing dropout rate); however, continual data analysis is needed to understand where some student groups need additional support.
Superintendent Marten indicated that this year’s data analysis has identified three student groups (English learners, students with disabilities, and African American students) for which specific, focused supports need to be implemented. Trustee Richard Barrera stressed that our core belief in equity will only be realized with a corresponding investment in equity.
More information about LCFF is available on the district website at www.sandi.net/lcff. All of the LCFF workshop materials are available at the Board Docs meeting site at http://www.boarddocs.com/ca/sandi/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=9MHQLS5EA307. The video of the meeting is available at http://www.sandi.net/cms/lib/CA01001235/Centricity/domain/431/reports/2015/0506/video.html.