District leaders generally support California's flexible school finance formula
- California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) allows districts to better meet local needs and improve services for low-income students, children in foster care and English learners. But three-fourths of the superintendents responding to a new survey say the basic level of funding from the state is not adequate for them to make the improvements they say are needed, according to results released today.
- Conducted by Julie Marsh of the University of Southern California and Julia Koppich, a researcher and consultant, the findings also show that 90% of the 350 superintendents who responded wish they could have even more flexibility to use the funds to support programs targeting other groups of students not identified by LCFF, such as students of color.
- Leaders of small and medium-sized districts were more likely to report that the formula has created additional administrative burdens. Administrators also support, but still struggle with, the law’s requirements that districts seek feedback from students, educators, parents and community members when making budget decisions.
Created in 2013, the LCFF replaced a complex mix of categorical spending programs that district leaders and advocates often criticized for not being flexible enough to address the unique needs of school districts. The LCFF, for example, has allowed districts to significantly expand support for children in foster care, making sure that specialists are hired to work as liaisons between schools and child welfare agencies. Expanding professional development, hiring more counselors and other support staff members, and offering tutoring or extended learning programs are among the ways superintendents say they are increasing support for students in those target groups.
But district leaders’ responses also show that even with additional flexibility, local context still influences whether they feel the funding allows them to address achievement gaps. For example, leaders of smaller districts have expressed that replacing the categorical programs with LCFF removed some important services for high-needs students. Those in smaller districts also reported more challenges with getting participation from different stakeholder groups, especially those targeted by LCFF. The researchers recommend that the state provide more training around promising community engagement strategies
Superintendents also gave mixed reviews of the California School Dashboard, which uses a color-coded system to indicate how schools are performing on key indicators. Only about half said it is easy to understand and effective for communicating with the community. The researchers suggest that state leaders work to improve the timeliness of the information in the dashboard.
- Local Control Funding Formula Research Collaborative Superintendents Speak: Implementing the Local Control Funding Formula
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