Legislators Highlight the Importance of Transparency in California’s School Funding Formula

Ever since California revised its K-12 school funding formula and created the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) two years ago, we have highlighted the need for transparency to help ensure that LCFF dollars allocated for disadvantaged students — English learners, foster youth, and students from low-income families — are actually used to support these students.

That’s why we took note of a frank discussion, during last Tuesday’s meeting of the Legislature’s budget conference committee, on the current lack of LCFF transparency. During the hearing, legislators talked about the continuing tension between maintaining local control over how to spend school dollars and holding school districts accountable for how those dollars are spent. At one point, the conversation pointed to the fact that the state does not track how school districts spend their LCFF dollars, nor does it aggregate the information that school districts report in their Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) at a statewide level. (Note: Due to limitations with the original video that is excerpted in this post, mobile users may not be able to view the two videos below. The full video of the hearing is available here.)

Later in the hearing, the conference committee considered proposed trailer bill language intended to improve LCFF transparency. During this discussion, legislators expressed frustration that the lack of statewide information makes it hard for them to know whether the LCFF is working as intended and, in turn, makes it difficult to assess whether proposed modifications to the LCFF may be needed.

As we noted in a recent blog post, the proposed trailer bill language is limited in scope, and even if it survives the budget process (which remains uncertain), more actions will be required to ensure that school districts use LCFF dollars intended for disadvantaged students to support them. However, we were encouraged to see legislators expressing the need for improving LCFF transparency, and we hope last week’s discussion ultimately leads to statewide information that allows state policymakers and local education stakeholders to assess whether the LCFF is fulfilling its promise to improve services for disadvantaged students.

— Jonathan Kaplan