Stakeholder Engagement Leads to Improvements in Proposed Spending Rules for New School Funding Formula

What a difference stakeholder participation makes. On January 3, the State Board of Education (SBE) released a revised set of regulations (.DOC) that define how schools can spend dollars provided under the state’s new education funding formula, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). These regulations represent a reworking of the preliminary draft regulations that the SBE had reviewed in November, which fell far short in terms of ensuring that dollars allocated for disadvantaged students would be spent to support them. As we blogged about previously, stakeholders raised serious concerns about the preliminary draft regulations, and their feedback appears to have yielded significant improvements. This Thursday, the SBE will meet to consider the revised regulations (.DOC), which must be adopted by the end of the month, and will also review a proposed template for the Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) that all California school districts must adopt by July 1.

How do the revised spending regulations and the LCAP template improve on the preliminary draft regulations from November? Most importantly, the revised regulations provide a formula that school districts must use to specifically determine how much they must spend each year to demonstrate that they are increasing or improving services for disadvantaged students. Moreover, the LCAP template appears to require that districts report how they plan to increase and/or improve services for disadvantaged students in comparison to the services provided to all students.

These are welcome improvements. It should be noted, however, that the revised regulations do not explicitly require school districts to report how they spend LCFF dollars allocated for disadvantaged students in a way that allows easy comparison to a baseline. As a result, it may be difficult for community members, parents, and other stakeholders to assess whether these LCFF dollars are actually spent to support the students for whom they are intended.

Still, despite this shortcoming in the revised regulations, SBE staff and the many stakeholders who provided input during the past several months deserve a great deal of credit for their efforts in reworking the draft spending regulations and creating the proposed LCAP template. The clear lesson to be learned from the process that led to improved LCFF regulations is that stakeholder engagement is valuable and can truly work. Once the SBE approves LCFF spending regulations and the LCAP template, such engagement at the local level will be key. Continued stakeholder engagement will be necessary to ensure not only that local school districts use LCFF dollars to support the students who need them most, but also that schools’ experiences provide the basis for a robust, ongoing discussion about how best to fulfill the promise of the state’s new education funding formula.

— Jonathan Kaplan