02/14/2014 by Matthew Grant Anson
LCFF can’t be only step toward education reform
(photo credit: Images of Money/flickr)
The Local Control Funding Formula is California’s ambitious attempt at overhauling the way our public schools are funded. By getting more money to districts with high-needs kids and granting all districts more control over what to do with their money, California’s students – depending on the degree of success of LCFF’s implementation – are poised to receive an education more tailored to their needs.
While the law changes how money is distributed, however, it does very little to change the actual amount of money that is going toward schools.
“We are 49th in funding when compared to other states, so we still have a lot of work in that area,” said Children Now’s Debra Brown in a webinar last week. “Schools spent years making significant cuts and they’re really trying to make their way out of those cuts. Districts are only getting back to ’07 spending levels at the end of this transition period in eight years.”
The placement of California as 49th in school funding is derived from per-pupil funding when accounting for cost of living. The progress of LCFF’s nearly decade-long transitional period depends on two things; the economy and the budget. The better the situation is for each, the more money will be going to schools. But even the best case scenario eight years from now where the economy is booming and the budget is in good shape doesn’t present a future much different from the present as far as funding levels in comparison to other states.
“What’s really important to recognize is we’re addressing one huge issue with California school funding, breaking down the command control from Sacramento and having a focus on local control,” said Children Now’s Samantha Tran. “But it doesn’t really address the overall funding issue. It’s important that we recognize that overall, we still rank very low compared to most.”
In a world where even the best case scenario for California’s economic and budgetary future doesn’t position its education funding to increase at a rate that will separate California from even more underfunded states like Utah and Nevada, it’s clear that something is wrong and needs to change.
The Local Control Funding Formula is absolutely a critical first step toward reforming the way our state’s children are educated, but the benefits won’t stretch as far as we want and need them to if LCFF ends up being the only step forward we take.