California Education Funding Proposal Illustrated With Concerns

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Low-income students and English learners are at the forefront of the California education funding debate. Governor Jerry Brown expressed the desire to provide more funding for local school districts with larger portions of disadvantaged students to close the achievement gap in his budget proposal last month.

Estimated funding allocations for districts have been released, but there are both positive and negative aspects to the proposal.

Gov. Brown formally named his plan the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). It is divided into three parts: base grant, supplemental grant, and concentration grant. Share the news:

A base grant is the guaranteed per-pupil funding that every district will receive. Supplemental grants are calculated by adding 35 percent of the base grant for every disadvantaged student in the district.

Concentration grants are an additional 35 percent of the base grant given to districts that have over 50 percent of their student population in a disadvantaged situation.

A disadvantaged student is identified by one or more of the following: free or reduced lunch price, English learning needs, or foster care.

Four school districts can be looked at to further illustrate LCFF:

California Education Funding
Credit: California Department of Finance (click to enlarge)

Los Angeles Unified is the largest school district in California and a majority of its students receive free or reduced lunches. As a result, LCFF allocates more funding to the district. San Diego Unified is the second largest district in the state and also serves a majority of students who are economically disadvantaged. Tweet it:

Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified contrasts the previous mentioned districts as it only serves small percentage of disadvantaged students.,

Here highlights the differences created by LCFF. By the end of its implementation, LAUSD and SDUSD will receive about $2,500 more per student than Palos Verdes.

Fremont Unified in Alameda County shows a middle ground between districts with and without a concentration of disadvantaged students. While Fremont Unified would receive more than Palos Verdes through the supplement grant, it does not qualify for the concentration grant like LAUSD and SDUSD. This explains the large gap in increased funding by the end of LCFF’s full implementation.

The entire table (1,600+ districts) for the proposed change in California education funding can be found here.

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released a study on the proposed changes to K-12 funding. While PPIC analyzed the estimations made in the table, it also pointed to three concerns with the concentration grant: Share it:

1) In California, 58 percent of school districts qualify for the concentration grant. Instead, it could be more effective and equitable to raise base grant funding. The argument for concentration grant is the overall difficulty and needs of adequately serving the high portion of disadvantaged students.

2) Concentration grants are given based on district populations, not individual school populations. PPIC states that 591 schools (serving 6 percent of all CA students) meet the 50 percent threshold for the grant, but are located in districts that do not. Thus, the individual schools miss the opportunity for the needed funding.

3) Gov. Brown is giving local districts more autonomy with state funds. The extra funding through the supplemental and concentration grants may or may not be allocated in the exact manner its given. In turn, much trust would given to districts to use the money as intended. The accountability measure, however, is that the state expects improved performance of disadvantaged students. Results trump precise fiscal documentation in this case.

The entire PPIC study on the proposed changes to California education funding can be found here.

SDUSD Superintendent Bill Kowba and School Board President John Lee Evans were contacted for comment, but have not yet responded.

The achievement gap is closed by lifting the lower-performing students higher. It’s not solved by bringing the higher achieving students down. Funding is not intended to do the latter, and the state says it’ll ensure every school will experience funding increases from 2012-2013 levels.

Schools will receive at least 2007-2008 average levels of funding by the fifth year of LCFF implementation, the year before California education funding cuts began.

Thirty-four other states currently fund K-12 schools based on the size of its disadvantaged student population, according to PPIC.

The California Legislature will have its say in the formula to fund K-12 schools in the state. A budget is due by June 15 and will be implemented on July 1.