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Adult Education Funding at the Center of California School Budget

by Michael Higham, published

Adult Education Funding at the Center of California School Budget Credit: Lillian R. Mongeau/Oakland North

Governor Jerry Brown put forth his idea for improving the way California's schools are funded with the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). It would pool categorical funds and allocate that money to school districts based on enrollment levels of disadvantaged students.

State Senator Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge) introduced Senate Bill 223 which would rival the governor's formula. Sen. Liu's bill would still grant spending flexibility, but differs by maintaining amounts distributed by the current system of categorical funds. One category the bill can protect is adult education.

Categorial programs range from money for tech tools in the classroom to deferred maintenance of buildings. Under LCFF, a district would have the freedom to spend the money based on its priorities. If a district wanted to, LCFF would allow it to end its adult education funding to spend the money elsewhere.

While SB 223 allows flexible spending, EdSource's John Fensterwald reported that Sen. Liu will consider maintaining a few categorical programs:

"Liu’s bill, as amended, would reimpose protections on at least one of the categorical programs, adult education, and, during the committee hearing, she said she was open to reinstating spending restrictions for other programs"

The governor proposes community colleges to take over adult education while increasing their funding by $300 million for that purpose. K-12 schools and community colleges both offer adult education, but there is no program coordination between the two entities.

Sen. Liu's bill would extend this flexibility of spending categorical funds through the 2019-2020 school year.

Proposals from both Gov. Brown and Sen. Liu have variations in accountability measures. Both require progress made towards closing the achievement gap.

However, LCFF puts the accountability measures in the hands of county education offices. SB 223 provides a more centralized approach:

"The bill would require that a participating school district would be required to submit an evaluative annual report and an annual expenditure report, including prescribed information, to the State Department of Education."

The bill is flowing through the California Legislature and recently moved into the Senate appropriations committee.

The distribution of $6.1 billion, and the guide to spending it, is at stake with both proposals.

If either approach is adopted by the California Legislature, education funding will experience more flexibility. The differences between the two lie in how funds are distributed to districts and who districts will be accountable to. One of the largest differences is where adult education funding is placed.

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