Brown administration sides with schools over flexibility of LCFF money

Brown administration sides with schools over flexibility of LCFF money

In settling a simmering dispute between schools and civil rights groups over the use of new state funding targeting disadvantaged students, the Brown administration appears to have decided to give local officials authority to define the mission.

Civil rights and community groups had been lobbying the governor’s office, state schools chief Tom Torlakson and members of the California State Board of Education most of the summer to impose greater restrictions on the funds provided under the new Local Control Funding Formula – directives that would better ensure the money is being used to help English learners, low income students and foster youth.

But a staff report set for consideration by the state board next week on how the state board might craft LCFF spending regulations suggests the governor has sided with schools.

“It is as the governor said early on in committing to the principle of subsidiarity,” said one local school official who took part in the negotiations and asked not be identified. “You define it. You measure it. You deliver it.”

The report follows a series of closed-door stakeholders meeting hosted by the administration and the California Department of Education to get input on the new spending regulations as well as requirements on districts to meet new accountability mandates.

One key issue was how the state board might decide between two conflicting goals within the enabling legislation – that much of the new LCFF money should go to “increase or improve” services for the educationally disadvantaged; and that local school boards – not Sacramento – should decide how the education budget should be spent.

The draft concept would allow districts to satisfy this key mandate by either spending more, providing more or achieving more. But under this proposal, local school boards – not the state or county regulators – would be empowered to define those benchmarks.

The legislation that created the LCFF called out a number of goals and objectives that the state board has been mandated to translate into workable regulations and other guidance.

The board is required to develop and approve spending regulations for the LCFF money by the end of January, 2014.

The state board is also required by the end of March, 2014 to provide templates directing how schools should create accountability plans tied to the use of the new LCFF money that targets the educationally disadvantaged – English learners, low-income students and foster youth.

Although lawmakers were clear that the new grant money should be used to “increase or improve” services for the educationally disadvantaged, there was much debate over recent weeks about how prescriptive the state board might be in building the regulations over the use of the money.

A group of 28 civil rights organizations – including the American Civil Liberties Union of California, the Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund and Public Advocates have been active in lobbying the administration on the question.

At issue is where districts might consider the starting point for the use of the funds. That is, as Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, executive director of Californians Together pointed out in Cabinet Report last week: “If you just continue doing what you’ve always been doing, is that an increase or an improvement in services – no.”

As he rallied support for the restructuring plan earlier this year, Brown expressed support for both concepts – giving local boards more authority over education spending and targeting more state money to the neediest students. But, based on the documents provided attendees of the stakeholders meeting last week, flexibility appears to have won out.

Among the ideas suggested that might allow districts to demonstrate compliance by “providing more,” as described in the CDE report:

Extend learning time for unduplicated pupils – add learning time through summer school, intersession, and/or before or after school programs.
Increase learning options – add specialized programs and/or staff (e.g., intervention support, instructional aides, reduce class sizes, technology support) to increase support for unduplicated pupils.
Professional development – some or all teachers participate in professional development to improve learning support for unduplicated pupils.

Examples of how a district would satisfy compliance by “achieving more” include:

Evidence of average annual growth in the preceding two or more year period for unduplicated pupils in priorities that apply to pupil performance identified in Education Code Section 52060(d) and 52066(d) for the local educational agency.

And the memo described “spending more” through a series of simple mathematic steps:

  • Determine the amount of supplemental and concentration grant funding at full implementation (a).
  • Divide the amount in provision (a) by the total LCFF target at full implementation (b).
  • Multiply the amount determined in provision (b) by the amount of gap funding being allocated in the current fiscal year (c).
  • Determine the additional amount expended on unduplicated pupils in the prior fiscal year (d).
  • Add the amount computed in provision (c) to the amount computed in provision (d).

To read some of the LCFF concept memos click on the links below.

...read more