From the superintendent: New funding formula gives control to districts
The state's new method of calculating school funding is called the Local Control Funding Formula — LCFF for short. This new funding formula is the biggest change in California school revenue calculation since the 1970s. It is intended, as the name implies, to place more control of expenditures in the hands of the local boards of education.
Under the old formula, called Revenue Limit Funding, money from the state had multiple strings attached. Schools were given funds according to enrollment, but the money had to be spent on certain "categorical" programs or supplies. A certain percentage had to be spent on textbooks, another amount on facilities, an additional allocation had to be used keeping class sizes small, etc. There was a long list of these categorical funds.
The problem with the RLF's one-size-fits-all approach was the inherent inflexibility of the system. What if the district had enough textbooks and needed computers instead? Or, what if the facilities were in good shape, but the district was badly in need of textbooks? In the era of Revenue Limit Funding, there was nothing local school boards could do but try their best to respond to local needs within the categorical constraints.
With the LCFF, the game has changed. Local districts have, with a few important exceptions, regained control of the funding for their programs. Districts can now plan to meet the needs of their students, as directed by the local board, and in response to the wishes of the taxpayers in the local community.
Each district gets an amount, called a base grant, which is tied to enrollment. The amount of the base grant links all future year funding to the amount schools received in the 2012-13 school year. The money generated by Proposition 30 adds to the amount of overall dollars available for schools, giving each district an increased amount on the base.
Beyond the base grant, schools that serve children who live in poverty will get more funding. Likewise, schools serving a high number of children who come from non-English-speaking families also gain additional dollars under LCFF. These added funds are called supplemental or concentration grants, and they are the exceptions to local control mentioned earlier. Schools serving these target populations must use the funds from the supplemental and concentration grants to add programs and services for those children.
LCFF is not perfect. The state still has not figured out how to respond when a district does not use LCFF in ways that increase student learning. Like the Federal No Child Left Behind Act, the intent of LCFF is good, but enforcing accountability remains a challenge.
Colusa Unified gained about $380,000 this year under the LCFF. The Governor's proposal plans for eight straight years of funding increases for schools. If the recovery continues, and if the political will of the leadership in Sacramento continues to hold education as a priority, our schools will see an unprecedented increase in revenues. Now our challenge is how best to plan for use of those resources in ways that create measurable and lasting gains in student learning and achievement.
– Dwayne K. Newman issuperintendent of Colusa Unified School District.