February 16, 2015

By Angelica Jongco

On January 21, 2015, California legislators from both houses gathered to look back on challenges and opportunities implementing the state’s landmark school finance law after one year. During the two-hour Senate Education Committee informational hearing, our own Liz Guillen shared the  experiences of the students, parents and community advocates, who were some of the earliest supporters of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), to make real the promise of greater resources for high-need students established by the new law.

“I’m pleased to be here on behalf of parents and students. I hope I do them justice. There are so many out there who are trying so hard to make this work — who understand the importance of this moment. And if they could be here, they would plead with you to not flex equity and to make LCFF real for them.”

Liz Guillen
Director of Legislative & Community Affairs, Public Advocates

As part of a panel on perspectives on challenges and opportunities, Liz highlighted four main points:

  1. LCFF is simply a formula for redistributing the dollars the state provides. It does not provide the resources the school system needs to deliver a high quality program for all students to graduate college and career ready. The legislature should lead on this issue by holding hearings on the adequate level of spending necessary for every child to reach the state’s standards.
  2. Seventy civil rights, advocacy organizations and, most importantly, community based organizations representing parents and students fought for and won spending regulations by the State Board of Education that establish a standardized formula for every district, county office and charter school to demonstrate how it is increasing or improving services for high-need students in proportion to the increased funding those students generate.But implementing the new law at the local school district level has presented a major challenge in that the public school system is not used to practicing meaningful parent or student engagement. This is true particularly for parents who speak limited English. Schools and districts need capacity building and support to move from a very bureaucratic model to one of authentic parent and student engagement, where community members share in the decisionmaking and “local control.”
  3. In exchange for increased spending flexibility, districts must be accountable to their communities through their spending and academic plans, known as Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs). Transparency is key. The LCAP is intended to be a comprehensive planning tool. For this to happen, districts should show all their LCFF dollars in these plans. Yet districts are instead showing just a sliver of their educational activity and spending.  Contrary to a recommendation by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, we should not pull back from this transparency requirement.
  4. We support changing the accountability system from one that tests and punishes to one that supports and assists school districts. But the state cannot shirk its constitutional responsibility to ensure educational opportunity. At some point there must be real accountability for districts, counties and charter schools that don’t improve. Our equity coalition partners will continue to be a strong voice in the development of the Evaluation Rubrics — the report card for school districts — which the new law requires the State Board to develop by October 1, 2015.
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