Last week DJUSD Superintendent Winfred Roberson, in his Vanguard column debut, discussed the impact of Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan, part of the LCFF) on DJUSD. He noted, “The fundamental tenets of the LCFF are to return local control to school districts and to help create an ‘equitable’ K-12 public education system.”
He continued, “Writers of the LCFF acknowledged that it costs more to educate disadvantaged students and student who are learning English as a second language than it does to educate high-income students and students with educated parents.”
Mr. Roberson stated that he is frequently asked, “How does DJUSD make out under LCFF?” He stated, “In 2015-15, DJUSD is projected to receive an additional $300,000 as supplemental (equity) funding to specifically serve our targeted 2,300 students.”
He continues, “To make sure we are fulfilling our mission, it is imperative that Davis stakeholders join the district in the dialogue that attempts to answer the question, ‘What is the appropriate level of funding for our students?’”
California, he states, has not “reached universal agreement or even consensus on how much it actually costs to educate a K-12 student.”
Two weeks ago, the Sacramento Bee Editorial Board argued that Governor Jerry Brown’s “school funding formula needs tweaking.” They call the idea “solid” but argue, “execution lags.”
“Few Californians may know it, but the state is in the midst of transforming the way it finances public education,” they write. “The goal of the change, spearheaded by Gov. Jerry Brown, is to direct more money to schools with tough-to-teach students.”
They call it “a worthy objective” but point to a report by the PPIC (Public Policy Institute of California) that suggests “that the new system might need some tweaking to live up to its promise.” The problem is that the need is great, as the PPIC reports that 63 percent of California’s 6.2 million public school students are considered high-need.
Half of students qualify for free or reduced lunches, while one-fourth of students are ELL (English Language Learners).
The Bee points out one problem: “In some districts, the high-need kids are concentrated in just a few schools. That means while those schools have all the challenges of highly concentrated schools elsewhere, they don’t get extra money because their entire district is not impacted.”
They write, “One of the goals of Brown’s reform was to have state money follow the students so that needs and the funding to meet them were better matched. In this case, the new system is falling short. The governor and the Legislature ought to consider a midcourse correction that directs even more of the money for high-need students to the schools in which they are actually enrolled.”
Michael Kirst, president of the State Board of Education, today argues that the funding formula is a success. He said that the Bee editorial “failed to acknowledge why the law intentionally targets concentrations of high-need students, and how county offices of education are helping ensure these students receive additional services.”
“The new funding formula directs additional dollars to districts with high-need students. Regulations require a district to increase or improve services for these students in proportion to the increase in funds,” he continues.
In a district where “supplemental funds are largely generated by students concentrated in a few of the district’s schools, the expectation is that these funds will be used in those schools, thus targeting resources on schools with the highest needs.”
Mr. Kirst continues: “The law requires local districts to develop outcome goals and related spending plans, and to update them annually in collaboration with community stakeholders. County offices of education now have a significant oversight role in ensuring that funds for high-need students result in additional or improved services for them.
“To improve outcomes for high-need students, districts must provide their schools more resources and support.”
Mr. Kirst adds: “The concentration of need, and its relative scope in a school district, all affect students’ performance in the classroom. Large concentrations of poverty in a wide geographic area, rather than a particular school, lead to fewer jobs in close proximity, lower quality in many public and private services for children, and weaker social networks.
“When school-level poverty is the basis for additional funding, it creates financial incentives to segregate low-income and minority children in a few schools within a higher-income school district. This has occurred in some states through excessive identification of special education students and as a result of previous formulas that increased funding for students designated as English learners.
“California purposely avoided such negative incentives by creating a funding formula that focuses on the districtwide concentration of high-need students.”
Under LCFF, Davis is disadvantaged as a high achieving and well educated, high-income school district. However, Superintendent Roberson maintains, “Although LCFF was not favorable for Davis schools I understand its overall purpose. In Davis we have a viable road map in our Board adopted Strategic Plan and we have a quality team of certificated and classified professionals dedicated to serve students and uphold our tradition of academic excellence and fiscal responsibility. It is true that we do not have the same per pupil spending power as neighboring districts but the DJUSD Board of Trustees and administration are committed to invest increased revenue into the program and professional employees that serve our students.”
Clearly, the school district has challenges. It has a growing Title I population and it has concentrations of higher-need students at certain schools.
However, Davis has built-in advantages that other districts do not, including a very supportive overall community.
LCFF, however, suggests that districts like Davis will have to rely more heavily on local funding sources, which means parcel taxes will become potentially more important as time goes on.
—David M. Greenwald reporting