Local administrators agree that Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed formula for school finance reform can work.
But the question of how to implement the formula at a fair rate still looms for districts statewide.
The governor’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which would be phased in over the next few years, would do away with “categorical” funding streams that were created to funnel money into specific programs and, in turn, allow school boards to have more control on how to distribute state funds, which most educators laud.
But a point of concern for some officials, especially those in wealthier areas, is that certain districts will receive substantial additional funding based on the number of English learners, students eligible for free and reduced-priced meals, and foster youth they serve. These students account for more than half of current K-12 enrollment.
Approximately 230 school districts and charter schools are expected to receive little or no additional funding as a result of the LCFF, according to estimates.
“This is definitely good for our district,” said Jerry Dannenberg, superintendent for Hueneme School District. “We have children that need services and have specials needs to be met, and we’re looking forward to that.”
The governor’s argument is that disadvantaged students cost more to educate, so to continue disbursing the funds based on the rate of attendance creates disparity.
Currently, districts receive funding based on how many kids are at their desks each day, or average daily attendance.
Locally, for example, the K-12 district of Fillmore Unified, a more impoverished district, currently receives $6,284 dollars per student. Oak Park Unified, a wealthier area, receives $6,057 dollars, a difference of $227.
If the LCFF were implemented, Fillmore would receive $11,321 per student and Oak Park would receive $8,345, a difference of almost $3000.
“This is a very significant gap,” said Stanley Mantooth, Ventura County superintendent of schools, “and that gap is supposed to represent the extra dollars needed to provide services to those living in poverty and English learners.”
Mantooth said that after meeting with superintendents in the county, the overall consensus is support for the plan but the details are still too messy for it to be fully embraced.
“There really is a big difference between West County and East County districts,” said Mantooth. “Funding for unified districts like Simi, Conejo and Oak Park are similar, but for western county districts with larger populations, they are going to have more money to be used for these student groups . . .. Will the funding really go there? Because it’s unrestricted. But that is what local control is all about.”
Trudy Arriaga, Ventura Unified superintendent, said that the overarching concern is welfare for all students. She said that all districts have suffered dramatic cuts over the years and there is a responsibility to ensure restoration for all students of all districts.
“The discrepancy between one district and another should not be so great,” said Arriaga. “We’ve all suffered from the past five years.”
The 2013-14 fiscal year is set to bring more money to all school districts than in previous years, due largely to an improving economy and the Prop. 30 sales tax increase.
What Arriaga, Dannenberg and Mantooth all agree on is that the LCFF should not be implemented with haste, and that it is likely to see some rate adjustment.
“The pace of implementation is critical and interrelated,” Arriaga said. “If there is a quick-fix decision, it could be harmful. Go slow, be thoughtful and deliver a process that is well thought out.”
The proposal still has to win approval from the Legislature.
District by district funding can be viewed here: www.dof.ca.gov/reports_and_periodicals/district_estimate/view.php