Press Release

New report provides perspectives on stakeholder engagement, analysis of LCAPs, and recommendations to create a more participatory and fair school finance system

OAKLAND, CA (December 16, 2014) – California’s landmark Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) dramatically changed the way the state funds its school districts, directing greater resources to districts serving large numbers of low-income students, English learners, and students in foster care. LCFF also shifted substantially more control to school districts and communities. A new report released today from The Education Trust–West describes California’s first-year implementation of LCFF.

“LCFF offers great promise for all of California’s students, but especially for our state’s highest need students,” said Ryan J. Smith, executive director of The Education Trust–West, a statewide education advocacy organization that works to close gaps in opportunity and achievement for students of color and students in poverty. “A year into this bold reform, now is the time to pause and ask ourselves if we have made decisions that will raise the achievement of our low-income students, English learners, and foster youth.”

The new report, Building a More Equitable and Participatory School System in California: The Local Control Funding Formula’s First Year, describes the ways in which districts and community stakeholders engaged with one another to develop plans for their LCFF dollars. The report also provides an analysis of first-year Local Control and Accountability Plans, or LCAPs, with an eye towards how transparently and effectively districts share these plans with the public, along with how they propose to invest in the success of low-income, English learner, and foster care students.

The report draws upon interviews with more than 60 community and district leaders, a review of more than 100 LCAPs, a detailed analysis of 40 LCAPs, and conversations with dozens of policy and community-based organizations working on LCFF. Additionally, the report includes contributions from a diverse set of advocates and community stakeholders who worked to pass and implement LCFF, including Families In Schools, PICO California, Californians for Justice, FosterEd, and Californians Together.

The report reveals the promise and potential of LCFF, but also the barriers to equity as implementation moves forward. The report finds there is an overall trend towards more participatory planning and budgeting in K-12 schooling. It also finds some districts are seizing the opportunity to make innovative or new investments in high-need students. However, the report also reveals most districts are shoring up rising staffing costs, restoring programs and personnel cut during the Great Recession, preserving programs previously funded by categorical aid, and adding one or two new programs for high-need students. Further, the analysis of LCAPs reveals that most districts’ LCAPs offer an incomplete picture of programs and services and do not clearly show how supplemental funding is being spent.

“We highlight both what worked in the first year of LCFF and what still needs to be improved,” said Carrie Hahnel, director of research and policy analysis at The Education Trust–West. “While LCFF has sparked a remarkable level of public engagement, community stakeholders have been left with LCAPs that offer frustratingly little insight into how LCFF will be used to increase or improve services for high-need students.”

To address these challenges, the report provides recommendations for both state and district leaders. It suggests state leaders should build district capacity, create more funding transparency, strengthen county oversight, and hold districts accountable for results. Meanwhile, the report recommends district leaders make LCAPs easier to read; show how supplemental and concentration funding is being spent; engage stakeholders early and often; innovate by experimenting with new ways of serving high-need students; and monitor the impact of programs.

“We know that LCFF has the power to transform the way district and school leaders interact with parents, guardians, and students on a day-to-day basis,” said Oscar E. Cruz, President and CEO of Families In Schools in Los Angeles. “If LCFF is going to deliver the results everyone hopes for, we need to develop a clear and mutual understanding of what ‘authentic engagement’ really looks like and work together to achieve this goal,” he concluded.

To read the full report, click here.


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About The Education Trust–West

The Education Trust–West works for the high academic achievement of all students at all levels, pre-k through college. We expose opportunity and achievement gaps that separate students of color and low-income students from other youth, and we identify and advocate for the strategies that will forever close those gaps.