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New California Law to Improve School Funding

02/21/14

Last July, Governor Brown signed into law a new way to distribute money to California school districts. Known as the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), it is the most comprehensive reform to California’s school funding system in 40 years.

The amount allocated to each student a district serves is on track to grow over the next eight years. At first, money from the LCFF will help restore funding that the state withheld during the recession but eventually, if the state economy stays strong, SFUSD will receive more money than it has received in previous years.

LCFF Funding by School Year 2020

Distributing Funds Based on Need

With LCFF, school districts serving high-needs students receive more funds, based on the number and percentages of high-needs students they serve. Supplemental LCFF money will support students who need it most, such as those who are low income (as measured by their eligibility for free or reduced-price lunch), children in foster care and those learning English.

As you may know SFUSD has been using a “weighted student formula” (WSF) for years, which is based on ideas that in some ways are similar to the State’s new LCFF. Money “follows” each SFUSD student to his/her school, and each school’s School Site Councils develops academic strategies, budgets, and staffing plans tailored to their students’ academic needs.

“We have taught other districts how to use this type of budgeting using the Weighted Student formula,” says SFUSD Deputy Superintendent Myong Leigh. “For over a decade we have allocated more funds to schools that serve English learners and low-income students, but there hasn’t been nearly enough.”

With the LCFF, Leigh says the district will continue to designate more resources for services and programs that serve the highest-need students.

Leigh adds that eventually all schools will receive more funds, but schools with high concentrations of low-income, English-learning, and foster youth will see the greatest increase.

“We are still recovering from massive funding cuts, so it may take a few years before we really begin to see the full benefits of LCFF,” says Leigh.

New Accountability Measures

As those who have taken part in SFUSD’s budgeting process each year know, the rules for spending state funds are complicated and come with many restrictions. Individual school districts now have more flexibility in how they spend state funds, but they will have to be even more accountable than before.

With LCFF, districts are required to adopt Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs), which are basically plans for districts to show how they will spend the supplemental funds received from the state on their high-needs students effectively and after gathering community input.

“Gathering input on how the supplemental money is spent is something SFUSD is committed to,” says Leigh. “We have several feedback channels and, with LCFF, we have an opportunity to strengthen them.”

For example, elected parent-community-staff School Site Councils (SSCs) help establish their school site’s budget priorities every year, the SF Board of Education approves the annual budget and holds public meetings to discuss the budget in detail throughout the year, and SFUSD managers meet regularly with various elected representatives from labor groups -- including the teachers union and administrators union -- to discuss budget priorities as well as other topics.

Read a more complete description of Local Control Funding and how SFUSD will be affected.