- Using your Mission Statement to Establish Classroom Routines - February 27, 2017
- Why you need a Classroom Mission Statement - February 21, 2017
- Not My Secretary of Ed (Why the butt that Occupies the Federal Seat Matters to my Classroom) - January 27, 2017
- CA politician discusses willful defiance, educational priorities - October 7, 2014
- Teacher-Saving Web Tools, Part I: Differentiate reading news with Newsela and Readability - October 2, 2014
- CA Bill Addresses Suspensions and Expulsions - September 11, 2014
- Teaching Ferguson: Resources for High School - September 3, 2014
- Meet the Parents: A Young Teacher’s Back to School Night - August 28, 2014
- Minimize Homework to Maximize Your Classroom - August 22, 2014
- The State of Education: Funding Control Changes in California - February 26, 2014
Approximately 93 percent of education funding comes from the state or local level. As we are a federalist system where a state is responsible for the safety, morality, and health of its residents (known as “police powers”), education falls within a state’s reserved powers, and thus it is primarily a state responsibility to fund its educational system.
So it is no surprise that different states tend to “do” education a little differently than one another. Standards vary from state to state, teacher certification requirements vary, and education funding—both the quantity and the quality—vary. (Common Core is changing this variance, though, especially in regards to standards.) And I believe California is making smart funding decisions that increasingly empower teachers, students, and the local community.
Early last month California Gov. Jerry Brown released his proposed budget, in which we saw a generous (and much-needed) increase in education spending. As districts are starting to plan under the premise of this budget, we also see another major change embedded in this proposal: expansions to the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).
LCFF was established in the 2013 budget as a way to empower local districts with making the decisions on how to best spend state money. The Governor’s budget describes the old system as “state-driven, interfering with the ability of local officials to decide how best to meet the needs of students” (pg. 22). When financial decisions are all made in Sacramento and administered in a top-down way to local districts (as was done under the old system), the individual needs of the community and its students are not always met, and money is therefore not spent in the most meaningful ways.
Under the new LCFF system, districts are granted a certain amount of money, based on number of students served, student demographics, and school levels (elementary versus high, for example). It is then up to the district—and specifically the teachers, students, and community stakeholders who comprise the district—to determine the most meaningful way to spend that money. While each district does need to submit a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) to Sacramento, it seems to be done more for transparency than it is done for approval.
In developing its LCAP, districts must undergo a few steps to ensure all stakeholders are represented. First, teachers will be asked for input, then students and parents, and then the forming plan will be available for community comment. By July 1, districts must submit their official LCAP to the state capitol for the ensuing academic year. Because of the timeframe, my local district is currently soliciting teacher input for our LCAP.
The change in funding control comes with the stipulation that the money must primarily be spent in ways to close the achievement gap. “Local school districts are now empowered to decide the best way to target funds,” writes the budget. “However, in exchange for that flexibility, districts are required to increase or improve services for English learner, low-income, and foster youth students in proportion to supplemental and concentration grant funding they receive through the Local Control Funding Formula” (pg. 23). It is then the goal of these monies to improve the programs and interventions for these student populations – and this seems very open to local interpretation on how these populations can be best served.
In my own district (which includes five traditional high schools, one independent study high school, and one continuation high school), this new budget means a great increase in the funding over which we have flexibility in allocation. We currently have $400,000 in actual funds this year – but the new budget would bring us $1.7 million in this next school year. That is an amazing amount, over four-fold our current amount, which means great opportunity for expanding current programs and developing new and exciting opportunities at our campuses. The budget also continues to expand LCFF funds over ensuing school years; so the $1.7 million will continue to grow to $5 million by the 2020-21 school year.
As a teacher (as as a new teacher), I am very excited about these changes in state-level funding. I feel like my state and my district respects my voice as an educator; I feel empowered to participate in meaningful decisions related to finances that can have a big impact on my students’ school experience. This is a very exciting time to get involved in important decisions outside of one’s classroom. Granted, these LCAPs can potentially evolve into something that needs state approval rather than as a tool for transparency, but I’ll stay optimistic on this one for now. If nothing else, it demonstrates a solid step in the right direction of recognizing teachers as professionals, and the local community as the best determinant for how to spend its money.