California’s education funding model has fatal flaw

Something is happening that doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

Schools across California are cutting programs and laying off employees in the midst of a booming economy. Why? A fatal flaw in California’s five-year old Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF, is pushing many school districts to the brink of financial insolvency.

This fatal flaw has nothing to do with the principles on which the LCFF is based. Funding school districts with Base Grant dollars to pay for basic operating expenses such as classroom instruction, maintenance, transportation, utilities, school safety and technology and then providing additional dollars (Supplemental and Concentration grants) to schools based on their number of at risk students, is a good idea.

You see, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed the LCFF in 2013 as a way to restore school funding – after years of blistering cuts – to the level it was at in 2007, before the Great Recession. However, since that time basic costs have skyrocketed due to many newly imposed expenses, and the LCFF Base Grant is not generating enough funding for school districts to keep up. Just a few of the expensive new “must fund” costs include:

▪ Purchasing and maintenance of technology to support newly required computerized tests and innovative instructional programs;

▪ Providing necessary educational and health related services for our children with disabilities;

▪ Implementing California’s new minimum wage increases;

▪ Rising state-mandated pension costs, and

▪ New curriculum for California’s new content standards.

The good news is there is a way to fix this fatal flaw before our students pay the price. Assembly Bill 2808 (Muratsuchi), currently under consideration by the Legislature, would direct future education dollars generated by Proposition 98 to the LCFF Base Grant.

Under the LCFF, communities have worked together at the local level to design and implement improved education services to students. The governor’s decision to give control to school boards and communities was a great one, and we support seeing that this flexibility continue at the local level to ensure the unique needs of our students are met.

We strongly support Governor Brown’s proposal to fully fund the LCFF in 2018-19 and support AB 2808, which will provide a road map to finally increase funding for public education to the national average, using dollars guaranteed to schools within the Proposition 98 constitutional guarantee.

AB 2808 is supported by the 47 member school districts of the California School Funding Coalition along with nearly every school district, statewide education organization, employee association and parent group.

We are at a critical crossroad for the future of how school districts will be funded. AB 2808 ensures every public school in California will maintain local control while receiving the funds necessary to provide a high-quality education for all students.

Clovis Unified School District, along with 46 other school districts in California, are banded together as the California School Funding Coalition to focus on ensuring smart funding of the state’s schools.

Eimear O’Farrell, Ed.D. is Superintendent of Clovis Unified School District