Report finds lingering challenges around state funding formula

June 27, 2018

A new survey of superintendents shows broad support for Local Control Funding Formula, but also desire for modifications

Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at an event at the California Science Center. Brown has been one of the leading proponents of the Local Control Funding Formula, but it’s future will be uncertain after he leaves office. Credit: (Image via NASA HQ PHOTO/Licensed under Flickr Creative Commons)

California’s superintendents overwhelmingly support the state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and its underlying goal of promoting more equitable allocation of resources for high-needs students, according to the first comprehensive survey of how district superintendents view the five-year-old law.

In “Superintendents Speak: Implementing the Local Control Funding Formula,” released Wednesday by the Local Control Funding Formula Research Collaborative (LCFFRC), 94 percent of the 350 superintendents surveyed agree with the statement, “Students with greater needs should receive additional resources.”

LCFFRC is a group of researchers and policy experts operating under the organization Policy Analysis for California Education, a partnership between the University of Southern California, Stanford University and UC Davis.

The LCFF is one of Governor Jerry Brown’s signature accomplishments and the most significant overhaul of California’s school finance policies in 40 years, allocating additional funds for English-learners, foster youth and low-income students to improve their opportunities for success in school, college, career and life. But there is no guarantee that the LCFF will continue after Brown terms out this year.

“The superintendents’ support for the equity goals of the LCFF are extremely encouraging,” said study co-author Julie A. Marsh, an associate professor at the USC Rossier School of Education, “yet the results also indicate there is still work to be done to fully achieve these equity goals.”

Other key survey findings include:

  • Nearly three-quarters of superintendents (74 percent), say that the LCFF’s fiscal flexibility has enabled them to rethink budget priorities in ways that match local needs.
  • 78 percent say the LCFF has enabled them to improve services and programs for low-income students, foster youth, and English learners.
  • 74 percent believe that the parent and community engagement required by the LCFF gives historically underrepresented students and families new opportunities to influence district decisions.
  • 90 percent agree that districts should be allowed to use LCFF supplemental and concentration funds for other disadvantaged students who are not explicitly targeted by the policy.

“Superintendents are critical stakeholders whose leadership is fundamental to the continuing success of the LCFF,” said Wesley Smith, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA). “We believe it is imperative that our policymakers look for solutions to address the concerns highlighted in this study.”

The authors of the study say it is clear that by allowing districts to decide where to spend the additional funds, leaders feel better able to focus their districts’ budget priorities on improving academic outcomes for their English learners, low-income students and foster youth.

The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) Survey of Superintendents was conducted online and by telephone by Fluent Research on behalf of the LCFF Research Collaborative from September 14, 2017–March 8, 2018 among 350 qualified superintendents and other district administrators in public school districts in California. Results were weighted on district size and unduplicated pupil count (proportion of high-needs students) to bring such variables into alignment with their actual proportions in the population. 

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