If there is any one narrative to come out of the marathon process of implementing the Local Control Funding Formula, it’s that the law will thrive or die based on the quality of communication and conversation that comes with it.
On a micro level, school districts throughout the state are required to do outreach to parents and involve them in conversation over how best to spend their newly freed up funds. On a macro level, the State Board of Education’s communication with education stakeholders in California is pivotal to the forming of Goldilocks-level regulations that give districts a “just right” amount of control over how they spend their money.
If the Board’s recent behavior is any indication, LCFF just might have a fighting chance at making positive, groundbreaking change for California’s schools. In a webinar this week the team at Children Now gave an in-depth look at the timeline of LCFF and the key roadblocks that have been smoothed out or stubbornly endure.
“The LCFF legislation left some questions for the State Board of Education to define,” said associate director of education policy Debra Brown. “The draft regulations that came out [in November] were the first attempt to formalize the direction provided. The challenge with those regulations is we felt they fell short of meeting the key tenets and goals of LCFF.”
The key tenets that weren’t being lived up to were fundamental parts of LCFF, as the regulations had a lack of financial flexibility for districts and an absence of safeguards to ensure that money was used on high needs kids. But while these initial regulations left a lot to be desired, the Board deserves a lot of credit for taking its own outreach seriously and tackling these issues. “The board committed to addressing those concerns,” said Brown. “Board of Education staff did an extensive outreach to stakeholders intended to address the concerns and live up to the intent and goals of LCFF. Important changes have been made.”
That’s not to say the current regulations are perfect – far from it, says Brown. But in a world that has increasingly embraced do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do management, the Board has set a firm precedent for its school districts to follow when doing their own parent outreach. The State Board’s next LCFF discussion is January 16th, which is when it will adopt emergency regulations for fiscal requirements and the LCAP template. This begins the formal process of adopting permanent regulations.
What’s clear is that the previous system of funding schools was not working, and California needed the sweeping and innovative changes that come with LCFF. California currently ranks 48th at funding per pupil, but the elimination of budgetary deferrals for schools in Governor Brown’s latest budget as well as massive investment in LCFF for 2014-2015 present a state that isn’t just going all-in on local accountability, but also appears committed to doing it right.
(photo credit: Tony Tran)