(photo credit: Philip Howard) The traditional way of funding California academics is set to become a thing of the past.
The No Child Left Behind waivers awarded to eight California school districts have dominated the education news circuit for weeks now, but lost in the hubbub is something that will have a major impact on California’s 1000+ districts. That change – the introduction of the Local Control Funding Formula – positions districts to have a say over their budgets according to their needs like never before.
But when LCFF is talked about, the focus is on the funding policies it will be replacing. What we wanted to know is how districts plan on actually implementing the change. How will students be impacted? How will this shape the future of California’s education?
According to Angelo Williams, assistant executive director at the California School Boards Association, we’re looking at a brave new world for education funding.
“Most school districts think in terms of budgeting, and that does lend itself to accounting metrics,” he said. “But because of the change in law, it requires districts and school boards to change from thinking of it as budgeting to thinking of it as investing.”
The move from a budgeting mindset to an investing mindset is definitely a conceptual one, but how exactly do districts plan on accomplishing this? Terri Burns, school board member from Natomas Unified School District, says the way districts figure out how to use their newfound funding control will be through collaboration and conversation with both their local communities and other districts.
“Every district is required to have a parent advisory committee,” Burns said. “The goal is transparency. You want to have these groups and get info out to them.”
Currently, the districts are in the data gathering stage. “What’s happening in districts is they should be right now starting to look at their data to really own their data, to have a good sense of what their student populations look like,” Burns said. “LCFF is viewed as a great opportunity to do what our folks in our district think need to be done for our kids. It’s a chance for us to not get hung up on the little pots of money and say as much as we’d like to buy a counselor, we can’t do that because we can only spend this money on whatever.”
Those days are over. By next June, districts are expected to have their budgets ready, and the conversations that will help districts get there are the key launching point. “The important thing is that those conversations aren’t going to happen in the hearing room in the state capital,” said Rick Miller, executive director of the California Office to Reform Education. “They’re going to happen in communities. This is being led from local control in mind. Those conversations are now beginning.”
In addition to data gathering and community engagement, Williams says CSBA doesn’t want to scrap everything districts have been doing – in fact, doing more of what’s working is a big part of LCFF. “We’re asking districts to do two things at the same time,” he said. “To know what best practices are there, and to understand what programs you’re currently implementing around these issues. Don’t go extra theoretical; go with what’s on the ground first.”
LCFF is a shrewd move that not only scraps top-down, one-size-fits-all budgeting, but also gives districts the control they need to give their kids the best education possible. No one knows what students need better than their parents and their actual district, and it’s this new agency over funds that is set to position California for a brighter educational future.