California’s adoption of a new funding system for our schools places us on the cusp of the biggest change to public school financing in a generation. This funding system, called the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), promises that the most vulnerable students in California will finally get a more equal chance at a good education.
Overall funding for K-12 schools is woefully inadequate, resulting in too few basic services and opportunities in all too many schools. More than half of California’s schoolchildren come from low-income families. Nearly a quarter of the state’s students speak a language other than English at home.
State officials, including Governor Brown, recognize that fixing the problem of inadequate funding to meet educational needs is a civil rights issue. When kids aren’t given a decent chance at a good education because of structural inequities, we fail them and ourselves. Both our future economic prosperity and our democracy are threatened.
As Governor Brown declared in his State of the State speech in January, “Equal treatment for children in unequal situations is not justice.”
Students with greater needs deserve and require additional support. We must level the playing field up to ensure that disadvantaged students are given equal opportunity to accomplish their dreams.
School districts with higher numbers of English Learners, low-income students and foster youth will have more money to provide that support to their students under the LCFF.
Three steps parents and community members can take right now to help their schools make the most of the new funding and improve education for all students:
1. Make your voice heard locally: School boards are in the process of finalizing their budgets for this school year. Ask administrators and board members how they are planning to increase or improve services for low-income and English Learner students and foster youth, as required by the LCFF. Ask how they plan to involve parents in making decisions for the school district and individual schools.
2. Share your top priorities and concerns with the State Board of Education: The California State Board of Education is currently developing rules for how the new funding for disadvantaged children can be spent and how schools should go about planning and budgeting to foster greater student achievement. They are hosting regional “input sessions” that provide all community members an opportunity to be heard on these subjects. For locations and times, visit the California State Board of Education's website.
3. Learn and advocate: The LCFF is intended to provide greater discretion to local communities to determine how to best meet the educational needs of their children. For this to work, parents, teachers, administrators and board members need to be engaged in meaningful conversations about goals and strategies and allocations of resources to implement them. Stay tuned as the State develops the LCFF rules (e.g., California State Board of Education - "July 2013 Agenda," 97kb) and help your schools use the new funds and discretion wisely.
Brooks Allen is Director of Education Advocacy at the ACLU of Southern California