Advocates cautiously optimistic counties will address shortcomings
LOS ANGELES — Two school districts face potential legal action for failing in their responsibilities under California’s new school funding system, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) have been sent demand letters taking the districts to task for underestimating the amount of money that should be going to low-income students, foster youth and English learners in the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) required by the law.
The June 6th letter to LAUSD from the ACLU of California and Public Advocates Inc. cites the “improper inclusion” of $450 million in special education funding in the district’s calculations for the previous year’s expenditures on services for high-need students, contrary to LCFF regulations. The miscalculation would shortchange targeted students $133 million of additional supplemental funds next year alone. Left uncorrected, this gap would grow to $450 million annually by the 2020-21 school year, and cumulatively total over $2 billion by that time.
The Los Angeles County Office of Education, which must approve LAUSD’s LCAP, has withheld that approval this week pending further explanation from the district.
A July 25th letter from Public Advocates to AUSD raises similar issues, with Antioch’s LCAP shortchanging students more than $6 million, or nearly 90% of the required amount, in the first year. The Contra Costa County Office of Education also withheld full approval on Friday pending further work. In response, the district says it will consider changes in the coming weeks.
“We don’t think either LA or Antioch is meeting their legal obligations to increase or improve services for high need students this year,” said Public Advocates Managing Attorney John Affeldt. “We’re glad the counties have agreed that we’ve raised serious concerns, and are hopeful the districts will revise their spending plans accordingly in the coming days.”
David Sapp, director of education advocacy and legal counsel for the ACLU of Southern California, concurred. “We appreciate that these two county offices of education are taking our concerns seriously, and hope that the process will ultimately result in corrections to the serious problems in these two LCAPS. Otherwise, high-need students will be shortchanged hundreds of millions, even billions, of dollars over the course of LCFF implementation.”
Advocates continue to examine LCAPs from across the state to identify other issues that may prevent students with high needs from receiving the additional funding and services intended for them under LCFF.