By Frank Wells
Gov. Jerry Brown signs AB 97, the LCFF bill
As school doors open, CTA members and California school districts find themselves working under a very different school funding plan. Gov. Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), approved in the adopted 2013-14 state budget, is the largest school funding shift in California history, dramatically changing the way revenue to school districts is calculated and the degree of autonomy local school districts have over those funds.
Using new revenues generated by CTA-backed Proposition 30, Gov. Brown and legislative leaders reached a budget agreement that, for the first time in six years, doesn’t cut funding for schools and colleges. In fact, the LCFF adds $2.1 billion for the 2013-14 school year, and when fully implemented at the end of eight years the LCFF will increase California’s education spending by more than $25 billion. Included in the budget is $1.2 billion for the implementation of Common Core State Standards, which will dramatically impact teaching for years to come.
“The Local Control Funding Formula is a validation of what we’ve always known,” says CTA President Dean E. Vogel. “It takes additional resources to educate English learners and economically disadvantaged students.”
The philosophy behind the new funding mechanism reflects values CTA has long championed — that struggling schools and students need additional resources. CTA’s own successful reform program, the Quality Education Investment Act (QEIA), has been proof that allocating extra funding to the schools that need it most makes a real difference.
CTA was a major presence during budget negotiations where the details of the new formula were formalized. CTA’s newly appointed executive director, Joe Nuñez, oversaw CTA’s Governmental Relations efforts throughout the state budget adoption process. “For years we’ve wanted to see school funding better address the needs of disadvantaged students and allow local decision makers, including teachers, more control over how funds are used,” he says. “We were cautiously optimistic when the concept was proposed in January, but it was important to make sure lawmakers got the details right.”
Passage of Proposition 30 last fall and a gradually recovering economy generated the revenues needed for the funding shift. Replacing complicated formulas that date back to the 1970s, the new plan does away with most categorical funding. School districts will instead receive grants based on enrollment, with amounts increasing by grade level spans. Additional supplemental and concentration grants for English learners and low-income students could boost spending per eligible pupil by up to 70 percent.
Responding to concerns voiced by members, CTA was able to get the base grant amount increased so no district would receive less than last year, and ensured that over time districts would be made whole compared to pre-recession funding levels. A major victory for CTA members was the elimination of proposed county office oversight that would have severely curtailed the influence of local educators on how the new funds are used. Instead, districts will adopt Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs) based on templates to be developed by the State Board of Education.
The infusion of new money and the elimination of most categorical restrictions historically tied to much of school funding mean CTA members now have the opportunity to make their voice count as districts determine how best to use funds and restore programs that have been lost over the last several years. CTA is advising local chapters to use their consultation and bargaining rights to guide the best use of the new funds.