October 23, 2013
The following article was originally posted by School Services of California, Inc. on October 22 in The Fiscal Report and is reprinted here with their permission.
[Editor’s Note: Periodically, we publish guest articles that we think inform readers on topics of interest. With local educational agencies (LEAs) continuing to work to understand the fiscal implications of the newly enacted Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), we thought that additional attention should also be paid to the programmatic and fiscal implications of this new model. The guest article below by Jay Chambers, Mahala Archer, and Jesse Levin of American Institute for Research (AIR) addresses the new opportunities presented to school boards, local education leaders, and community members to shape educational programs to meet local priorities. Necessarily, the views and opinions of the authors are their own, but we think the article below is interesting and informative.]
What the New Funding Formula Means for LEAs?
As California moves toward a more equitable, rational, and efficient approach to allocating resources to school districts, this is an important time for LEAs to consider how well they are doing in achieving equitable allocations of resources and improving outcomes for all students. LEA leaders need to think seriously about how they can achieve a more equitable distribution of resources across schools and to determine what they can do to facilitate better ways for the central office and school sites to connect resources to goals, elevate accountability for performance, and improve transparency by engaging a wide range of stakeholders in the process.
Governor Jerry Brown’s new LCFF is intended to equitably allocate dollars from the state capitol to the districts, providing greater autonomy for how LEAs use their funds and improving accountability and engagement with key stakeholders in the processes of planning and budgeting. Specifically, LCFF allocates dollars based on factors that are intended to account for the differential costs of serving students with different educational needs. Base allocations of funds are differentiated by grade levels to support the additional costs of smaller classes in the early grades as well as the higher costs of career and technical education in secondary grades. These base level allocations are also supplemented by allocations to meet the needs of English learners, disadvantaged students, and foster children.
Taking the Next Steps to Implementing LCFF
To achieve the goals and fully embrace the vision behind LCFF, LEA leadership will need to take the same concepts behind LCFF and apply them to intra-district resource allocation by driving money and resources in an equitable way to the school level where those stakeholders closest to students can make decisions in the best interest of children and communities they serve. We believe that a four-pronged approach is necessary to carry out this vision:
LEAs need to ensure the equitable distribution of funding from the Central Office to school sites. LCFF provides for the equitable distribution of resources for marginalized student populations to LEAs and requires that dollars should be distributed to schools in a similar “proportional” manner to how the districts receive them. By using a systematic and structured approach, LEAs will ensure a distribution of revenues, resources, and services that promotes equal opportunity for educational outcomes for all student populations.
LEA leaders must help align resources to school goals through a comprehensive planning process that highlights how the LEA will improve student performance. LCFF requires the completion of local accountability plans. LEAs need to find tools and establish processes to assist school leadership teams to align available resources with their goals. To be successful, school leadership teams should carry out a needs assessment, identify their long and short term goals, develop comprehensive program plans to achieve those goals, and specify the strategies and resources necessary to deliver the program to the students they serve. It is through these plans that LEAs and school leaders can ensure that all students, including English learners, foster children, disadvantaged students, and students with disabilities, have the necessary and targeted resources to promote student learning as outlined in the LCFF.
LEAs need to monitor progress on goals to help inform necessary adjustments to funding allocations and processes. LEA leaders need to establish resource allocation and student outcome baselines. Through monitoring, LEA and school leaders can create an ongoing assessment to support a continuous improvement approach to resource allocation and programmatic decision making.
LEA leaders need to heighten transparency of how dollars are spent by empowering school leadership and local stakeholders. LEAs need to promote transparency through clear reporting and aligned processes, so that both internal and external stakeholders are empowered to participate in making programmatic and budget decisions that are in the best interest of their students and communities.
It is important that districts begin a dialogue regarding LCFF and put in place systems that assist the district in meeting the requirements of LCFF. LEAs will need to create or identify the resource allocation tools and establish the decision making processes that will support the successful and thoughtful implementation of LCFF. They will need to facilitate the alignment of school resources to goals and support district and school leaders to make informed and efficient decisions that support teaching and learning. Finally, the sooner LEA officials begin the process of engaging in this dialogue and facilitating new structures to support resource allocation decisions, the greater the likelihood of a successful implementation of LCFF.[Dr. Jay G. Chambers is a Senior Research Fellow and Managing Director of the Education Finance Group at the American Institute for Research. He brings 40 years of experience doing research and providing technical assistance at the federal, state, and local level on policy issues related to the finance and governance of K-12 education. Dr. Chambers served as principal investigator on one of the school finance adequacy cost studies completed under the Getting Down to Facts initiative at Stanford University that provided a foundation for California’s new LCFF. He is also a past President of the American Education Finance Association.
Dr. Chambers and his team at AIR (Mahala Archer and Dr. Jesse Levin) have launched Invest for Student Success (ISS), which is an integrated collection of tools and processes for helping districts implement LCFF. For more information, see the ISS website at www.investforstudentsuccess.org.
Mahala R. Archer is a Technical Assistance Specialist in the Education Program at the American Institute for Research. She brings over 12 years of experience as an educational practitioner at all levels, including teaching in traditional and non-traditional classroom settings, district-level curriculum and instruction development, and 4 years managing the implementation of a weighted student funding model.
Dr. Jesse D. Levin is a Senior Research Economist in the Education Finance Group at the American Institute for Research. He has played key roles on groundbreaking studies of educational adequacy, resource allocation and equity, and effective schooling practices, and served as the principal researcher for Dr. Chambers on the school finance adequacy cost study completed by AIR under the Getting Down to Facts initiative at Stanford University. He served as principal analyst on a series of EdSource studies investigating effective educational practices in California elementary and middle schools, and is currently directing a study for the U.S. Department of Education that is focused on improving the quality of school-level expenditure data.]