Why School Funding Will Always Be Imperfect (The Atlantic)
In 2013, California passed a law that was widely anticipated to better distribute resources to children in need. Now, critics say it's only making things worse.
By Nadra Nittle, The Atlantic, August 24, 2016
In 2013, California passed an unusual law that aimed to revolutionize how school districts receive state funding. The Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF, gives school districts the autonomy to decide which programs and services to spend state funding on. And it’s far more than another boring funding provision: Its primary goal was to ensure equity by devising a complex recipe of budgeting mechanisms, in part by giving additional money to districts based on their numbers of high-needs students—English learners, low-income children, and foster youth. The law’s passage marked the first time in four decades that California underwent such a dramatic shift in school finance.
“The LCFF—it’s kind of a first. It’s trying to do something equitable in funding,” said Sarah Omojola, a statewide education-rights advocate for Public Counsel, a Los Angeles-based pro bono law firm. Before the law was put into place, it was pretty much a mystery as to how the districts got their money; there were different grants, different sources, and no explicit measures aimed to equally distributing resources. “It was very confusing,” Omojola said.