School Funding

Equitable & Abundant Funding - Local Control Funding Formula

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For more than 10 years, thousands of students, parents, and community members fought for equitable school funding in California. They knew that we could not create quality schools for students of color without first addressing a fundamental flaw: decades of inequitable and inadequate funding that left schools serving low-income students of color and their families with little resources and no path towards positive change. In 2013, low-income communities of color saw a major victory in our decade-long fight when Governor Brown signed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) into law. This historic policy has brought much needed resources to underserved students and led to gains in academics, school climate and student supports.

While LCFF is a major stride towards equity, California’s funding for education is no where close to where it needs to be. California has the 5th largest economy in the world but we rank 46th in state-spending per student. Our state must take a stand and invest in the world-class public education system that our students deserve, signaling that we believe in the brilliance and potential of all our young people.

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“As a student, I knew we needed to fight for equitable school funding because I saw and lived first hand the unequal conditions in our schools as I walked to class every day. At my high school, students were struggling for a chance to meet with their counselor. I saw other schools with big career centers filled with computers and staff. I was among many students who participated in local and statewide actions that targeted school funding long before LCFF.”

– Lucila Ortiz, CFJ Alum, James Lick High School 2006, and CFJ Organizing Director

What is the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)?

In 2013, California dramatically shifted the way it funds schools. The new funding system, called the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), provides more funding for all school districts and directs more significant resources to low-income students, English learners, and foster youth. This historic law changed school funding from equal to equitable--students that have more hurdles to overcome in their education now get more funding directed to support them.

In addition to changing the funding formula, it also ushered in changes in how local school funding decisions are made and how the state holds schools accountable for student success. The three key components of the LCFF law are:

  1. Equitable Funding and Spending -- a state formula based on equity that requires districts to use extra funds to provide more supports for low-income, English Learner, and foster care students. This formula replaced the more than 40 types of categorical funding streams that gave districts little flexibility to identify their own effective and innovative approaches.
  2. Student and Parent Engagement -- requirements to involve stakeholders throughout the decision-making process to inform the districts goals, services, metrics and funding; also 2 of the 8 state priorities focus on student and parent engagement
  3. Whole Child Accountability -- the north star measurement for schools are now more than a single API or test scores; it includes measures for school climate, student and parent engagement, English Language Learner progress, and college and career readiness. Eight State Priorities drive Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP) and focus the system on continuous improvement over testing and punishment.  

Why Equitable & Abundant Funding Matters

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The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is healing deep wounds in the education system caused by over 40 years of underfunding and under-serving students of color and their families.

The LCFF overhauled an out-of-date, complicated, and ineffective school funding system, shifting more autonomy and ownership to local communities and school districts with a commitment to improving engagement, transparency, and equity in funding decisions.

Since its passage, the LCFF has shifted more power to students, parents, educators, and community members by providing stakeholders a meaningful role in improving California’s public schools. The LCFF requires school districts to engage in meaningful dialogue about student achievement, social-emotional learning conditions in and outside the classroom, overall school climate, and how best to align LCFF dollars to address disparities across race & income.

“In East Side, 16% of our students are English Learners, 44% are low income, and we have over 1,000 students who are Foster Youth and migrant. East Side has two of the poorest neighborhoods by zip code in San Jose and has one zip code with the highest number of police arrests in San Jose. Like many districts across California, the most underserved students and families were on the outside looking in when it came to decision-making before the implementation of the LCFF. The LCFF has transformed the role of students and parents by giving them a seat at the table and a voice in decisions. Before the LCFF, most districts had maybe a handful of parents and students attend Budget Advisory meetings and or participate in DELAC meetings. In East Side this past year, we had over 1,000 parents and students participate in 13 LCAP meetings. The LCFF has brought student voice and parent engagement to an all-time high in districts across California.” – Superintendent Chris Funk, Eastside Union High School District

At the center of the new funding formula is the concept of local control - those closest to the classroom - staff, students, and parents - should be part of designing and monitoring how dollars are spent. In schools across the state, students and parents have seen their priorities reflected in investments and strategies that are key to achieving equitable outcomes like social workers, restorative practices, English Learner supports, and Relationship Centered Schools - and the difference on those campuses is real.

Find out more -- read “Get up, Stand up: California’s search for Education Equity” by Susan Ferriss

“I visited my old school recently expecting to see a lot of what I saw when I was in high school in (2012). I was shocked. I remember my 6th-period geometry class. Every day my friends and I would sit on this table in the back because there weren't enough desks. I was 16 at the time and didn't know what it meant for my education. Since the LCFF passed, I see that the work I and many others put in has helped to change the conditions of our schools and thousands of young people of color across the state.”

– Robert Paige, CFJ Oakland Alum and Organizer

Key Facts You Should Know

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Because of LCFF’s focus on equity, whole child accountability, and community engagement, we’ve seen great progress:

  1. California’s graduation rate and test scores have increased for all student groups.
  2. With a shift in focus on equity and school climate, California’s suspension rate is at a historic low.
  3. In many places, students & parents are empowered to shape their education by having a real seat at the table.
  4. However California stills struggles with funding - currently, California ranks 46th in the nation in funding per student.

“My children who have been English language learners and didn’t have the tools and resources necessary to come out of the program, but LCFF brought them more tutoring programs focused on English language learners, and that has helped them. My son Angel just graduated this year - and it would not have been possible without the help he has received to move ahead.”

– Maria Ruiz, Parent Leader, LA Voice

Our Vision

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With LCFF, there is much to celebrate. We have come a long way. We passed one of the most prominent civil rights victories for California's public schools. We pushed the state to adopt an equity-based funding formula – the first of its kind. We know that transformation is not a simple process. Transforming a 40-year-old system that was compliance-driven built around outdated learning standards will take time, and more must be done.

The struggle hinges upon the right to a fully funded public education which requires a state budget that goes beyond the basics and prioritizes the new and transformative strategies that are necessary to create an inclusive and racially just educational experience.

California is still ranked near the bottom in our nation in funding per student, and school districts are dealing with rapidly increasing pension costs that are leading to budget cuts in many districts. The issues we face now around school funding encompass more than an allocation of a lump sum of dollars to a given school. The struggle hinges upon the right to a fully funded public education which requires a state budget that goes beyond the basics and prioritizes the new and transformative strategies that are necessary to create an inclusive and racially just educational experience.

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Policy-makers, researchers, educators, and community leaders agree that our schools are still greatly underfunded. Many are continuing calls to "adequately" fund our public schools.

The greatest gift and investment we can give to all of California’s young people is a world-class public education system; one that says that we believe in their brilliance, and expect them to be the generational leaders of the future.

While we agree that our schools are still woefully underfunded, at Californians for Justice, we believe that the call for “adequacy” or a "good enough" funding mindset towards our public schools is not enough. California has the 5th largest economy in the world. The greatest gift and investment we can give to all of California’s young people is a world-class public education system; one that says that we believe in their brilliance, and expect them to be the generational leaders of the future. That starts with realizing a public education system that is well resourced and funded, centered on racial equity that is designed to open doors and abundant possibilities for all young people.

Join the Fight for Racial and Educational Justice!