Equitable School Funding

For more than 10 years, Californians for Justice fought for equitable school funding in California, knowing 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, Californians for Justice saw a major victory in our decade-long fight when Governor Brown signed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) into law. This historic law changed school funding from equal to equitable--school districts that have more students who are low-income, English Learners and foster youth now get more funding to better support them in overcoming additional hurdles they face in the education system.

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Since 2013, CFJ youth and our allies have helped win a holistic accountability system that values school climate and student engagement along with academics. The system offers stronger requirements and support for districts to meaningfully engage students and families in decision-making through the Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs) process, and ensures millions of equity dollars go to services that are especially needed by students of color, low-income students, English Learners and foster youth.

“As an English Language Learner, I am one of the high needs students that LCFF serves. I struggled with feeling a sense of community at school and there was little support for English learners. Often, it felt as if being an English Language Learner was the worst thing to be. That’s why, now as the Student Director on the [Local Control Accountability Plan], I recognize why having student voice and leadership present in our schools matters not only for English learners but for all students. How can we hold our schools accountable to serving us if our voices are not at the table?”

– Zhihao Guo, youth leader, CFJ Oakland

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The Issue

Realizing the dream of equity in school funding is hard work and will require undoing decades of public education policies that have damaged communities of color. But school districts can choose to face these challenges together with student and community support, actively building a better path forward for California’s students and future leaders.

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The Solution

LCFF is already working in our schools. It has opened the door for equity and transparency in school funding and made low-income, foster youth and English Learners a priority. We can continue to build momentum for a more fair and racially just future by:

  • ensuring our local and state policymakers defend the equity provisions of LCFF
  • pursuing stronger student and family engagement in local decision-making
  • strengthening school climate and social-emotional supports for students and educators alike to realize the vision of a more holistic education system
  • engaging voters to support the Schools and Communities First ballot initiative and work together to increase overall investment in public education

Californians for Justice’s Equitable School Funding work is focused on bringing greater funding to students with the most needs and maintaining equity, transparency, and accountability in the decision-making processes that determine the resources California’s youth can access.

“Education is the great equalizer…We need leadership that brings back the privilege for all students and holds the entire organization responsible for attaining the goal of providing every student a world-class education regardless of their economic, gender or cultural background.” - Superintendent Chris D. Funk from East Side Union High School District

Actions We’re Taking

Locally, Californians for Justice youth leaders have already seen incredible success in moving four districts in the state to create Student Advisory Committees that give critical input on their school districts annual budget (the Local Control and Accountability Plan). Students are making their voices heard on the committees, and are partnering with district administrators to make the committees meaningful and successful spaces to gather youth input. We are also working closely with local partners to advocate for equity, transparency, and accountability in each district’s budgeting process, ensuring youth and parents of color, particularly low-income families, English learner youth, and foster youth are represented. We are also advocating for equity, accountability, and transparency at the state level, pushing legislators and the State Board of Education to implement meaningful measures of success for school districts.

Lastly, all this work is only meaningful as long as the Local Control Funding Formula remains intact. California’s landmark reform is still relatively new and the uneven implementation and slow pace of change leave it vulnerable to the changing political will of new elected officials. To address this, CFJ and more than a dozen grassroots ally organizations joined together to form the LCFF Defend & Mend Coalition in 2017 to advocate collectively for continued improvements to LCFF and community engagement, and to educate decision-makers about the impact LCFF is having on youth and families.

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