We’ve all heard the adage that money is the root of all evil (which is always an incomplete statement). In the case of education, the evil is the inequities that money seems to create. Money matters. According to Townley and Schmieder-Ramirez (2015), “the national recession that started in 2008 presented the most difficult challenge for states’ financial management since the Great Depression” (Townley & Schmieder-Ramirez, 2015, p. 32). This financial crisis ultimately led to the elimination of school staff, programs, and increased class sizes (p. 32). Coupled with the fact that recession hurt California schools (and all schools, for that matter), California’s large population leads to our expenditures-per-pupil being ranked 42nd nationally (p. 34). Furthermore, “the monies available per pupil affect the number of students per classroom, the amount spent on teachers’ salaries, and other items that directly alter the learning experiences of students” (p. 34). I know it’s difficult for me to monitor and adjust my teaching after formatively assessing large classes, yet there seems to be no objective measurement in place that analyzes small class sizes and performance throughout all grade levels (p. 37). One thing is clear, though, and that is that policy surrounding education needed some serious change after the recession. Even President Obama implemented his famous “Race to the Top” campaign to encourage states to find solutions (“School Finance,” 2011).
Inalienable Rights to Equality
Last time I checked, Palos Verdes High School, a public high school across the water from Catalina to the mainland, comes complete with more innovative programs and technologies, not to mention athletic facilities, than many small colleges. Compare those things with the facilities and programs that Avalon K-12 offers and the contrasts outshine the similarities. Both schools are located near paradise, have high property values, but different school districts with varying revenue limits. My point is that schools and districts are far from equitable to all students. But isn’t that against what our government is striving to achieve, when “the central assumption is that state finance systems should be designed to provide children, regardless of where they live and attend school, with equal opportunity to achieve some constitutionally adequate level of outcomes” (“School Finance 101,” 2015). Districts that rely on state aid to supplement revenue limits are affected greatly by economic downfalls, while excessive revenue districts that receive basic aid from the state are hardly affected and can continue to focus on their innovative programs (“A Guide to California’s School Finance System (before LCFF),” 2012).
Money Matters…and so does Governor Brown
Governor Brown, in his third term in office, really loves California. He also truly cares about education. In addition to Propositions 39 and 30, which are tax measures to fund education, Brown initiated the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) (“School Funding Undergoes Major Reform,” 2013). The LCFF—a feature of Assembly Bill 97—is currently implemented in every California school district and aims to provide “more money to school districts that serve high-needs students” and “give local school districts more authority to decide how to spend education dollars” (p.1). The LCFF eliminates dozens of categorical programs, but gives the power back to the schools and districts. But the power must be controlled (“Changes to California’s K-12 Education System,” & “Understanding the Local Control Funding Formula,” 2015). Brown aims to provide equity by targeting eight state priority areas via the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) (“School Funding Undergoes Major Reform,” 2013, p. 3). Having worked with my school’s WASC self-study, I had the opportunity to analyze Long Beach Unified’s LCAP goals while creating our school’s Action Plan (“LBUSD Local Control and Accountability Plan and Annual Update Template,” 2015). The goals seem very extensive, but also reasonable and attainable. We need these measures of accountability in order to show that we’re fighting for equity within our school financial system.
LCAP—a Fresh Start!
Before any Local Education Agency (LEA) or school district can approve its annual budget, which the LCFF will then allow to be utilized as it wishes, it must first have approved LCAP goals for which those funds are to help achieve (“Accountability for Local Control Funding Formula,” n.d.). The fact that LCAP goals and LCFF expenditures must focus on the needs of every student shifts the attention to student-centered education, despite the obvious discrepancies in district revenues (“Changes to California’s K-12 Education System,” 2015).
Closing the Achievement Gap
As aforementioned, the way money is spent needs to have mandated regulations to ensure that all students have equal access to the same public education. No child deserves to be underserved because of lack of school funds. The LCFF is designed to target areas of need that enhances educational equity, improves student achievement, ultimately closing the achievement gap. The LCFF is designed so that as a district’s proportion of English-Learner (EL) and Low-Income (LI) increases, “so does its total funding allocation” (“An Overview of the Local Control Funding Formula,” 2013). Linda Darling-Hammond, an advocate for educational equity, addresses issues that lead to a widening achievement gap in American public education in her talk given at Stanford University (Darling-Hammond, 2012). She goes on to mention a quote by Adam Urbanski, which partly states that “excellence without equity is not excellence; it is privilege” (Darling-Hammond, 2012). The message powerfully describes the effects of inequity in education that will undoubtedly occur if we do nothing to address these issues.
Critics will be Critics
The problem with apathy is that it is contagious. Some critics argue that “the detailed nature of the content standards in combination with state-approved curriculum materials diminishes the autonomy of the school district and the classroom teacher, as well as dampens classroom spontaneity” (Kemerer & Sansom, 2013, p. 65-66). This is where creative teachers must flourish and rise to the challenge of expanding their mindsets in the classroom to inspire students that CCSS isn’t the enemy; it’s apathy. With new policies, new mandates, new initiatives, we must retain our focus on the students. The law will always be there, and we must abide by it. We must also find ways to innovate, while also following LCAP goals, utilizing LCFF funds, thanking Governor Brown for fighting for education, and speaking out for our youth.
Townley, A & Schmieder-Ramirez, J. (2015). School Finance: A California Perspective (10th ed.). Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.
School Finance. (2011). Education Week. Retrieved June 5, 2015, from http://www.edweek.org/ew/issues/school-finance/
A Guide to California’s School Finance System (before LCFF). (2012). Retrieved June 2, 2015, from http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/Pages/GuidetoCaliforniaSchoolFinanceSystem.aspx
School Finance 101. (2015). Retrieved June 5, 2015, from https://schoolfinance101.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/on-school-finance-equity-money-matters-a-primer/
School Funding Undergoes Major Reform: An Essential EdSource Guide [PDF document]. (November, 2013). Retrieved June 3, 2015, fromhttps://blackboard.sdsu.edu/bbcswebdav/courses/EDL600-K4-Summer2015-ExtEd/LCFF%20Compromise_ed_source_summary.pdf
Changes to California’s K-12 Education System. (2015). Retrieved June 2, 2015, from http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/Pages/K-12-changes.aspx
LBUSD Local Control and Accountability Plan and Annual Update Template [PDF document]. (2015). Retrieved June 4, 2015, fromhttp://www.lbschools.net/Services/EACCR/Local_Control/Docs/2015-18%20LCAP%20-%20Draft%20English%20150529.pdf
Understanding the Local Control Funding Formula. (2015). Retrieved June 2, 2015, from http://www.ed-data.k12.ca.us/Pages/LCFF.aspx
Ward, C. (2015). Accountability for Local Control Funding Formula [Adobe media]. Retrieved June 2, 2015, fromhttps://blackboard.sdsu.edu/bbcswebdav/courses/EDL600-K4-Summer2015-ExtEd/EDL600_budget_act_part_2_LCFF_Accountability.swf
An Overview of the Local Control Funding Formula. (2013). Retrieved June 2, 2015, from http://lao.ca.gov/reports/2013/edu/lcff/lcff-072913.aspx.
Darling-Hammond, L. (2012, July 4). Challenges to equity in American public education [Video file]. Retrieved June 5, 2015, fromhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d69wjTZTivg
Kemerer, F & Sansom, P. (2013). California School Law (3rd ed.). Stanford University Press.