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How Can California's New School Finance System Foster Deeper Learning

Soung Bae

This post is published in its entirety in EdWeek's Learning Deeply blog.

In an effort to better understand how states are designing and implementing educational policies that create deeper learning opportunities for all students, my colleague, Liz Leisy Stosich, and I have been studying California's vanguard policies: the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). The LCFF marked a historic shift in the way California allocates funding to school districts and the way the state provides support and intervention to school districts to ensure meaningful learning for all students.

The LCFF replaced a complicated and heavily regulated system of categorical funding and simplified the funding formula by eliminating approximately three-quarters of the categorical programs and providing unrestricted or general purpose funds directly to districts with the specific intent of providing more fiscal resources to districts that serve students with the greatest needs (e.g., English language learners, low-income students, and foster youth). In addition, LCFF affords district officials more autonomy and flexibility with which to allocate funds to meet local needs and priorities. The newfound autonomy and flexibility aligns with research on the role of school districts in supporting ambitious teaching and learning. School districts, by supporting instructional leadership and high-quality teaching and by focusing resources on improving teaching and learning, can have a positive impact on engaging all students in deeper learning.  

In exchange for increased fiscal flexibility and autonomy, LCFF requires district officials to develop and adopt LCAPs that detail the district's annual goals, the allocation of resources, and the articulation of the steps that will be taken to realize their goals. Through the LCFF and LCAP policies, a more streamlined and transparent system of school finance and accountability has emerged. As a result, these policies create a system that has the potential to support more equitable and meaningful learning through resource accountability, which ensures that adequate school resources are allocated according to students' learning needs and that students have equitable access to high-quality curriculum and materials, as well as high-quality educators and staff. Yet, what paved the way for these policies to take root in California?  Read more

Soung Bae is a Senior Research and Policy Analyst at the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE)