Do you know how the state’s new school funding formula is making a difference in your child’s school?
During the past year, every school district in California was required to create a Local Control Accountability Plan, or LCAP, showing how it planned to spend new money allocated for low-income students, English language learners and foster youth, along with overall funding for all students. School districts were supposed to involve parents, students, staff and community members in creating their plans.
Now that the plans have been completed, students, parents, staff and community members are expected to hold their school districts accountable for following through on the promises made. But some plans could make it difficult for communities to track how well school districts are meeting their goals, according to a report released earlier this week by the Education Trust-West student advocacy group.
The report describes how districts developed their plans and offers suggestions for improvement as those plans are updated next year, said Carrie Hahnel, director of research and policy analysis for the group.
The organization analyzed 40 plans from some of the largest districts in California, including the Berkeley, East Side Union High, Mt. Diablo, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and West Contra Costa districts in the Bay Area. It also reviewed 60 more plans including Antioch’s in Contra Costa County and Alameda and Emery’s in Alameda County.
While some districts are taking bold steps to create new programs, the report found that others provided little specific information about how goals would be met and that most did not clearly show how supplemental funding aimed at disadvantaged students was being spent.
“While LCFF has sparked a remarkable level of public engagement,” she said, “community stakeholders have been left with LCAPs that offer frustratingly little insight into how LCFF will be used to increase or improve services for high-need students,” Hahnel said.
The group’s recommendations include:
– County offices of education, the state Department of Education and the newly formed California Collaborative for Education Excellence should offer better support and resources to districts to update and implement plans;
– The state should revise its reporting requirements to make it easier for the public to see how much funding earmarked for disadvantaged students is being spent, and should report how much supplemental funding each district is receiving;
– The state should require review of plans by county offices of education to be rigorous and consistent with each other, and should consider local and informal processes for community members to elevate concerns to the county level if they can’t be resolved at the district level.
In the future, the state Board of Education will create evaluation criteria to help communities gauge whether districts are meeting their goals. The report urges the state to make these criteria clear and to make data by which districts will be measured easily accessible to the public.
It also pointed out some “best practices” that could be implemented by others to improve their plans. These include creating an executive summary, along with user-friendly presentations without jargon and acronyms that no one but educators would understand.
“A year into this bold reform,” said Ryan Smith, the organization’s executive director, “now is the time to pause and ask ourselves if we have made decisions that will raise the achievement of our low-income students, English learners, and foster youth.”
Most district plans, along with samples of executive summaries from the Berkeley and San Jose districts, and explanatory materials from the San Francisco district, are available on the Education Trust-West website at http://lcapwatch.org.