Early in my tenure at the Leadership Group, the former chairman of our board, a very prominent Silicon Valley CEO with a deep passion for public K-12 education, asked me to come to his office to update him on the state’s education policy landscape. As we talked, the topic of education finance came up; I was afraid that it would.
I was confident that I could provide a high-level overview of educational governance and how funds flowed to local districts. However, I feared that he would ask me why the system was set up that way. He did. In fact, for nearly every answer I provided, he countered with “Yes, but why?”
After a lengthy discussion, he noted that the state’s K-12 education finance system, although well intentioned, was in need of a reboot. He called the arcane system a “spaghetti code,” which he likened to an outdated computer program containing fix after fix that ultimately results in an unrecognizable jumble of strands, exceptions, rules and dead ends. He concluded that the K-12 education finance system should be scrapped and replaced with one that was true to the mission of the system: providing resources to districts to serve the educational needs of students in a fair and transparent fashion.
Today, we have an opportunity to eliminate the spaghetti.
Governor Jerry Brown has proposed that the state should indeed press the “reset button” on its K-12 education finance system and should redesign it in such a way that it treats all students in all districts equitably. It is important that our Legislature take this proposal seriously and act upon it.
The goal of the Governor’s new K-12 finance system, known as the “Local Control Funding Formula,” is to simplify the way that schools are funded with the goal of placing more authority at the local level through consistent base funding and by directing additional funds to school districts based on their enrollments of high-needs students. This is not a proposal that seeks to add another strand to the tangle.
Certainly, a new system will not be able to undo all the failings of the current system in one swoop, as modest transition will be needed. But if we truly want schools and districts to be nimble and accountable — and if we truly want to invest in all children appropriately — we can no longer tolerate an outdated, irrational and overly complex education finance system that yields unacceptable inequities and poor student outcomes.
For more information, please visit http://caweightedformula.com.