California Common Sense (CACS) released a brief analyzing Governor Brown’s proposed Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which if enacted, would alter the way California distributes state funding to K-12 school districts and charter schools. The overhaul would largely eliminate “categorical,” earmarked spending for state-mandated programs. The formula would apply more weight to districts with higher English-learner, low-income, and foster care student populations and dispense more funding to these districts, identifying them as higher need districts.

CACS analyzed data provided by the California Department of Finance and found that should the state achieve the higher tax revenues it projects leading up to the LCFF’s full implementation in 2019, overall K-12 spending would rise but measuring by need, the distribution of total funding would not drastically change. However, the LCFF’s impact on individual districts’ per-pupil funding would vary widely, introducing greater disparities in per-pupil spending among districts.

Overall, in-classroom spending should increase under the formula, assuming two key factors: 1) Higher tax revenues, and 2) that the state, not districts, provides the higher funding required by the struggling state teachers’ pension system, CalSTRS. But the caveat is that by 2019, some districts’ per-pupil funding will be well above the state median, while others’ will be well below. The gap among the core middle districts will be larger than it is today.

Among the findings:

·         The 50% of districts and charter schools with the greatest combined English learners and/or low-income students (“High Need” and “Medium/High Need” districts)currently receive 66% of total state education funding. Under the formula, they would receive 69% of state K-12 funding, a shift of funds from “Medium/Low” and “Low Need” tier districts mainly to the “High Need” tier.

·         Per-pupil funding levels would become more variable under the LCFF. Currently, per-pupil-funding levels are within $500 of the median for 58% of districts. Under the LCFF, only 22% of districts would fall within $500 of the per-pupil median.

·         Within some districts, need levels vary greatly among individual schools. In redistributing funds by district, rather than by school, the state may fail to deliver additional funding support to high need schools contained within lower need districts. San Mateo County’s Sequoia Union High School District is one example of this possibility.

Access the report here.