LCFF focuses on equity and local control
CSBA advocacy will educate new legislators on the importance of this funding formula
Teacher reading to a group of students; the students are raising there hands as if to ask or answer a question

As the 10th anniversary of the enactment of the Local Control Funding Formula approaches, schools are facing a new political reality — the vast majority of legislators who voted for the new formula in 2013 are no longer in office. This leaves little institutional memory as to the importance of LCFF and why it was established. Local educational agencies should not lose sight of the critical role LCFF plays in education funding with a focus on equity.

With the Newsom Administration and legislative leadership already at work developing the 2023–24 budget, CSBA is looking back at the adoption of LCFF ahead of the advocacy needed to ensure a new generation of state leaders prioritizes the formula and its principles of equity and local control.

What came before

Proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012 and passed by the Legislature in 2013, LCFF was a paradigm shift in public school funding. It shifted state education funding away from a vast array of categorical programs and toward a system in which funding is allocated based on student needs and that would allow for both accountability and maximum flexibility at the local level.

School funding before LCFF was a confusing labyrinth of more than 50 categorical programs that led to inequitable variances in per-pupil spending among districts and little local control over how to best direct funding to address community needs. Further exacerbating these challenges and the complexity of this funding system, California also ranked among the last in the nation for per-pupil spending and achievement gaps persisted.

A new formula grounded in equity and local control

LCFF combined the vast majority of categorical and general funds into one funding formula based on student attendance, with each district receiving the same base grant per student and additional supplemental and concentration grant funds for each low-income, English learner or foster youth student. The formula was, first and foremost, grounded in equity — it affirmed the state’s commitment to providing students with greater challenges supported by greater resources. The Local Control and Accountability Plan was implemented to hold districts accountable for using the additional funds to better serve those students.

The new funding formula also represented a return to local control in education funding, which had been dominated by a maze of state-mandated categorical programs. School board members had long urged the state to let them use resources in a way that best fits local needs to help improve student outcomes. The shift away from restrictive categorical funding moved the decision about what programs would best help students thrive away from Sacramento and back to those with first-hand knowledge of their students and communities, and the LCAP brings community voices into the planning and accountability process.

A new political landscape

With the pace of legislator turnover increasing this election year — the Legislature will see one-quarter of Senate seats turning over and 22 assemblymembers have chosen not to run again — much has changed in the Legislature since 2013. Additional changes will come when a new class of legislators is sworn into office in December, bringing with them a new political reality.

Whereas less than one-third of the legislators who served during the current 2021–22 legislative session were in office when LCFF was adopted, only 20 will remain in the coming 2023–24 session. This number will drop to just four in 2025 if those not termed out are re-elected. By 2027, there will be no assemblymembers or senators left in the Legislature who voted on the creation of LCFF. As a large freshman class prepares to take office, schools face the challenge of a Legislature that may be less invested in LCFF.

This is a critical moment for education. As the political landscape shifts, schools must seize this opportunity to educate new members about why LCFF was instituted, its grounding in equity and the value of local control, and why the state must continue to invest in the formula and resist the siren call of new categorical programs.

The work ahead

As work begins on developing the Governor’s January budget proposal, CSBA is focused on educating new members and building a strong foundation of support for prioritizing a continued recommitment to LCFF. Although the state budget saw historic revenues during the height of the pandemic, much of the money allocated to public education is tied up in new categorical programs with eligibility restrictions or in competitive programs with one-time funding, which many districts do not have the capacity or resources to access or sustain. These new mandates may or may not meet the specific needs of a community and restricted funding goes to only those districts who can access it, undermining LCFF’s foundation in equity and local control.

CSBA’s Governmental Relations team has already begun engaging with the Newsom Administration as well as leadership in the Senate and Assembly on the 2023–24 state budget. A key priority in that advocacy is emphasizing the importance and resilience of LCFF in helping to address issues of inequity and increased services for students most in need. Doing so will not only support the increasing costs schools across the state are facing, but also bolster local control by funding programs and services that truly meet local needs.

With such a large class of new legislators taking office, many school board members will find themselves with new representation in the state Legislature. As they build relationships with new senators and assemblymembers (and strengthen those they already have), it is critical to emphasize the positive difference LCFF has made for local schools and the vital role local control plays in student success. These themes will be central to CSBA’s advocacy in the coming years and that of local governance leaders across the state.