The Local Control Funding Formula turns 10
Event features panel on how goals have been met thus far
“Funding Education in California,” an event hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California on Aug. 9, featured a panel discussion on the Local Control Funding Formula and if it has met its goals to improve student outcomes and increase equity by providing more resources to districts with larger populations of high-needs youth.

LCFF was implemented 10 years ago and brought a fundamental shift to the way California schools are funded. It increased funding for high-need students (low-income, English learner and foster youth) with a weighted formula. PPIC Research Fellow Julien Lafortune explained that each district gets roughly $10,000 per student. For each additional high-need student, a supplemental grant provides 20 percent more per pupil and if a district has 55 percent or more high-need students, concentration grant funding kicks in with an additional 50 percent of the base rate per student for each student above threshold. It is important to note that this is an unduplicated pupil count, meaning that each student is counted only once, even if they fall into multiple high-need categories.

“Prior to LCFF, when we count total spending — which includes the funding formula, revenues and also funding from federal and other sources —it was about $14,00 per student in 2012–13 and most recently it’s close to $23,000 per student,” Lafortune said, while acknowledging that some of that funding is one-time COVID relief aid.

Lafortune said that the targeted LCFF funding, especially concentration grants, has led to improved outcomes for high-need students with higher test scores, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college-course readiness. He noted, however, that “not all of these additional funds for high-need students are necessarily reaching these students in schools at the proportion the formula dictates.

“We target funding to districts but it matters how they then distribute that funding across their schools, students and programs,” he continued. “These concerns around targeting are fundamentally about the balance between autonomy at the district level and accountability from the state level and what is the right balance there.”

During a panel discussion featuring State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, Assemblymember Josh Hoover (R-Folsom) and Ben Chida, chief deputy cabinet secretary for the Office of the Governor, shared their thoughts on the successes and pitfalls of LCFF.

“LCFF created a stabilization for our state and has allowed us to go from being essentially at the bottom of per-pupil spending in all states to being around 20th,” Thurmond said. “It created a framework to allow family members to be part of the decision making about how these dollars get spent.”

Hoover, a former board member for the Folsom-Cordova Unified School District, championed local control throughout the discussion. “No doubt, empowering local districts to do what’s best for their students is the biggest benefit of LCFF,” he said. “I think the state needs to be very careful to stop passing unfunded mandates on districts and to allow local districts to actually govern themselves. I would like to see local districts do more to innovate at the local level.”

He also spoke about the particular challenges in his former district that consisted of one wealthy city and one more low-income city. The disparity in wealth between the two is enough to disqualify the district for concentration grants. “I think we need to look at potentially expanding those dollars to a site-based system where we are actually looking at the needs of each individual school rather than each individual district.”

Chida summarized the ideals behind LCFF, while acknowledging there is still work to be done to achieve its goals. “What I love about LCFF is it recognized the truth hidden in plain sight — that our public schools are about people,” Chida said. “It’s about parents, families and students coming together and co-creating plans together with education professionals, and having those plans powered by a fair and equitable funding system. The vision of LCFF hasn’t been fully realized … but the work done so far has set a sound foundation for us to work off of — one that is centered in the lived reality of what is happening in our schools.”