How can California help at-risk students close achievement gaps?

When Jerry Brown returned to the governorship of California in 2011, after a 28-year absence, he proposed a major overhaul in financing public schools.

For many decades, school finance was quite simple. Local school boards would decide how much money they needed each year and adjust property tax rates to generate the revenue.

The state was at most a peripheral player, allocating money to somewhat equalize per-pupil spending in response to a series of state Supreme Court decisions in the 1970s.

Everything changed in 1978, a year in which Brown was seeking his second term as governor, when voters passed the iconic Proposition 13 property tax limit.

School districts and other units of local government, such as cities and counties, could no longer adjust property tax rates and overall property tax revenue took a nosedive.

The state responded by assuming the basic responsibility for financing schools, largely on a per-pupil basis. In 1988, at the behest of the California Teachers Association and other education groups, voters passed another measure, Proposition 98, to give schools a guaranteed share of state revenues.

That’s the system that Brown inherited when he became governor for a second time and he advocated a long-discussed reform dubbed “weighted funding formula.” Rather than providing funds on a per-pupil basis, the system would allocate extra money for students, mostly poor and non-white, who were struggling to reach academic achievement standards.

Declaring that “equal treatment for children in unequal situations is not justice,” Brown persuaded the Legislature in 2013 to pass the “Local Control Funding Formula” or LCFF, a complex system for school systems with large numbers of “at-risk” students to qualify for extra funds.

LCFF had – and still has – some basic flaws.

It assumed that local school officials would spend the money effectively on the targeted students with just cursory state oversight. Brown, a one-time seminary …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News

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