State auditor will review how $30 billion in Local Control Funding Formula grant money was spent

By Chris Reed

New reports show that six years after Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature approved a sweeping overhaul in how school funds were divvied up, the evidence is mixed that the overhaul is accomplishing its main goal: improving the academic performance of the 1.2 million English language learners in California public schools.

Under the law, known as the Local Control Funding Formula, schools with high percentages of English learners, foster children and poor families get additional funding that in 2013 was described as being specifically to help these students achieve proficiency in key subjects. Since then, about $30 billion in LCFF grants have been distributed.

But a 2015 decision by then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to allow LCFF dollars to go for teacher raises and other general uses has led to critics such as Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, arguing that struggling students aren’t getting the help they were promised in 2013. Earlier this year, Weber persuaded a legislative panel to have state Auditor Elaine Howle review how the grants are being spent and possibly examine their effectiveness.

Reformers see bad faith in how law was implemented

The pending audit is highly anticipated by education reform groups which have for years accused the state government of showing bad faith in implementing LCFF. 

Defenders of the law have some data that back up claims it is working as intended. An EdSource analysis of the state’s Smarter Balanced test scores released earlier this month showed that schools with high numbers of LCFF students had seen a 9 percent increase in student English proficiency over the last five years. But the same analysis showed little change in the “achievement gap” between white and Asian students and those of Latino and African American descent. 

And a Public Policy Institute of California report released in August found that increased funding hadn’t changed a fundamental problem that makes progress difficult in struggling schools: They still had teachers who were considerably less experienced than those in wealthier communities. These schools are also far more likely to have teachers offering instruction in fields in which they had no training. The PPIC suggested there was evidence that these issues had gotten worse in recent years.

Because of strong teacher job-protection laws, veteran teachers have considerable latitude about where they work. Schools in wealthy communities that often get help from parental and community fundraisers have a huge edge over schools in poor communities where teachers often feel they have no choice but to bring in basic supplies for students from destitute families.

Civil rights lawyers again target LAUSD over spending

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest school district, a formal complaint has been filed by the Public Advocates civil rights law firm that alleges that much of the $1 billion-plus in LCFF money the district gets annually is being used in ways that are not properly documented as required by state law. The complaint includes numerous examples from district records of LCFF grants being spent in questionable ways.

In 2016, Public Advocates filed a similar complaint against L.A. Unified, which some district officials strongly disputed. But the next year, the district agreed to provide an additional $151 million to 50 schools with high concentrations of English learners, foster children and students from poor families.

Republished with Permission from CalWatchDog.org


Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.


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One Response to State auditor will review how $30 billion in Local Control Funding Formula grant money was spent

  1. William Hicks October 24, 2019 at 2:44 am

    How about us going back to bussing? Only this time, lets bus the teachers. Would that solve the problem of the less trained teachers being the dominant force in the schools that are having trouble with student proficiency in the english language.

    Reply

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