On July 1, 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), significantly changing how California funds its K-12 schools and giving school districts more authority over how the money will be spent.
LCFF replaced the old system of “revenue-limits”—general-purpose funding from the state, which was based on complex historical formulas and made up approximately 70% of a district’s budget—with a per-student base grant that varies by grade span.
The transition to the new formula began with the 2013-14 school year, with full implementation of the new funding formula expected in 2018-19, two years earlier than projected. Although the majority of school districts will receive more funding under the new formula, districts that were already receiving more funding than what they would get under LCFF are protected by a provision specifying that no district will receive less state aid than it received in 2012-13.
At full implementation, districts will receive 20% more money for each high-needs student, based on unduplicated counts of low-income, English learner, homeless, and foster youth students, and even more for districts with large concentrations of these populations. This additional funding for high-needs students replaced most of the state’s categorical programs—funds the state previously provided to school districts for specific purposes such as summer school programs, school safety and textbooks.
Unlike categorical programs that come with restrictions on how the money can be spent, schools will have broad discretion over how they use the base grants they receive under the new system. The extra money they receive for their high-needs students must, as written in the law, “increase or improve services for unduplicated pupils in proportion to the increase in funds apportioned.”
In November 2014, the State Board of Education adopted regulations advising districts on how much money they must spend each year improving programs and services for high-needs students and when that money can be used to fund schoolwide and districtwide programs.
Under the new funding formula, school districts are subject to new rules for transparency and accountability, which include creating—with input from parents and the community—and adopting a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) that lays out how the district will spend the funds. Districts must set goals for improving student outcomes according to eight priorities established by the Legislature. The priorities include academic achievement, student engagement, parent involvement, and the successful implementation of new academic standards. The California School Dashboard provides data on how schools and districts are doing on metrics that include rates of student graduation, test scores, and school climate. Low-performing districts that fail to improve student outcomes will receive help through a new system of interventions.
The State Board of Education and the California Department of Education have also developed new systems for identifying when schools are failing to meet goals for improvement and need help. A new agency, the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence is coordinating support.
What this means for the reports on Ed-Data
In the financial reports on Ed-Data, funding sources—including local property taxes and other state aid that were previously known as "revenue-limit sources"—are now called "LCFF sources." However, school districts and county offices of education will continue to report their financial data to the state using the Standardized Account Code Structure (SACS) reporting format, and the financial reports on Ed-Data will remain largely the same. Details about the base, supplemental and concentration grants apportioned to each LEA can be found in the CDE's LCFF funding snapshot.
But in keeping with LCFF’s emphasis on improving outcomes for low-income, English learner, homeless and foster youth students, the Ed-Data student profiles now include a graph of unduplicated pupil counts for these student subgroups at the school, district, county, and state levels.
More changes ahead
In addition to the new finance system, California is transitioning to a new set of academic standards in English language arts and math, known as the Common Core, and the Next Generation Science Standards. The state is also changing its student testing and school accountability systems. For more about these changes, please see: Changes to California's K-12 Education System.
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