California has taken the first steps down an historic path that fundamentally alters how its public schools are financed, education decisions are made, and traditionally underserved students’ needs are met. The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), passed with bipartisan legislative support and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on July 1, 2013, represents the most comprehensive transformation of California’s school funding system in 40 years. The LCFF significantly loosens the reins of state control over education. It all but eliminates categorical funding streams, substituting a base of funding for all districts and adding dollars for low-income students, English language learners, and foster youth. The new system empowers school districts to determine how to allocate their dollars to best meet the needs of their students. Finally, by requiring all districts to engage parents and other education stakeholders in decisions about how to spend newly flexible funds, the LCFF represents a remarkable experiment in local democracy. The LCFF is a paradigm shift for California education, and it is still in its infancy. How are school districts using their newfound budget flexibility in this early implementation phase? How are they engaging parents and other stakeholders? What opportunities and challenges do they foresee with the LCFF? What can state policymakers learn from these early experiences?
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