Why California Should Retire the Free or Reduced-Price Meal Measure—and What the State Should Do Next

Commentary authors
Michelle Spiegel
Thurston Domina
Andrew Penner
Summary

In 2013–14, California enacted an ambitious—and essential—reform to improve educational equity by directing state resources to districts and schools that educate large numbers of economically disadvantaged students. The reform is called the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF); it allocates funding to school districts based on student characteristics such as socioeconomic status and provides greater flexibility to use the allocated funds than the previous school funding formula allowed. In addition to the LCFF, which is based on average daily attendance (ADA), districts receive funds based on the proportion of students they serve who are English learners, income eligible for free or reduced-price meals, and foster youth. The equity multiplier, a new policy passed in 2023, is designed to provide even more funding for disadvantaged students.