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

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.

November 24, 2021 | The Mercury News

It’s been eight years since then-Gov. Jerry Brown restructured California’s school funding formulas to direct billions of dollars to the state’s neediest students. But, in 2019, state Auditor Elaine Howle confirmed what critics had been saying for years: State and...

November 21, 2021 | CalMatters

In the broadest sense, LCFF embraced the conventional wisdom that altering the flow of money would profoundly affect educational outcomes. However, from its inception, LCFF has been awash in controversy—not over its concept, but rather its implementation. The latest attempt...

March 24, 2021 | Reason

In 2013, policymakers replaced California’s convoluted education funding system with the Local Control Funding Formula, which streamlined dollars into a simplified formula. The revamped formula provides a base amount of funding for each student, plus supplemental dollars for students classified...