California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) was signed into law in 2013, and represents the most significant change in California education finance and governance in 40 years. It moves additional funds to districts with students in poverty, English language learners, and foster youth. The LCFF sends supplemental funds to districts based on unduplicated counts of these target student groups and concentration funds to districts with high proportions (over 55%) of these same students. In addition, the LCFF eliminates nearly all categorical funding and pushes decision-making about how best to allocate resources to the local level. The LCFF also requires districts to develop a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) with meaningful local community engagement of parents, community members, students, and educators.
The LCFF Research Collaborative has been following the implementation of LCFF since the first year of LCAP planning. In that time, we have seen broad support for the intent of the law, both in its emphasis on more equitable allocation of resources based on student need and in its incorporation of local control and flexibility to support more locally responsive and coherent approaches to improvement. However, we have also noted wide variation among districts in the extent and ways in which they have been able to manifest these intents at the local level. Often the attention of policy makers and the public is drawn to implementation shortcomings and instances in which either the intent or the specific provisions of the law are not being met. Certainly, it is important to address these shortcomings if implementation and the law itself are to be improved over time. Equally important, however, are cases in which the LCFF is operating as envisioned, for it is through such positive exemplars that others might learn and improve.
Thus, after studying LCFF implementation for 4 years, the LCFF Research Collaborative decided to identify and document the work of school districts whose implementation efforts in three specific areas are reputed to be noteworthy. We were interested in school districts that were particularly innovative in their attempts to:
- Meaningfully engage stakeholders in their Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) development;
- Advance the implementation of the California State Standards (CCSS); and
- Take an innovative approach to resource allocation decision-making.