Educational governance & policy
California made a fundamental change its approach to education in 2013, bringing greater local discretion over local decision making in public education. These changes were intended to support both equity and system improvement in California’s schools.
Districts are primarily accountable for school improvement and receive assistance from the Statewide System of Support. As part of this System of Support, county offices of education are responsible for (1) annually approving their districts’ Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs), in which districts outline their intended activities and resource allocation strategies to meet the eight state priorities delineated in the LCFF legislation; and (2) providing direct assistance when districts fail to meet expectations in priority areas.
The 2013 Local Control Funding Formula also shifted the way California governs and funds its schools, giving greater authority over resources to locally elected school boards and districts, and emphasizing the importance of local stakeholder engagement.
PACE research in this area is designed support the continued development of these systems, and strengthen educational governance at all levels.
California adopted the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in 2013, which made fundamental changes in the way the state funds school districts, shifting decision-making authority over resources from the state to the local level. The LCFF also introduced a new accountability system, under which districts are expected to work closely with their local communities and stakeholders to develop Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs), which set goals for improvement and adopt strategies and align resources to advance local goals. District LCAPs are approved annually at the county level. Parents and other community members are expected to monitor the district’s LCAP progress. In the event that progress falls short of expectations, the community can hold local leaders accountable and demand changes, either directly through the LCAP process or by voting out and replacing current members of the school board.
The accountability system in California aims to support continuous improvement in the performance of schools and students, with a particular focus on reducing or eliminating gaps in opportunities and outcomes for different groups of students. The state has begun to develop a system of support for districts to ensure they receive the help they need to strengthen their capacity to improve and address inequitable opportunities and outcomes for students.
The state’s system of support brings together the California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE), the California Department of Education, and county offices of education to tailor support to individual districts’ needs. The role of counties has has grown as a critical lynchpin in the delivery of support under this new system. Counties are now to be the first line of support for districts identified as needing “differentiated assistance” based on district performance on the state’s multiple-indicator California School Dashboard. Recent PACE research reported that the system is under-funded, fails to draw upon the full range of expertise in the state, and is not well-aligned with other accountability components of the Local Control Funding Formula.
California captures the following data on school districts serving K-8 students on the Dashboard: chronic absenteeism, graduation rate, suspension rate, and academic (which includes performance in English language arts/literacy and mathematics). Local measures are reported by school districts, charter schools, and county offices of education based on local data availability. District performance on these measures is assessed based on current year results and whether results improved from the prior year. School districts with low performance are identified to receive support to improve student outcomes, but early implementation of this System of Support has been challenging. Furthermore, the 2020 PACE/USC Rossier showed that voters' perceptions of public school quality are the lowest they have been in years.
To address the problem of disconnected systems and competing goals among child-serving agencies, policymakers must adopt an integrated-systems approach to the delivery of services. Integrated service delivery systems align behind shared goals that focus more broadly on collectively supporting the healthy functioning of the whole child and their family unit. Read more about two existing models of interagency integration in Realizing One Integrated System of Care for Children, which was produced as part of the PACE Policy Research Panel on Special Education.