Districts embrace local control but struggle

Credit: Karla Scoon Reid/EdSource TodayArmando Gutierrez, an assistant principal at Lowell Elementary School, writes down parents’ concerns and comments during a Local Control and Accountability Plan meeting at King Elementary School in Santa Ana in April 2014. Credit: Karla Scoon Reid/EdSource TodayArmando Gutierrez, an assistant principal at Lowell Elementary School, writes down parents’ concerns and comments during a Local Control and Accountability Plan meeting at King Elementary School in Santa Ana in April 2014. A new study that examines the implementation of California’s Local Control Funding Formula revealed that district leaders welcome a need-based local funding model but that they were hindered by a lack of time, information, skills and resources.
The report, “Toward a Grand Vision: Early Implementation of California’s Local Control Funding Formula,” was written by Daniel C. Humphrey and Julia E. Koppich and released by SRI International. The authors looked at the first year of implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) in 10 districts across California.
Among the challenges cited by districts were the tight timeline for developing Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs) that outline priorities and the need to develop new ways of working. As one district official put it, “The LCAP process really pushed the emphasis on collaboration. We recognized that people were working in silos. And we had to change.” Small districts especially felt overburdened as they developed their plans, citing insufficient staffing and the need for more training to understand and take on the requirements of developing their local plans.
Inadequate time and resources also posed a challenge to achieving the meaningful level of parent and community engagement required by the LCAP. One official, whose district received input from only about 4 percent of families in the district, said, “LCFF is a historic effort, but we really haven’t prepared our frontline people, really principals, on how to do engagement.” Other districts cited serious obstacles to engaging with parents at the poorest schools, including language, transportation and childcare barriers.
Despite a steep learning curve and the need to develop new skills and community ties, the study found strong support among district leaders for local control and “cautious optimism” about the future of the LCFF law. A common refrain cited in the study was “Give us time to get this right and, please, don’t return to prescriptive categorical funding.”
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