As California spends billions on high-needs students, calls grow for more oversight

Seven years after California started pumping billions of dollars into schools with the neediest students — an attempt to narrow a chronic academic achievement gap — a new state audit has found that the state’s landmark school funding law isn’t adequately ensuring that targeted money is actually going to the disadvantaged students it’s supposed to help.

The audit released Tuesday is the latest in a growing body of research fueling calls for more state oversight of California’s groundbreaking 2013 overhaul of school finance.

The Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF as it is known, simplified the way the state pays for schools, directing extra money to districts with high proportions of low-income students, foster kids and English learners and pushing many spending decisions to the local level. But it has been criticized by some legislators, advocates and researchers for not including consistent and clear spending transparency.

Legislators and advocates have long debated requiring districts to track spending, but Gov. Jerry Brown and some education leaders resisted, asking for more time to let districts settle into the new system.

The state audit points to a likely effort next year, under a new governor, to tweak the landmark legislation. As the funding formula enters its seventh year, state test scores have been slow in elevating disadvantaged students’ performance more into parity with their wealthier peers, which was one of the formula’s key goals.

And lawmakers are concerned that some school districts may be using money intended to help high-need students to instead pay for salaries, pensions and other across-the-board services.

In a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Auditor Elaine Howle wrote that her team “had difficulty determining the extent to which the districts used those funds to increase or improve services for intended student groups.”

Auditors also found that the state’s implementation of the new funding formula meant …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


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