Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
‘Achievement Gap’ Still Plagues California Schools
dan_walters
By Dan Walters, CalMatters Commentary
Published 2 years ago on
November 21, 2021

Share

Then-Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature overhauled California’s public school financing in 2013 with the stated goal of closing the “achievement gap” separating poor and English-learner students from more privileged children.

The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) gave local school officials much more leeway by eliminating most “categorical aids” that required funds to be spent for specific purposes. Somewhat contrarily, LCFF also gave school districts specific grants to be spent on improving education of kids on the wrong side of the gap.

Dan Walters

Opinion

Since its passage, the state has also dramatically increased the amount of school spending. The 2021-22 state budget pegs state and local school financing at $123.9 billion, nearly twice what it was in 2013, and per-pupil spending at $21,555, “the highest levels ever.” California schools also are receiving $13.6 billion from the federal government to cushion impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.

Almost Nonexistent Oversight of School Funding

Brown insisted that local school officials could be trusted to spend the money wisely for its intended purpose with very light — almost nonexistent — state oversight. Rather, local voters and parents would, it was assumed, monitor LCFF through local implementation plans.

However, critics — civil rights and school reform groups — have complained that implementation plans are indecipherable and that school districts often divert money meant to improve outcomes of at-risk kids into other purposes. One huge loophole has allowed LCFF money left unspent in one fiscal year to be carried into the next year and spent without strings.

The battles over how the money was being spent, or not being spent, have been fought district-by-district, sometimes in the courts. Two years ago State Auditor Elaine Howle weighed in with a report that sharply criticized the lack of oversight.

“We are particularly concerned that the state does not explicitly require districts to spend their supplemental and concentration funds on the intended student groups or to track their spending of those funds,” Howle’s report declared.

Has Additional Money Improved Learning Outcomes?

The Legislature did close the ludicrous loophole on unspent funds this year, but after eight years, we should have some clue as to whether LCFF, bolstered by billions of extra dollars, has provided meaningful help to kids who need it most or has just been an exercise in creative bookkeeping.

The latest attempt to gauge its efficacy comes from Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), a prestigious consortium of education scholars from five major universities.

“As researchers who have long studied the implementation of LCFF, we started with the view … that LCFF has advanced equity both in terms of funding progressivity … and improved outcomes for historically underserved student groups,” the PACE report says. “But despite this progress, California continues to lag behind the nation as a whole when it comes to educational outcomes, and many student groups — particularly Black and Latinx students, English learners, students from low-income families, and students with disabilities — continue to experience wide and troubling opportunity and achievement gaps.”

Among other problems, PACE laments that schools with the highest concentrations of at-risk kids tend to also have the least-experienced and -capable teachers, although it doesn’t mention that union seniority rules are the prime cause of that dissonance.

The unfortunate bottom line is that we still don’t know whether LCFF will succeed or join the long list of California’s high-concept notions, such as the woebegone bullet train, that don’t deliver what was promised.

About the Author

Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, spending all but a few of them working for California newspapers. He now writes for CalMatters, a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters.  For more columns by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/commentary.

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

US Shoots Down Iran-Launched Attack Drones as Biden Team Pledges ‘Support’ for Israel

DON'T MISS

Sacramento Gave Homeless Camp a Lease as an Experiment. Here’s What Happened.

DON'T MISS

Merced Supervisors Accused of ‘Triple Crown Race’ of Failures Amid Talk of Closing Fire Stations

DON'T MISS

Teacher Appreciation Week Surprises That Educators Will Love

DON'T MISS

A Mission of Mercy, Then a Fatal Strike: How an Aid Convoy in Gaza Became Israel’s Target

DON'T MISS

Walberg Era Begins With a Charge to ‘Revolutionize’ Bulldogs Basketball

DON'T MISS

California Man Sentenced to 40 Years to Life for Fatal Freeway Shooting of 6-Year-Old Boy

DON'T MISS

16 Clovis Students Rewarded With Scholarships for Their Resilience

DON'T MISS

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

DON'T MISS

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

UP NEXT

While California Politicians Skirmish Over Housing, the Shortage Keeps Growing

UP NEXT

As PG&E Bills Skyrocket, Will California Lawmakers Hold Anyone Accountable?

UP NEXT

Trustees Owe a Nationwide Superintendent Search to Fresno’s Children

UP NEXT

Taxes Are on the November Ballot in Monumental CA Showdown

UP NEXT

California Progressives Forced to Play Defense as State Faces Huge Budget Deficits

UP NEXT

CA Labor Priorities and Business ‘Job Killers’ on a Collision Course

UP NEXT

California Water Wars Continue Despite Now Healthy H20 Supply

UP NEXT

How the Saga of California’s Contentious Income-Based Utility Charge Began

UP NEXT

Fresno County Lawsuit Against Political Candidates Stifles Free Speech, Wastes Taxpayers’ Money

UP NEXT

Californians Pay High Gas Prices and Gas Taxes Yet Still Have Bad Highways

Teacher Appreciation Week Surprises That Educators Will Love

23 hours ago

A Mission of Mercy, Then a Fatal Strike: How an Aid Convoy in Gaza Became Israel’s Target

24 hours ago

Walberg Era Begins With a Charge to ‘Revolutionize’ Bulldogs Basketball

1 day ago

California Man Sentenced to 40 Years to Life for Fatal Freeway Shooting of 6-Year-Old Boy

1 day ago

16 Clovis Students Rewarded With Scholarships for Their Resilience

2 days ago

Dr. Green Thumb’s Is Open. Sweet Flower Debuts Saturday in Fresno Cannabis Rollout.

2 days ago

Reacher Star Alan Ritchson Calls Donald Trump a ‘Rapist’

2 days ago

Community Leaders Call for Transparency in Fresno Superintendent Search

2 days ago

Israeli Settlers Rampage Through a West Bank Village, Killing 1 Palestinian and Wounding 25

2 days ago

US Intelligence Finding Shows China Surging Equipment Sales to Russia to Help War Effort in Ukraine

2 days ago

US Shoots Down Iran-Launched Attack Drones as Biden Team Pledges ‘Support’ for Israel

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and his national security team monitored Iran’s aerial attack against Israel on Saturday as U.S. forces joi...

8 hours ago

8 hours ago

US Shoots Down Iran-Launched Attack Drones as Biden Team Pledges ‘Support’ for Israel

21 hours ago

Sacramento Gave Homeless Camp a Lease as an Experiment. Here’s What Happened.

23 hours ago

Merced Supervisors Accused of ‘Triple Crown Race’ of Failures Amid Talk of Closing Fire Stations

23 hours ago

Teacher Appreciation Week Surprises That Educators Will Love

24 hours ago

A Mission of Mercy, Then a Fatal Strike: How an Aid Convoy in Gaza Became Israel’s Target

1 day ago

Walberg Era Begins With a Charge to ‘Revolutionize’ Bulldogs Basketball

1 day ago

California Man Sentenced to 40 Years to Life for Fatal Freeway Shooting of 6-Year-Old Boy

2 days ago

16 Clovis Students Rewarded With Scholarships for Their Resilience

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend