A decade ago, California’s political apparatus finally recognized a yawning achievement gap in its public schools, separating poor and English-learner students from their more privileged classmates.
While overall, California’s nearly 6 million K-12 students were not faring very well in state and federal tests of academic achievement, the shortcomings were particularly evident among Latino and Black kids from poor families.
The political response by then-Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators was the Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF, which provided extra funds to local school systems with large numbers of kids “at-risk” of failure on the expectation that the money would be spent specifically on improving their outcomes.
Tens of billions of dollars have been spent on LCFF grants, but the results have been, at best, marginal, and there’s been a running political and legal battle over accountability for spending the extra money and its effects.
Brown, for obscure reasons that he extrapolated from a Catholic Church doctrine, refused to include an accountability component, saying he trusted local school officials to do the right thing. That hands-off position was, not surprisingly, strongly supported by the education establishment, especially teacher unions.
About the Author
Dan Walters has been a journalist for nearly 60 years, spending all but a few of those years working for California newspapers. He began his professional career in 1960, at age 16, at the Humboldt Times. CalMatters is 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.
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