California has been trying to improve its educational system for some time now. Despite placing billions in funds towards fixing the educational achievement gap over socioeconomic lines, there’s still no sign of progress being made six years later.
It’s true that state spending on schools has increased by about 50 percent since 2013, but new reports reveal that there’s no way to track if this money is being spent where it should. Billions of dollars were promised for English-learning, low-income, and foster care children, for the sake of helping them receive a good education. Now, there’s no guarantee that’s the case.
Former Governor Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), enacted to manage this funding plan, is deeply flawed. School districts receive a base amount determined by the attendance and grade levels of students, with an additional supplement of 20 percent for students falling into one of the aforementioned needy categories. If the district’s concentration of needy students was 55 percent or higher, per-pupil funding would increase by 50 percent for each student beyond the 55 percent threshold.
However, no regulations were enacted to keep school districts accountable for the extra funds they’d receive for students in need. If districts don’t spend the additional funding the year it’s received, they’re allowed to spend it however they please the following year.
Brown insisted on not having any fiscal accountability requirements for LCFF when he was in office, and as a result, there’s no way to measure if the additional funding is actually helping students. The lack of regulation makes this measure a functional free handout—no strings attached. Schools had no legal obligation to spend on their needy students, so who’s to say they actually did?
Jerry Brown may be the cause of this disappointment, but the fact that Democrats refused to join Republicans in demanding more accountability with this funding speaks volumes about their capacity to govern. Our Democrat-dominated legislature has, yet again, been wasteful and inefficient with its financial resources, and the victims of their incompetence are the very people they claim to help.