Education

California school funding plans are too complex, report says

A student on his way to school walks past a Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) school.
A student on his way to school walks past a Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) school.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

A review of California's new school funding formula released Tuesday found its goals and performance metrics are so complex that none of the districts studied met all the requirements.

The report by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office recommended that districts be permitted to focus on developing an action plan for a set of high-priority areas rather than all eight targets specified by the state.

The study also recommends the state more closely monitor district plans for low-income and English-learner students. Some districts provided only limited information on what funding they will provide those student groups, the review found.

"We do think it has the potential to be a good strategic plan," Edgar Cabral, an author of the study, said of the accountability plans. "But we do think as currently established it's an ambitious set of requirements and is maybe preventing districts from focusing on the most key areas of need."

The local control funding formula is designed to steer additional money to schools with the most low-income students, foster youth or those with limited English proficiency.

As part of the new law, districts are required to develop and annually update an action plancentered around priority areas such as student achievement and 24 metrics set by the state. The plans include everything from performance on standardized tests to student suspension rates and parent involvement.

"Taken together, these requirements are a daunting undertaking for districts to accomplish and accomplish well," the report states.

The study looked at 39 districts and found some are spending time on seemingly low-priority issues because of the requirements. It also concluded that districts often failed to set goals for specific student subgroups.

John Rogers, an education professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the findings were somewhat expected, given it was the first year of implementation.

"It's something very different than what's been asked before and districts were not given much guidance," he said. "It's not surprising that what emerged is a bit of a mess."