Tweak the funding formula?

California’s 2013 Local Control Funding Formula was the linchpin of former Gov. Jerry Brown’s school finance overhaul. Under it, all school districts get a flat grant based on their enrollment. Districts with higher concentrations of low-income students, English language learners and foster youth then receive additional funding through “supplemental” and “concentration” grants. 

Legislators supported the law and its focus because they recognized that students with higher hurdles need more resources. Local school officials now have more authority to decide how to spend their dollars, and they widely say the formula is an upgrade over the previous school finance method, which doled out funding to schools through dozens of “categorical” programs that specifically dictated how districts could use each category of funds.

Some schools have seen significant progress under the new system, with low income kids, for example. But it’s been slow going, and with some groups, the extra money doesn’t seem to be making as much difference. In 2021, the state budget increased the size of concentration grants. One study, however, found that funding should be calculated for each school, rather than for each district.