A preliminary analysis of California’s New Local Control Funding Formula
Keywords:Local control funding formula, LCFF, local control accountability plan, California, school finance, equity, adequacy, fiscal flexibility, local control, community engagement, state reform
California recently overhauled its K–12 public education finance system. Enacted in 2013, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) replaced California’s 40-year-old funding formula. The LCFF increases district officials’ fiscal flexibility; provides more resources to districts serving larger proportions of low-income, English learner (EL), and foster youth students; and requires district officials to engage community members in district decisions. This article expands on a study conducted by a team of 12 independent researchers that investigated the early implementation of the LCFF. The study sought to answer three research questions: (a) how are district officials using their newfound budget flexibility? (b) how are district officials engaging parents and other stakeholders? (c) what are the opportunities provided to districts under the LCFF and the challenges it creates for them? Data include 71 semi-structured interviews with district stakeholders across 10 diverse districts in California and 22 interviews with county office of education (COE) officials across the state. Findings include that respondents were cautiously optimistic about the LCFF. District officials appreciated increased budget flexibility and the focus on community engagement. Inevitably, however, district and COE officials experienced challenges in implementing the law during its first year.