You have probably heard about the new state funding plan, called the Local Control Funding Formula, coming to public schools. There will be many important conversations over the next several months about school and district budgets. These conversations are most productive when we start with some shared understanding, so here are a few facts to get started.
Not a cash windfall
This isn’t exactly a windfall. In the first few years, state funds will help restore our funding to 2007 levels. While we’re grateful, what we really need is a whole new level of funding that matches that of other big states such as New York or New Jersey — these states allocate almost double the amount per student when compared to California. The fact that California will begin allocating funds it withheld from schools during the recession is good. But it is coming in small drips over the next few years, and it goes away if the economy slows down again.
More funding to serve needier students
With the new LCFF, we will start to receive more funds than some other school districts because the San Francisco Unified School District has a high percentage of low-income and English-learning students. As pioneers in site-based budgeting and using what is called a weighted student funding formula, allocating more to serve English learners and low-income students isn’t new to the SFUSD. But with the LCFF, we hope to continue to designate more resources for services and programs that serve our highest-need students.
Parents, teachers have say in funding priorities
The state mandates that districts have systems in place to gather community input on how the money is spent and I’m here to tell you, most proudly, that while there is always room to grow, we are way ahead of the game.
Elected parent-community-staff Site Councils at each school meet to come up with the school budget priorities each year. And for those who want to understand and give input into how money is spent centrally, there are numerous Board of Education meetings on the topic; in fact, there is a budget committee that meets every month. And we know not everyone can make it to a Board of Education meeting, so we create opportunities each year to speak with community members at venues across The City.
Over the next several months, you will see ways to get involved on all sorts of levels. Look for information coming home with your students, or check www.sfusd.edu regularly for more information about the LCFF and what it means to students and the community. As the budget for 2014-15 is being drafted, we will update the community on how to be part of the process.
Richard A. Carranza is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.