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Will changes to funding system leave California schools behind?

Did you know that since the late 1970s, public schools in the state of California have had little authority over where they allocate funds? Under the old system, schools were given a “pot of general dollars for every student,” which was then divvied up according to state guidelines. To comply with this two-tiered system, schools had to make sure that funding was being allocated to specific programs, such as special education, or risk losing that funding.

But the recent passing of the Local Control Funding Formula will give schools more flexibility when it comes to meeting the needs of their students, especially those identified as “high needs,” like English-as-a-second-language students, foster children and those who are impoverished. The hope is that this new system will undo some of the problems caused by recession-era budget cuts, giving schools a chance to provide access to programs and services designed to improve a student’s overall education.

Because of the shifting landscape of education law though, some school administrators are already concerned that the laws could change again before they have a chance to implement their new plans. It’s possible that this is why some schools have not implemented the system yet or why some have not identified the programs they will use to expand services for high-needs students.

It’s important to point out that while the changes to the funding system will force schools to further take into consideration the educational needs of high-needs students, this does not mean that they can ignore the needs of special education students. Just like high-needs students, students with special needs also have the right to a good education. This is something California schools will need to keep in mind, no matter what the laws end up looking like down the road.

Source: The Hechinger Report, “California’s new school funding system stumbles into its first year,” William Diepenbrock, Aug. 5, 2014

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