Edsource, by John Fensterwald
The ability to substantially close the achievement gap between high-poverty and low-poverty students “reduces” the money intended for other expenses for California’s high-need students, new research from the Public Policy Institute of California has been found in.
School districts are on average directing only 55 cents of each dollar of funding from the local control funding formula to schools that attend money-generating high-need students, said research fellow Julian Lafortune in a policy brief and complete. concluded in the report.
Lafortune examined school-level financial data reported to the state for all districts with more than 250 students and more than 10 schools. He was able to conduct the research for the first time using available federally mandated school-level data.
“The correct targeting of resources to high-need students within districts remains a concern,” he wrote, noting that there are large differences between districts in the extent to which they target additional resources.
Money that didn’t reach high-need students isn’t necessarily “wasted,” he said; Instead of being targeted, it was spread evenly among all students in a district.
Research from PPIC also indicates that the funding formula is having a positive effect on improving test scores and college eligibility, especially in the districts that receive the most funding.
The local control grant formula provides school districts and charter schools with the bulk of the general funding they receive from the state. Along with a base grant for all students, it provides “supplemental” funding for each high-need student as well as “concentration” funding that grows exponentially when the majority of students in the district are involved. Under the funding formula, high-need students, along with low-income, foster and homeless students, as well as English learners, are targeted for additional funding.
As of this year, districts where target students enroll at least 60%, which is about the statewide average for high-need students, receive an additional 15% of funding. Districts that have 80% of target student enrollments receive about a third more in additional funding.
The money is paying off, especially in districts with the highest-need students, Lafortune found, increasing test scores on Smarter Balanced standardized tests in math and the English language arts and more students entering California state curriculum requirements. enable it to be completed. University and the University of California.
In the highest-need districts – with 80% or more students targeted with additional funding – the share of students who met or exceeded standards in English language arts and mathematics increased by 10 and 9 percent, respectively, while low- In needy districts, the share increased by 4 and 5 points from 2014-15 to 2018-19. Low-income districts narrowed the achievement gap in English language arts by 6 percentage points and in math by 4 percentage points.
However, overall statewide progress in bridging the gap between all low-income students and non-low-income students was low: only 2.5 percentage points in English language arts and 0.6 percentage points in math.
LaFortune found the same pattern when analyzing course requirements, known as A to G, to qualify for admission to the University of California and California State University. In the decade before the funding formula was implemented in 2013-14, there was no change in the difference in A to G completion rates between low- and non-low-income districts. Since then, the gap between the highest-need districts and the least-need districts, with less than 30% of students with low incomes, has narrowed by 9 percentage points. For the middle districts, which received some concentration funding, the gap closed by only 5 percentage points.
Previous studies of local control and accountability plans, in which districts prepared annual plans for supplemental and concentration spending, had found that some districts under- or improperly used funds. A state auditor’s analysis of three districts’ spending concluded that the funding formula law “does not ensure that students are benefiting from the funding.” This year, Governor Gavin Newsom adopted one of the auditor’s key recommendations, fixing a loophole that allowed districts to spend the remaining money for high-need students however they wanted the following year.
Tracking money has become difficult even in schools with high need students. However, through a requirement under the federal Every Student Success Act, California is reporting accurate spending data by school for the first time; Previously, California calculated teachers’ salaries, the largest component of school spending, using the average for the entire district, not actual wages. The new mandate is not an absolute measure, as it is difficult to compare spending between districts. However, it does reveal which high-need schools are disproportionately funded.
Lafortune attributes the difference in spending on high-need students to two issues raised in the report:
- The additional funding is intended to fund additional programs and services for high-need students, but is funded by the district, not by the school, giving districts flexibility in where to spend the money;
- Although the districts with the largest proportion of high-need students (with 80% or more enrollment) receive the most concentration funding, many other districts have roughly the same total number of high-need students, yet receive significantly less funding. it happens. And non-low-income districts that receive no concentration funding still have a quarter of the state’s schools where most or more students are low-income.
This is why the state should “make sure that supplemental and concentration funding is benefiting the students who produce it in a more direct and significant way,” said Samantha Tran, senior managing director of education policy at Children’s Now. Said, a non-profit advocacy organization. The funding formula appears to be working in the districts that receive the most funding, “which is great, but the state needs to do more to really close the achievement gap,” he said.
Lafortune recommends several options to spread the additional funding more evenly. One way would be to lower the limit for districts to receive concentration funds. Another would be to finance concentration dollars by the school rather than the district, ensuring that the money would go to the students who generated the additional funding. The challenge with the latter is that it could encourage further segregation — redrawing school boundaries to include larger concentrations of low-income families, Lafortune said.
In a study two years ago, Lafortune documented that districts were using the extra money to hire mentors and teacher aides for low-income schools, but they also had a disproportionate number of novice teachers. He has once again recommended that the legislature should address the issue.
“Key policies, therefore, should include additional funding and incentives that allow districts to hire and retain qualified staff in schools with the highest need, especially given the shortage of teachers around high-demand subjects. ,” they wrote.