The Magna Carta of California education policy removed many state mandates for school programs and curriculum, returning to school districts local control of most issues. The Local Control Funding Formula? Nope. Guess again. Try Senate Bill 1, in 1968, three years after the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, four years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and fourteen years after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the doctrine of "separate but equal" in its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which represented a major legal effort to dismantle legal segregation in public schools.
Brown v. Board of Education paved the way for federal, state, and district efforts to expand access to quality educational opportunities to all students, regardless of race or ethnicity.
The desired effect was never realized. Newly appointed California State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond (co-authored with Janel George) reported in February of 2019 that despite well-established evidence demonstrating the benefits of diversity, public schools are today increasingly segregated along both racial and socioeconomic lines. It’s unlikely during the current administration that Federal action will reverse the trend of segregation in public schools. In fact, the ESSA-mandated California Dashboard actually perpetuates it.
This brief history lesson in California School Finance provides context during this LCAP season as district leaders develop a deeper understanding of the equity principles that form the calculus of the LCFF. While the LCAP remains a compliance document six years into its inception, I am learning that many of my peers are taking the “P” in LCAP seriously.
More and more districts are creating plans that are coherent and strategic and built collaboratively through an analytical process revolving around a common vision and driven by a mission to ensure all students have access to quality educational opportunities, regardless of race or ethnicity or the percentage of their students classified as unduplicated.
California's governor intends to bolster early childhood programs, extend learning throughout life, and increase higher education funding. While on the campaign trail he said, “Our role begins when babies are still in the womb and it doesn’t end until we’ve done all we can to prepare them for a quality job and successful career.” The Governor is also steering priorities by virtue of appointing Linda Darling-Hammond, an expert on teacher preparation and equity, and embracing Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond, whose 20-year career as a social worker cemented his conviction to make improving public education his top priority while serving in the State Assembly prior his current post as California’s school chief.
Given the Governor’s intentions, there are five priorities my colleagues and I should be concentrating on in our strategic plans and all of them have to do with readiness: early childhood education, college and career access pathways partnerships, educator effectiveness, school safety, and social-emotional learning.
In the event you’re not totally convinced that Governor Newsom is on the right track by focusing on children from birth to age three and expanding preschool for four-year-olds, follow the evidence (and the money). There are currently 188 grants in California for early childhood programs, childcare and daycare programs to promote literacy, and nutrition and physical activity at preschools, including food gardens and outdoor classrooms and playgrounds.
Follow the money.