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Poll Shows Parents Not Engaged in Calif. Local Control

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By Daisy Gonzales

A new poll conducted by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) and the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education finds that California has a long way to go to keep the promise to engage local stakeholders in California's historic education finance reform.

Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) was a historic reform of California's education finance and governance system. Passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor in 2013, LCFF significantly changed how California provides resources to public schools and holds local educational agencies (LEAs) accountable for improving student performance.

Under California's new education funding system, LEAs receive base funding for each student they serve and additional funding for each high needs student in three categories: low income students, English learners, and foster youth. This new funding structure came with increased discretion over how to use state funding. In exchange for flexibility, districts must engage local stakeholder in the development of their Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). A district LCAP documents how a district will use funding and improve student outcomes based on specified state priorities.

New Poll on Policy Effectiveness

The 2016 PACE and USC Rossier Poll specifically focused on measuring public view on California's school and education policy effectiveness. While the poll contains great news for overall perceptions of our schools, the same survey finds that there is much work to be done if we want the LCFF to succeed.

This 5th annual poll finds that voters' perceptions of teachers and local public schools have reached the highest level of confidence since the poll began. This year the majority of Californians believe that their local public schools have either "gotten better" (23%) over the past few years or "stayed the same" (35%), while just 30 percent say their local schools have "gotten worse."

Voters favored increased spending for California schools (77%) and for Proposition 55: the Tax Extension to Fund Education and Healthcare (72%). While voters supported increased spending for schools, 84% believe that when it comes to improving schools in California, reforming how schools operate needs to be a part of the solution—a key goal of the LCFF.

LCFF Awareness Still Low

Awareness of the LCFF is up only slightly from 2015 (14%). This year, only 16% of the California voters who responded to the poll identified as having heard of the LCFF. After describing what the LCFF is, 63% of the voters had a positive view of the LCFF and 71% support it. However, when it comes to local engagement we are missing the mark. Consider the following:

  • While 80 percent of voters said they had a child currently in school and 35% said their children were 18 years or younger, only 11% said they had been invited to or made aware of meetings or events related to developing a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). Engagement of voters with children 18 and under was still substantially low (19%).
  • Sixty-six percent of voters are interested in participating in deciding how to allocated resources to advance the goals of their local school district. Parents were increasingly interested with 78% wanting to be engaged.
  • When asked to share the main reason they are not interested or unsure of participating in LCAP meetings or events, the top reason for parents was feeling like they do not have the information or experience to make participation worthwhile. 59% of non-parents also said lack of information or experience was their main reason to not engage.
  • Voters agree that decisions like these are the responsibility of school leaders, but still want to have input: 70% say too often school leaders don't seek input of parents/community; 91% say board school members should consult with voters/parents about district plans and priorities on regular basis not just election time.

So what does this mean for the future of the LCFF? Perceptions of progress, adequate funding levels and equity are impacted by awareness and engagement.

Bringing Government Closer

Upon signing the LCFF legislation Gov. Jerry Brown said, "We are bringing government closer to the people, to the classroom where real decisions are made and directing the money where the need and the challenge is greatest. This is a good day for California, it's a good day for school kids and it's a good day for our future." Nearly 2/3 of voters support the LCFF once they know what it is (63%) and 78% of parents. And more importantly for us today, 66% of all voters want to be engaged in the LCAP process.

The LCFF has yet to be fully implemented. Awareness and engagement of stakeholders is not only required by the LCFF but beneficial. Eighty-four percent of participants in this poll said they would vote in the November election. And of those who confirmed attending an LCAP meeting or event, 59% felt that their school/district leaders took the input they received from the local community into account. The 2016-17 Budget Act has school districts and charter schools receiving on average 96 percent of their LCFF targets. The Department of Education estimates a remaining need of $2.7 billion to fully fund LCFF.

Keeping our promise of local control has to be a priority for full implementation of the LCFF.

(Editor's Note: The PACE/USC poll was featured in this piece from The L.A. School Report, and two stories [here, here] from USC.)

Daisy Gonzales is associate director of Policy Analysis for California Education.  Before coming to PACE this spring, she was a budget consultant to the California State Assembly Budget Committee, and she has been a dual immersion teacher in the Fairfield Suisun Unified School District.


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