Taking stock of California’s weighted student funding overhaul: What have districts done with their spending flexibility?
California in 2013 moved to drive more resources for students with higher needs, create more spending flexibility and let districts decide how to spend substantial new dollars by adopting a new watershed state finance policy, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Our December 2017 analysis examines financial data from nearly all California school systems to clarify how their spending choices changed in the first three years of the new state funding law. We find that predictions of wholesale ill-conceived spending choices in the absence of state prescription have not been borne out. And while we find that districts generally didn’t make radical changes in spending, they did spend in ways that could help the highest-need students and did show evidence of “customizing” spending to meet local needs. With LCFF, California has undertaken one of the nation’s largest weighted student funding (WSF) overhauls to date. As such, its experience is of national interest. This paper is part 1 of a series analyzing early impacts of LCFF.