During his second governorship, journalist Jerry Brown occasionally asked what he was doing about California's highest poverty rate in the nation.
Brown would tick off several actions, the centerpiece of which is the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which provides school districts with billions of additional dollars to improve the schooling of "vulnerable" students, those from impoverished families and / or English learners.
He was right – on paper. Closing the "performance gap" that separates these students, mainly blacks and Latinos, from more privileged children would be the most effective way to close the income gap by providing them with skills for well-paid employment and / or higher education.
However, strangely and perhaps cynically, Brown consistently rejected efforts by civil rights and education reformers to hold local school officials responsible for spending the extra money on the intended recipients and actually improving their level of learning.
Brown, both verbatim and in response to a lawsuit, insisted that his work ended up providing more money and trusting local educators to spend it wisely and effectively, and he used the church principle of "subsidiarity" as a justification for his Transfer to position.
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Not surprisingly, in the seven years since the LCFF came into effect, independent research organizations and journalists have repeatedly reported how the extra money was used for purposes other than his high intention, while Brown and former state school superintendent Tom Torlakson, looked away. At one point, Torlakson, a former teacher and lawmaker, overruled his own department and gave districts permission to use LCFF to raise wages
Just last November, accountant Elaine Howle published a report stating that three school districts that were selected as cross-sections did not implement LCFF as intended.
"We are concerned that the state does not specifically require the districts to spend their additional funds and concentration resources on the intended student groups, or to track how they spend those funds," Howle told the legislature, adding, "therefore neither governmental yet local interest groups have done this. " adequate information to assess the impact of these funds on the intended student groups. "
The LCFF law even includes a self-destructive gap that allows districts to convert funds that were not spent on target children in a year to general income for any purpose.
It is up to the civil rights and school reform groups to do what Brown and Torlakson refused to do – enforce the law. They have filed complaints and lawsuits against local school officials and contested their plans, known as LCAPs, to serve as guidelines for the use of LCFF funds.
The latest example came up this week. A coalition led by Public Advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union formally complained that the San Bernardino County school principal, Ted Alejandre, had allowed the districts he oversaw to redirect LCFF funds for other purposes, including campus police .
The coalition said Alejandre "approved several LCAPs with tremendous lack of proportionality that undermine the basic LCFF requirements for community justice, transparency and accountability, and deny needy students the benefit of the enhanced and improved services needed to fill opportunities gaps. "
District court legal action, however, is a difficult matter at best. After Brown retires, LCFF should undergo official oversight to ensure that it does what it should do.
A good start would be the adoption of the 1835 bill, which is being implemented by the most stubborn critic of the law, Shirley Weber, a San Diego democrat. The bill, which has already been approved by the assembly, would fill this ridiculous gap that encourages local educators not to help the most needy children.
CalMatters is a journalism company of public interest that explains how the California State Capitol works and why it matters. More stories from Dan Walters can be found at calmatters.org/commentary