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California School Districts Given New, More Flexible Spending Guidelines

California has nailed down the guidelines for how school districts can spend money under the state’s new school funding system. Now districts will have to make the most of the flexibility the new system provides.

The Local Control Funding Formula sends extra money to school districts with more low-income students, students who are learning English or are part of the foster care system. Under the guidelines finalized this week, districts have to spend the extra money on efforts to improve outcomes for those student groups.

Districts will have to show how services for these students increase in proportion to the state funding increases.

In districts where 55 percent or more of students fall into these three categories, the funds can be spent on districtwide efforts. The money can be directed to schoolwide spending when 40 percent or more of a school's enrollment is made up of these students.

Districts that don't meet those thresholds can spend the supplemental money on district or schoolwide efforts, if they can demonstrate that those are the most efficient ways to boost achievement for the targeted students.

Parents and other stakeholders will have the opportunity to provide meaningful input into district spending plans for the first time in many districts, according to Lora Duzyk, assistant superintendent of business services for the San Diego County Office of Education.

“And this is supposed to be a dynamic process," she said. "And if it’s not working let’s change it, let’s move it. Part of having parents be part of that — that’s another way they can find out what’s working, what’s not working.”

Duzyk believes there will likely be as many variations in spending plans as there are districts. For decades much of state school money came to schools attached to specific programs, leaving little flexibility.

School districts have until the end of June to develop their new plans.

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