"Follow the Funding" Database Reveals Budgets for Every LAUSD School
April 13, 2017
(Los Angeles, CA) - Building on a wave of reports and lawsuits charging that the L.A. Unified School District is not appropriately directing funding to high-need students, a new database offers a first-of-its-kind look at the budget for every district school.
"Follow the Funding" (www.FollowtheFunding.org), a searchable online database, lets anyone - parents, teachers, advocates - see how much money their school is supposed to receive versus how much money the school actually receives.
"This is about bringing a new level of transparency to the discussion about funding equity," said Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). "So much of what happens inside the district is hidden from view, so we're eager to bring this data into the light and help all stakeholders better understand how public education dollars are being spent, whether they're looking at their own neighborhood schools or at the whole system."
Since the passage of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), legal, advocacy and academic groups including the Education Trust-West, American Civil Liberties Union, Children's Defense Fund, Public Counsel, University of California-Berkeley and United Way of Greater Los Angeles have charged that LAUSD and other California school districts have withheld funding designated for schools serving the highest concentrations of disadvantaged students. Some of that research is listed below.
The new "Follow the Funding" database, which was built using publicly available data, for the first time shows how much money is generated by each school's students. It also shows there are abundant inconsistencies in how much of that money is actually kept at the school site. Elementary schools with large shares of disadvantaged students are not receiving much of the funding allotted to them. 93rd Street Elementary, for example, where 96% of students are high-need, keeps just 63% of the funding generated by its students - while $4.6 million is withheld. Meanwhile, middle and high schools are losing the greatest amount of funding overall. Hamilton High School, for example, keeps just 67% of the funding generated by its students, while $10.2 million is withheld.
The database does not show where the missing funding is being directed; it only shows that it is not built directly into the school's budget. This leaves unanswered questions about where that funding is going and why some schools aren't receiving much of the funding that is meant for them, especially those with high concentrations of low-income students, English language learners and foster youth.
"We invite everyone interested in strengthening public education in Los Angeles to dive into the data," said Sarah Angel, managing director of regional advocacy for CCSA. "We hope it deepens the conversation about how to create a more equitable, accountable and transparent system that truly meets the needs of its students."
The database was prepared by a veteran of public school business management and operations at numerous California school districts, with support from the California Charter Schools Association.
Recent research and lawsuits investigating school district spending inequities since the passage of LCFF:
- The Education Trust-West released a report documenting that schools serving the largest share of disadvantaged students are not receiving equitable state funding. "Even under adjusted funding formula, California's poorest schools still lose out" (L.A. Times, April 6, 2017)
- Public Counsel and the Children's Defense Fund filed a lawsuit charging that Long Beach Unified is spending up to $40 million on district-wide programs instead of on high-need students. "Long Beach Unified accused of misspending money for neediest students." (L.A. Times, April 5, 2017)
- The University of California-Berkeley and United Way of Greater Los Angeles released a report demonstrating that L.A. Unified has been deliberately withholding funding that was intended for the neediest students. "L.A. Unified diverts funding for neediest students, report charges" (Ed Source, March 20, 2017)
- The ACLU of Southern California filed a lawsuit against L.A. Unified accusing the district of failing to adhere to the Local Control Funding Formula and charging that the district "manipulated a budget calculation to reduce its obligation to add new or better services for high-need students, including English-learners, over time. "Suit accuses L.A. Unified of diverting millions meant for needy students" (L.A. Times, July 1, 2015)
About the California Charter Schools Association
The California Charter Schools Association's vision is to increase student learning by growing the number of families choosing high quality charter public schools so that no child is denied the right to a great public education. We do this by serving as the advocacy organization that builds the policy environment needed to grow as quickly as possible the number of students attending high quality charter public schools. For more information, please visit our website at www.ccsa.org.
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