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Engaging Parents in School Funding Decisions

Sonja Petek May 7, 2014
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A policy enacted last year—the Local Control Funding Formula—changes the way the state allocates money for K–12 schools. The new system is designed to address the needs of disadvantaged students. It also gives local districts more authority over spending decisions and holds them accountable for results. Beginning this year, school districts must develop accountability plans every three years describing how they will meet the goals and priorities of the new system.

Districts are required to seek input from parents while developing their accountability plans, the first of which must be adopted by July 1. The requirement to involve parents is loosely defined. At a minimum, districts must hold a public hearing prior to plan approval and convene a parent advisory committee. And districts are supposed to ensure parent representation of the groups the new formula is designed to help—English Learners, foster children, and lower-income students. But the policy does not outline how the feedback will be gathered and used.

In the latest PPIC Statewide Survey, the vast majority of Californians, including 85 percent of public school parents, consider parent involvement in the development of these plans very important.

How effective have districts’ outreach efforts been so far?

Many districts have already held meetings and forums to seek parent input, but according to our survey, 45 percent of public school parents say they have not received information from their child’s school or school district about how to become involved (52% say they have received information). This is despite nearly all saying they are at least somewhat interested in becoming involved (53% very interested, 38% somewhat interested).

Still, there is some evidence in these early stages that outreach attempts to parents of disadvantaged students are working. Latino public school parents (67% of whom took the survey in Spanish) are much more likely than whites to say they have received information about how to become involved (61% to 42%). Similarly, immigrant parents (61%) are much more likely than U.S.-born parents (43%) to say they have received information. And the share reporting that they received information grows as household income levels decline.

An overwhelming majority of parents would like their youngest child to earn a college degree or graduate degree, including at least seven in 10 Latinos (70%), immigrants (77%), and parents earning less than $80,000 annually (75% under $40,000, 82% $40,000 to under $80,000). These parent groups are also among the most likely to believe the Local Control Funding Formula will improve the academic achievement of English Learners and lower-income students. Engaging these key groups in designing ways to meet the central goal of the Local Control Funding Formula (namely, to close the achievement gap between disadvantaged students and others) is critical—especially given the educational hopes they express for their children.

Chart source: PPIC Statewide Survey: April 2014.

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