State legislatures work closely with school districts to ensure that funds earmarked for education are allocated effectively. This often requires them to rethink traditional funding methods that assign resources to specific programs and goals statewide, with little opportunity to customize spending based on the needs of a specific population.
Innovative funding methods are proving effective; however, they have created new documentation requirements for districts. Fortunately, advances in technology make it possible to stay on track with these requirements.
Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) Basics
School districts work hard to ensure that students’ needs are met, however, funding challenges present obstacles to achieving educational goals. Districts serving predominately low-income families generally feel the financial pinch most, as this population is more likely to demonstrate academic achievement when additional resources are made available.
Many states are considering revisions to district funding formulas in an effort to divert financial resources to the communities with the greatest need. The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is one such revision. Instead of assigning a per-student dollar amount then multiplying by average attendance in the district, the state assigns funding targets based on specific student characteristics.
Examples of relevant characteristics include the number of students with accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the number of students that qualify for free or reduced lunch and the number of English Language Learners (ELL). Under LCFF, districts enjoy greater flexibility in how they use resources to meet students’ needs.
Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) Funds Tracking
In order to receive state funding, school districts operating under LCFF have certain responsibilities. One of the most critical is Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) tracking. Districts have more control over using financial resources, and in exchange, they must submit a comprehensive explanation of the district’s goals.
Specifically, districts must detail how goals will be met, with special attention to priorities identified by state and local education agencies. Examples of state and local priorities include Common Core Standards for English/Language Arts and Mathematics, Next Generation Science Standards and History-Social Science Standards.
Electronic templates are provided for the purpose of creating and tracking goals, and they can often be returned via email. However, in some cases, districts must complete these forms and submit hard copies to the appropriate agencies. Whether emailed or submitted on paper, a variety of issues can complicate the process. Lost and misdirected documents cause delays, and it can be difficult to track which approvers have already reviewed the LCAP.
Innovative Technology Simplifies the LCAP Process
New documentation requirements have prompted the development of innovative platforms to support the creation, submission and processing of LCAP goals. Instead of unwieldy paper-based processes, LCAP goals are housed in a dedicated database, and stakeholders can access submissions as needed for review and approval. This cuts down on the inefficiencies that come with paper, including documents lost in overflowing inboxes, delays in approvals due to unscheduled absences and vacations and the many potential glitches of mail and email.
Redirecting education funds to students with greater educational requirements promises to give more students an opportunity to achieve their goals. Offering districts greater flexibility in resource allocation ensures spending is targeted properly by the individuals closest to the schools receiving services. However, lawmakers and other stakeholders expect some visibility into district spending to ensure that basic educational goals are given priority. LCAP is an effort to provide that visibility, and new technology makes it simple and convenient to comply with LCAP requirements.