By John Fensterwald
There’s no dispute: Districts are required to spend additional money they receive for low-income students, English learners and foster children under the Local Control Funding Formula on programs and services for those kids.
But there’s a big caveat that has largely escaped public notice: The obligation disappears at the end of a fiscal year. At that point, unspent dollars under the formula flow into one pool of unrestricted money that districts can use however they want.
That “loophole” would appear to contradict the intent, if not the spirit, of the law: spend targeted dollars on targeted kids to narrow the achievement gap. But under the language of the LCFF statute and the view of the state Department of Finance, using unspent targeted money for other purposes doesn’t violate the law and is acceptable in the new world of local control, in which districts have flexibility over funding, as long as they’re clear and open about what they are doing.