The state lacks accountability to the taxpayers for its use of education funds, State Auditor Elaine Howle reported November 5.
Since fiscal year 2013-14, California has funded K-12 education in part through an approach called the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The state intended for LCFF to provide more local control over the spending of state dollars and to improve educational outcomes among certain student groups. The auditor revealed numerous problems:
The state’s approach to LCFF “has not ensured that funding is benefiting intended student groups and closing achievement gaps.”
The state does not explicitly require districts to spend their supplemental and concentration funds on the intended student groups or to track their spending of those funds.
Districts can treat any unspent supplemental and concentration funds in a given year as base funds in the following year and can use those funds for general purposes.
Since 2013-14, the deferral of full formula implementation to LCFF caused the three districts reviewed by the auditor – the state’s three largest districts – to identify $320 million as being part of their base funds rather than supplemental and concentration funds.
Policymakers and stakeholders lack adequate information to assess the impact of supplemental and concentration funds on the educational outcomes of the intended student groups.
“We are particularly concerned that the State does not explicitly require districts to spend their supplemental and concentration funds on the intended student groups or to track their spending of those funds,” the auditor wrote. “Without a means of tracking how districts use supplemental and concentration funds, state and local policymakers and other local stakeholders lack adequate information to assess the impact of those funds on the outcomes of intended student groups.”
Commenting on the audit, CalMatters political columnist Dan Walters wrote: “Those in the education establishment don’t want the accountability that Howle recommends. They prefer to issue opaque, jargon-laden pronouncements of good intentions while sponsoring two ballot measures that would raise billions of new tax dollars for them to spend as they see fit.”