State Board of Education plan affirms commitment to local control of schools

The State Board of Education recently approved a plan for using federal assistance that upholds California’s commitment to the educational reforms of the Local Control Funding Formula. This gives school districts the authority to decide which programs and services to spend state funding on.

Every state that receives federal funding to support low-income students and English-language learners is required to submit an Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan to the U.S. Department of Education. Several states submitted their plans earlier this year, while California and more than 30 other states will be submitting their plans this month.

The plan – essentially a grant application – enables each state to make a case for how it would use and manage federal dollars.

California’s ESSA plan meets federal requirements while ensuring that the state retains maximum flexibility to continue its shift away from top-down decision-making and toward local control that allows school districts to better meet local needs. The plan was developed over 18 months with input from thousands of Californians.

“With the ESSA plan, we believe we have achieved the right balance between meeting federal requirements and focusing on our state priorities that will help prepare all students for college and careers,” said State Board President Michael W. Kirst, Stanford University professor emeritus. “We look forward to working with the U.S. Department of Education as our application moves through their process.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson acknowledged the plan’s flexibility.

“This plan reinforces the California way, giving flexibility to local leaders and communities so they can make decisions that address local needs and are not restricted by a one-size-fits-all approach,” he said. “It fits in very well with California’s own massive efforts to improve education and pay special attention to students with the greatest needs.”

California receives $2.6 billion in ESSA funds annually – approximately 2.5 percent of the state’s overall education budget and one-fourth of the money provided to improve services for low-income students, English-language learners and foster youth through the Local Control Funding Formula.

According to Board of Education officials, the ESSA plan honors California’s promise to educators, parents and students to develop a single state and federal school accountability and support system, ending years of confusion caused by dueling systems. The new integrated model uses multiple data points – graduation rates, suspension rates, test scores and more – to give a more complete picture of school success.

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