LA Unified has gotten billions to serve high-needs kids. Here's how they've spend it.
When California inaugurated a new school funding formula in 2013, Gov. Jerry Brown wanted to do more than restore money the state's public schools had lost to deep recession-era budget cuts.
The governor hoped to level the playing field for three high-need groups in the state's schools — low-income students, English Learners, and foster youth. The new "Local Control Funding Formula" called for billions of new dollars for school districts who serve these children.
But in the Los Angeles Unified School District, a coalition of "equity advocates" led by the United Way of Greater L.A. have questioned for years whether this new state funding — a total of $3.8 billion over the last four years — is reaching campuses serving the largest numbers of kids in these high-need groups.
On Monday, members of the coalition released a new, school-by-school analysis that they say provides fresh evidence to back up their concerns.
"This is a good news-bad news story," explained UC Berkeley education professor Bruce Fuller, whom the United Way and coalition members contracted to crunch L.A. Unified's budget data.
The elementary and middle schools are the "bad news," Fuller said.
In 2015-16, high-need students comprised more than 90 percent of the student bodies at 269 of L.A. Unified's 400-plus elementary schools. But per-student spending on these highest-need campuses still lags behind spending on 139 campuses where between 60 and 90 percent of the student body fits the state's definition of high-need, according to the coalition's report.
In fact, since the 2012-13 school year, 31 elementary campuses with the smallestconcentrations of high-need students saw larger increases in their per-pupil spending than the neediest campuses.
And in middle schools, the coalition notes after an initial uptick in spending in the highest-need campuses, spending has since flattened out.
"By regressively allocating funds to elementary and middle schools," Fuller said, "by the tea leaves, we don’t see any likelihood the achievement gaps will narrow for young children."
Fuller said the advocates would prefer to see L.A. Unified officials "progressively" allocate this influx of state funding by sending more money to schools serving the largest numbers of high-need students.
Advocates say they've observed this progressive allocation at the district's high school campuses — that's the "good news," Fuller said. Since California inaugurated its new school funding formula in 2013, the 35 high schools with the largest high-need student populations have seen their per-pupil spending increase by nearly 50 percent.Audio: LA Unified has gotten billions to serve high-needs kids. Here's how they've spend it. | 89.3 KPCC: