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EQUALIZING SCHOOL QUALITY: PROGRESSIVE FINANCE OF SCHOOL FACILITIES NEEDED IN CALIFORNIA

Posted on by BRUCE FULLER, PHD
Filed under: School Facilities,
Tagged: bruce fuller
A NEW UC BERKELEY CENTER FOR CITIES+SCHOOLS STUDY FINDS THAT MORE THAN HALF OF CALIFORNIA’S K-12 SCHOOL DISTRICTS UNDERSPEND ON THEIR FACILITIES, COMPARED TO BEST PRACTICE SPENDING STANDARDS. THIS IS A GUEST BLOG REFLECTING ON THE RESEARCH FINDINGS AND IMPLICATIONS FOR CALIFORNIA STATE POLICY.

Gov. Brown’s deputies find themselves in a contradictory position as they consider whether or not to tax local communities to improve crumbling school facilities.

The Administration presses forward on one of the largest efforts to redistribute public resources toward lower-income families and their children ever attempted by any government. The governor’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) reform will allocate about $57 billion to school districts that serve large counts of low-achieving children – to support annual operating budgets of local schools.

But the governor’s aides seem hesitant to acknowledge Sacramento’s pivotal role in equalizing spending on schools – raising revenue through a progressive tax system, then redirecting a portion to kids that need the most help – when it comes to repairing dilapidated schools. The new study by my UC Berkeley colleagues at the Center for Cities + Schools, Going it Alone: Can California’s K-12 School Districts Adequately and Equitably Fund School Facilities? shows just why some districts need more state assistance for their facilities than others.

We know that the physical quality of classrooms – from ensuring clean air, ample natural light, and comfortable space in which to work – leads to steeper learning curves for students. But the policy community tends to ignore the importance of the physical spaces that pupils and teacher inhabit – the role it plays in nurturing stronger and innovative pedagogy.

When my own research group tracked achievement of LAUSD students moving from overcrowded schools to new facilities, we found marked gains in performance. In our work among LAUSD schools between 2002 and 2008, we found that students that enjoyed new facilities displayed achievement gains equal to about 35 days of additional instruction.

A parallel analysis in in LAUSD cites the voice of a delighted teacher: “The fact that everything is new, the fact that you feel like you own it…and the classroom, has it changed? I mean, not really, but the kids, their attitudes, their smiles….it makes you more excited to come to work.”

The need for adequate funding for California’s K-12 school buildings is illustrated by recent this statement by LAUSD’s chief of facilities:

"Keeping our schools well maintained and ensuring they provide a safe environment for students and staff is a core responsibility of ours and is just as important as anything else we do. Past budget reductions have impacted our ability to properly fulfill this responsibility. …Requests for repairs are delayed, classrooms are related due to system failures, and the backlog of repair needs continues to grow. …As an organization we cannot continue to underfund and defer needed repairs."

The governor’s local-control thrust potentially empowers local districts to pursue quality reforms that work, classroom efforts that narrow wide achievement gaps between students, rich or poor. But the quality of facilities plays a role in the success of failure of local educators. The surge in operating budgets, thanks to Local Control Funding, may be all for naught, if teachers are forced to engage students in unsafe, unhealthy, and/or uninspiring buildings.

I do agree with the Legislative Analyst's Office that some communities do hold the wealth to tax themselves to finance the renovation of their schools. Drive through affluent neighborhoods and you will discover beautiful school libraries, splendid gyms and sports fields, renovated teacher lounges. Then, visit schools in California’s low income areas. You will see the disparities that persist when we rely solely on a local community’s wealth to improve their schools.

Moving forward, we must resist being penny wise and pound foolish. It’s essential for public education quality in California that all students attend adequate facilities that support teaching and learning objectives. Shifting to a more progressive finance of facility funding should greatly help get us there.

Bruce Fuller, PhD is Professor of Education and Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley. All views here are his own.


Is School Facility Funding in California Adequate and Equitable?

Posted on by JEFF VINCENT, PHD
Filed under: School Facilities,
Tagged: jeff vincent

A new UC Berkeley Center for Cities+Schools study finds that more than half of California’s K-12 school districts underspend on their facilities, compared to best practice spending standards. This is the first in a series of blog posts on our research findings and their implications for state policy.   Public education funding is undergoing major changes in California. The new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) significantly restructured education program funding – providing more money overall and instituting a new formula that gives more funding to districts with targeted disadvantaged students (see the details here). Though it’s been making fewer headlines,…


Making HOPE SF Work: Educational Services at Public Housing Sites

Posted on by jvincent

Francesca is concentrating on San Francisco's public housing program, HOPE SF, for her PLUS Fellow work.  Francesca Delgado is a second year Master of Public Policy student at the Goldman School.  This summer she interned in Washington, D.C. to work on the President's anti-poverty Promise Zones initiative.   The HOPE SF initiative is a community revitalization effort through the San Francisco Mayor’s Office, which seeks to transform San Francisco’s most distressed public housing sites (3 in the Bayview, 1 in the Mission/Potrero Hill). HOPE SF works to create opportunities for public housing residents not just by redeveloping public housing, but also by…


CA Assembly Education Committee hearing on K12 school facilities

Posted on by jvincent
Filed under: School Facilities,
Tagged: jeff vincent

On February 11, 2015, California's Assembly Education Committee held a hearing on the future of the state role in K-12 public school facilities funding. Currently, this future is somewhat up in the air: there currently is no money indentified and Gov. Brown has said he is strongly opposed to going the traditional route of statewide general obligation bonds because it adds to the state's debt burden. However, the CBIA and CASH have joined forces to get a statewide ballot initiative going and there are two bills (Lui; Holden) in the legislature this session on the topic. Here at CC+S we've done alot of research…


Gov Brown denies K-12 facilities funding: AB 2235 is dead

Posted on by jvincent
Filed under: School Facilities,
Tagged: jeff vincent

[This is an initial reflection by me - Jeff Vincent, PhD, Deputy Director, Center for Cities + Schools - on the news yesterday that there will not be any new funding for K-12 school facilities in California in the near future] Yesterday, Governor Brown officially said "no" to a 2014 school construction and modernization bond to go before the voters in November. Despite the efforts of lead authors Asm Joan Buchanan and Asm Curt Hagman - and many other stakeholders around the state - California school districts will continue to go without facility funding from the state. Our last state…


AB 2235 K-12 Bond Bill

Posted on by jvincent

So AB 2235 (Buchanan and Hagman, authors) continues to make its way through the California legislature. The bill is currently scheduled to be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on August 11th. However it's still unclear where the Governor stands on a school facilities bond. CC+S research finds it's time to overhaul the state's K-12 facility funding approach: California's K-12 Educational Infrastructure Investments: Leveraging the State's Role for Quality School Facilities in Sustainable Communities   Here's a roundup of the recent op-eds on AB 2235: California's funding for school buildings needs an overhaul - Jeff Vincent, UC Berkeley Center for Cities + Schools…


Overhaul CA school building funds

Posted on by Jeff Vincent
Tagged: jeff vincent

California's funding for school buildings needs an overhaul San Francisco Chronicle, June 26, 2014 | Updated: June 26, 2014 10:34pm Can California K-12 school districts provide healthy, safe and educationally modern facilities that promote student achievement with no state funding? Or does state support and involvement in local school facilities need a remodeling of its own? Evidence on both is clear: Low-wealth and high-need school districts can't do it without state assistance. And the state's K-12 School Facility Program needs an overhaul. Gov. Jerry Brown seems to agree. In his recent budget message, he signaled he wants fundamental changes. He…