An Unprecedented Opportunity for California Education
Calling all education advocates! California is about to undergo a monumental shift in the way our state funds our public schools. It is a win-win solution for every student attending public school in our state. But your voice is needed to ensure your student receives the benefits of this new formula.
Last year, Governor Brown passed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Under this new policy, school districts across the state will be budgeted on a per-pupil model instead of funding by broad categories. The calculations of the new formula seek to level the playing field for California’s most vulnerable students by looking at the overall student population and awarding funding based on the needs of each individual student. The model will particularly assist high need students like foster youth, English language learners, and economically disadvantaged students, who will receive a supplemental amount of funding per pupil. Additionally, if a school has over a certain percentage of high need students, it will receive a “concentration grant” to further meet the needs of its student population.
In an education landscape continuously facing issues of equity, this policy attempts to level the playing field and empower districts with the flexibility to provide programs that best serve their student population.
Along with the change in funding formula, school districts are required to adopt a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). The LCAP is like a local roadmap that will show how districts will address the eight statewide priority areas with the input of the community. Districts must identify and show how they are engaging a wide variety of constituents to advise the creation of goals and the adoption of the plan. Public forums and parent advisory committees will confer in an effort to improve district accountability and meaningful community engagement.
The Role of Arts Education
There is tremendous opportunity for those invested in arts education to respond to this major shift in policy. As this policy unfolds, we want to ensure that all students receive access to a complete education that includes the arts. The starting point for engagement is the Local Control and Accountability Plan. Although the eight priorities are determined by the state, the individual action goals within those eight priority areas are up to the discretion of each district. Arts education is a powerful tool to achieve goals all eight priority areas. A complete education that includes the arts trains our students to enter the 21st century workforce, which requires creative critical thinkers. The arts should have a seat at the table and be a strong voice in the conversation.
Recent research from the National Endowment for the Arts shows that at-risk and low-income students with a high level of arts engagement from kindergarten through sixth grade have higher test scores in writing and science by their 8th grade year.1 The same NEA study found students living in poverty are more likely to graduate, vote, and attend college if they have access to the arts as part of a complete education2. And Americans for the Arts research shows having access to arts education reduces the drop out rate for at-risk students from 1 in 4 (25%) to 1 in 25 (4%)3.
The time to take action is now! Advocates and educators can participate in the conversation in a variety of ways. See some ideas below:
- Visit our LCFF resource page and learn more about the opportunity for arts education in this new policy.
- Participate in one of our upcoming workshops in February to learn more about LCFF, arts advocacy and giving public comment.
- Contact your district to learn how they are approaching LCFF and the LCAP process—every district is unique.
- Schedule a time to present to your Board of Education how an investment in arts education is a critical part of a complete education for all students. The California Alliance for Arts Education has great resources you can download and take with you.
- Provide public comment to your LCAP Parent Advisory Committee about the benefits of a complete education that includes the arts.
- Join your LCAP Parent Advisory Committee or, if one exists, the English Learner Subcommittee of the Parent Advisory Committee to ensure arts education is considered as a district strategy within LCFF.
- Join the Arts Education Advocacy Team in your district to work with other parents and community members on this issue. If none exists, contact us about starting one.
- Become a free supporter of Arts for LA to stay up to date with news, action alerts, briefs, and other opportunities for participation.
There is a timely opportunity now for parents, community members, and educators to step into the conversation and continue to advocate for increased access to a complete education that includes the arts. While the Local Control Funding Formula and the Local Control Accountability Plan are opportunities to increase education equity and bolster community engagement, the outcomes will be up to those of us who participate the process.
1 Catterall et al. “The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies. Washington: National Endowment for the Arts, March 2012. http://arts.gov/sites/default/files/Arts-At-Risk-Youth.pdf