Q. Can school districts use LCFF funds for salary increases and/or to pay off debt?

The answer to this question comes from the American Civil Liberties Union of California (ACLU of CA) and Public Advocates Inc. The ACLU was founded to defend and secure constitutional rights and to extend them to people who have been excluded from their protection. Public Advocates Inc. is a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination by strengthening community voices in public policy and achieving tangible legal victories advancing education, housing and transit equity. Many thanks to David Sapp with the ACLU of Southern California and to John Affeldt and Liz Guillen with Public Advocates for their expertise.

A.  Districts may use base funding to pay off debt and for salary increases.  They may not, however, use supplemental or concentration funding to pay off debt because paying off debt does not "increase or improve services" for the high-need students who generate those funds.

In general, districts cannot use supplemental or concentration funding for across-the-board salary increases because increasing salaries for all teachers generally will not “increase or improve services” provided to high-need students.

Although LCFF provides school districts with increased flexibility over how they use state funds, the fundamental premise of LCFF is that districts are supposed to spend their funds to improve the outcomes for the students who generate the funds.  Under LCFF, funding is generated from three sources:

* all students generate base funding;

* districts receive additional grants, called supplemental funding, for each high need student (low-income student, English learner, or foster youth); and

* if over 55% of a district’s total enrollment are high need students, the district receives additional funding, called concentration funding, for each student over that threshold.

Districts must use supplemental and concentration funding to “increase or improve services” for high need students who generate those funds, and the increase or improvement of services must be “in proportion to” the increase in funding the district receives because of those students.  Regulations recently adopted by the State Board of Education state that increasing or improving services means “to grow services” in quantity or quality.

For more detail on the use of LCFF funds for each of these purposes, please see the ACLU and Public Advocate memos around paying off structural debt and salary increases.

To view and download the ACLU and Public Advocates' list of key questions that you can ask about your district's plans to spend money intended to benefit high-need students, click here.

For additional resources around LCFF for parents, students, and community members please visit ACLU of Southern California's LCFF resource page, which includes many bilingual (Spanish/English) materials.

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