CA Dept of Education: Los Angeles Schools Spent Improperly

(Photo: Youtube, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Youtube, Creative Commons)

Los Angeles Unified school district has been ordered by state officials to redirect their spending of hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to bring aid to those students who would most benefit from extra academic help.

In a May 27 report, the California Department of Education determined that LA Unified had misdirected $450 million in benefits for special education students in addition to the contributions needed to meet the requirements associated with the Local Control Funding Formula, which is weighted in order to offer more services to those children who need them the most, reports Howard Blume for The LA Times.

According to department findings, the district had been counting the same expenditure twice, thereby allowing less money to be spent on high-needs students than was required.  In order to remedy the situation, the department has stated that the district must revise its 2016-17 spending plan, referred to as the Local Control Accountability Plan, or LCAP, in order to include additional services and programs for the high-needs students in the district.

“We applaud the department for issuing its straightforward legal ruling and ordering L.A. Unified to comply with the law under the Local Control Funding Formula,” John Affeldt, managing partner of the nonprofit law firm Public Advocates, said in a statement. “We look forward to seeing the district halt this illegal practice and invest more fully in its low-income students, English learners and foster youth.”

LA Unified has released a statement in response to the order, saying it plans to challenge the decision.  In the statement, the district states that it believes the interpretation of the Local Control Spending Formula is incorrect.  It goes on to say that if it stays the way it is, “it would seriously undermine the district’s ability to continue providing our deserving students with the effective instruction and support services they need to succeed.“

The statement detailed that the spending done by the district had kept the needs of children who receive additional support from the Local Control Spending Formula in mind.  If the state’s decision stands, the district claims that money would be taken away from these programs.

The situation began when public advocates and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California filed a complaint.  As a result, the state education department began an investigation into the district.  Affeldt said he did not know of any other district that had counted special education spending twice in the way that LA Unified had.

The district is under additional financial stresses due to a slide in enrollment and increases in the costs associated with pay and pension.  These could take up hundreds of millions of dollars very quickly if the state’s voters do not approve an extension of an increase on personal income taxes, writes John Fensterwald for EdSource.

Public advocates and the ACLU believe the total over the next few years would reach $380 million, quickly increasing to $450 million per year.  That figure is in addition to the $690 million that the district said it should be gaining in extra funding for high-needs students after the Local Control Funding Formula is fully funded.  The state believes this will happen in 2020-21.