Mike Kirst Discusses the History and Promise of California School Finance Reform

March 2013

In a recent interview with New America Media, Mike Kirst discussed the legal and political history of California’s current education finance system and how Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) can more equitably allocate state funding to districts and allow them the flexibility they need to meet rising expectations of college-readiness.  After the California Supreme Court’s 1971 ruling in Serrano v. Priest declared the state’s school finance system based on property tax wealth to be unconstitutional, Kirst helped then-Governor Jerry Brown to reduce funding disparities among California’s over 1,000 school districts.  Kirst argues that the LCFF will take the next step toward funding equity by directing additional resources toward districts based on the number of low income and English learner students they serve, as well as concentrations of such students.  Though originally intended to promote equity, the state’s current convoluted system of categorical funds that tie resources to specific groups of students limits districts from using funds as efficiently and effectively as possible.  Kirst argues that local discretion offered by the LCFF is essential for districts to mobilize resources they will need to effectively implement the Common Core State Standards.  Mike Kirst is the president of the California State Board of Education and Professor Emeritus of Education and Business Administration at Stanford University.