Follow the Funding:

A Searchable Database of Every LAUSD School’s Budget

In California public education, the money follows the student. When Governor Jerry Brown signed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) into law in 2013, he took that principle one step further. School districts began receiving extra funding to help them reach the hardest-to-serve students: low-income students, English language learners and foster youth.

So, for example, a school like 93rd Street Elementary in South L.A., where 96% of students are high-need, would get extra money to educate those students. At least, that’s what was supposed to happen.

But research by organizations including the Education Trust-West, United Way of Greater Los Angeles and University of California-Berkeley, as well as lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union and Public Counsel, have shown that the extra funding isn’t going where it’s supposed to.

A NEW TRANSPARENCY
Building on these efforts, we’ve created a database showcasing the budgets for each school in L.A. Unified. Using publicly available data, the database lets anyone – parents, teachers, advocates – see not only how much money the students at their school generate, but also how much of that money the school actually receives.

A quick look at the database reveals that 93rd Street Elementary keeps just 63% of funding generated by its students – while $4.6 million is withheld. Hamilton High School keeps just 67% of the funding generated by its students; $10.3 million is withheld.

The database, which was built using publicly available data, does not show where the missing funding is being directed; it only shows that it is not built directly into the school’s budget.

We hope this database is another useful tool to help the Los Angeles community better understand how public schools are funded, as well as to examine the disparities that exist.




Find Your School

The following searchable database shows the budget for every school in L.A. Unified. We’ve divided the budgets into three categories.

Severely Underfunded
School receives less than 80% of the funding its students generate
Underfunded
School receives between 80% and 95% of the funding its students generate
Funding met
School receives more than 95% of the funding its students generate

Is your school underfunded? Severely underfunded? Search the database and find out.


View all the schools in our sortable spreadsheet here.



Sortable Table of All Schools
Click on a column header to sort the schools by that column.


If the Total Funding the School Doesn’t Keep is red and negative, this means the school receives more funding than its students generate. If the Total Funding the School Doesn’t Keep is black and positive, this means the school receives less funding than its students generate.





Methodology

In order to create the database, we accessed school budget information that is posted on the public website of every school operated by LAUSD. Please see Table A for an overview of this methodology. The budget information contains projections for how much the district intended to spend at each school-site during the 2015-16 school year. In addition, to ensure there was alignment between the district’s budgeted expenses at the school-site and the actual expense, we also made Public Records Act (PRA) requests of the district to receive historical expenditures at the school-site.

Table A. Step-By-Step Overview of Methodology
Step 1Downloaded school budget information from District website.
Step 2Requested PRA to cross-check publicly available school budget information with historical expenditures at the school-site. This expenditure is labeled as “Total Funding School Keeps.”
Step 3Analyzed the revenues each school would generate for the district given the demographic of students served by the school. This revenue is labeled as “Total Funding School Generates.”
Step 4Subtracted the “Total Funding School Keeps” (e.g. expenditure) from “Total Funding School Generates” (e.g. revenue) to receive the “Total Funding the School Doesn’t Keep”. This figure demonstrates the funding a school is entitled to receive. When a school is in the negative (e.g. - $3,567,483), this means the school receives an additional $3.5M in funding its students did not generate. When a school is in the positive (e.g. $3,567,483), this means the school does not receive the $3.5M in funding its students are entitled to and the funding is redirected elsewhere.

The PRA requests revealed that, with only few exceptions, there is a high level of correlation between what the district budgets and what the district actually spends at the school-site level. In other words, the public budget information posted on each school’s website is a good estimation of the resources that are actually being spent at the site level. This budget expenditure is labeled “Total Funding School Keeps.”

Next, we analyzed the revenues each school would generate for the district given the demographics of students served by the school. Those revenues include the base, supplemental and concentration funding generated under LCFF, special education revenues, California state lottery funds, and funding coming to the district from the Federal Government under Titles I and III. This revenue is labeled as “Total Funding School Generates.”

Lastly, we subtract the “Total Funding School Keeps” (e.g. expenditure) from the “Total Funding School Generates” (e.g. revenue). This calculation paints a clear picture of how much funding students at the school are entitled to but do not receive. This figure is labeled “Total Funding the School Doesn’t Keep.”

To more clearly articulate the funding level of each school, we developed a framework to categorize every school according to its funding level in light of what its students generate under the LCFF. In short, this allows us to more clearly distinguish the funding levels for each school. This framework includes three specific categories:
  1. Severely Underfunded: school receives less than 80% of the funding its students generate;
  2. Underfunded: school receives between 80-95% of the funding its students generate;
  3. Funding met: school receives more than 95% of the funding its students generate.

Table B provides a snapshot of two schools – 93rd Street Elementary School and Hamilton High School – which allow us to clearly explain the methodology. The students of 93rd Street Elementary School, for example, generate approximately $12.6M, yet the school only keeps (or is allocated by the district) $8M. More than $4.6M is redirected elsewhere. In another example, the students of Hamilton High School generate a total of $30.7M, which is intended to be spent on the students at the school, yet only $20.5M of the total is kept at the school-site – the remaining $10.2M is redirected elsewhere. Both of these schools are severely underfunded.

Table B. Funding Level Profile for Specific Schools
School Name93rd Street ESHamilton HS
Board District71
School Type DescriptionElementary SchoolSenior High School
Percent High-Needs Student Population (%)96.357.6
Total Enrollment (#)1,1151,694
High-Needs Student Population (#)1,0741,694
LCFF Funding$10,846,892$26,921,679
Other State and Federal Funding$1,782,950$3,860,093
Total Funding School Generates$12,629,842$30,781,772
Total Funding the School Keeps$8,007,406$20,502,827
Total Funding the School Doesn’t Keep$4,622,436$10,278,945
Funding CategorySeverely UnderfundedSeverely Underfunded

By comparing the revenues and expenditures at a school-site level, we begin to highlight severe discrepancies in funding, particularly the funding generated through LCFF and intended to serve high-needs students.

Cautions
While we believe that we have devised an overall approach to reporting revenues and expenditures at the school-site level that is accurate and reliable for purposes of making general observations about the budgetary situation of each school in the district, we must acknowledge that there are limitations to our approach.

It is Difficult to Calculate the Cost of District-Run, Centrally-Operated Programs
There are several centrally-operated programs that serve schools throughout the district. If the management of these programs were to transition from Beaudry to the school-site, these additional costs may change the overall financial picture for the school. Further exploration of how those budget dollars are allocated out to schools, compared to the needs of those schools, could yield additional insights.

The Impact of Special Education Funding on the District’s Bottom Line
It is no secret that the cost of special education significantly impacts the district’s budget. However, for purposes of this report, the most important fact to keep in mind is that the district chooses to regionalize many special education services. This means that the district chooses not to provide all special education services at each school but instead to provide services at just some schools and to transport students to those locations and to provide additional resources to the receiving schools to cover the additional cost of educating those students. As such, the economic impact of special education is not localized at each school but is spread across the district and distributed to schools differently.

To account for this complexity, we calculate the amount of revenue that each school’s students are generating for purposes of special education and then show how much the district is expending on special education services at each site. Our belief is that, while there are clearly many nuances that would not be built into each school’s budget1, we believe this modeling gives a better general picture of the financial dynamics playing out at each school.

LCFF Funding for Some Schools Is Not Included in This Study
While LAUSD has received a reported $4,970,177,837 in LCFF funds (per the CDE LCFF Snapshot for LAUSD as of 2015-16 Annual Certification posted in February 2017), our study used $4,859,072,071 in LCFF funding total for all 688 regular schools in grades K-12. This difference of $111,105,766 was generated by student average daily attendance at schools not included in our study, such as continuation high schools, community day schools, regional occupational centers, and others, as well as by limitations in adapting the LCFF calculation worksheet to individual schools.

Definitions to Understand the Report and Database
Board District  The local board district in LAUSD that the school is located in
School Type Description  The type of school (e.g. elementary, middle, high school, magnet, etc.)
Percent High-Needs Student Population  Percentage of students designated as low-income, English-language learners, and/or foster or homeless youth at each school
Total Enrollment  Total number of students who attend the school
High-Needs Student Population  Total number of students who are designated as low-income, English-language learners, and/or foster or homeless youth
LCFF Funding  Total funding the school generates from LCFF which is intended to serve low-income, English-language learners, and/or foster or homeless youth
Other State and Federal Funding  Total funding from special education revenues, California state lottery funds, and funding coming to the district from the Federal Government under Titles I and III
Total Funding School Generates  Total funding a school generates when you combine LCFF funding and other State and Federal Funding
Total Funding School Keeps  Total budgeted expenditures at each school, which includes salaries for certificated and classified employees, costs for benefits, supplies, services, unrestricted expenses, Title I and Title III expenses, and other miscellaneous expenses (e.g. fair share, business, utilities, and oversight)
Total Funding the School Doesn’t Keep  Total Funding School Generates Minus Total Funding School Keeps. When a school is in the negative (e.g., - $3,567,483), this means the school receives an additional $3.5M in funding its students did not generate. When a school is in the positive (e.g. $3,567,483), this means the school does not receive the $3.5M in funding its students are generate to according to the LCFF.
Funding Category  The three funding categories describe the portion of the designated funding that schools actually receive:
  • Severely Underfunded: school receives less than 80% of the funding generated by its students
  • Underfunded: school receives 80-95% of the funding generated by its students
  • Funding Met: school receives over 95% of the funding generated by its students
  • 1 Namely, those nuances include how many special education students from inside the school’s attendance boundary may be sent to another school for services or how many students from outside the attendance boundary are being transported in, as well as which specific special education services the district is choosing to make available and not make available at every school.


    Recent Research and Advocacy

    This database is just the latest in a long line of efforts by community groups to bring transparency and accountability to L.A. Unified's spending. Read about some of those efforts:

    The Education Trust-West released a report documenting that schools serving the largest share of disadvantaged students are not receiving equitable state funding.
    "Even under adjusted funding formula, California’s poorest schools still lose out" (L.A. Times, April 6, 2017)

    Public Counsel and the Children’s Defense Fund filed a lawsuit charging that Long Beach Unified is spending up to $40 million on district-wide programs instead of on high-need students.
    "Long Beach Unified accused of misspending money for neediest students" (L.A. Times, April 5, 2017)

    The University of California-Berkeley and United Way of Greater Los Angeles released a report demonstrating that L.A. Unified has been deliberately withholding funding that was intended for the neediest students.
    "L.A. Unified diverts funding for neediest students, report charges" (Ed Source, March 20, 2017)

    An independent blue ribbon panel of financial experts from multiple industries, commissioned by L.A. Unified's superintendent to review the district's finances, issued a report highlighting the district's $13 billion in unfunded liabilities and warning that the district is headed toward bankruptcy.
    "Panel conveys dire warning, board seems to get message" (LA School Report, November, 2015)

    The ACLU of Southern California filed a lawsuit against L.A. Unified accusing the district of failing to adhere to the Local Control Funding Formula and charging that the district “manipulated a budget calculation to reduce its obligation to add new or better services for high-need students, including English-learners, over time.
    "Suit accuses L.A. Unified of diverting millions meant for needy students" (L.A. Times, July, 2015)

    In their first analysis of L.A. Unified’s spending after the adoption of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), UC-Berkeley and United Way reached similar conclusions
    "Report: LAUSD's short-changed, disadvantaged schools, students" (L.A. Daily News, June 2015)


    About

    This database was prepared by a veteran of public school business management and operations at numerous California school districts, with support from the California Charter Schools Association, whose vision is to increase student learning by growing the number of families choosing high quality charter public schools so that no child is denied the right to a great public education.