Targeted Funds Help Students Who Need It Most

National data show that careful investments in initiatives such as high-quality preschools and small class size in elementary can pay off, according to David K. Kirp, a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley. Recent research concludes that targeting children from low-income families can change the trajectory of their lives.

For example: Infusions of dollars to poor school districts led to a 10% increase in the predicted graduation rate for students from low-income families and a projected 10% rise in their lifetime earnings. Other research found that increasing K-12 spending by 10% added a half-year of schooling and a wage boost of nearly 10%.

The relationship between school budgets and student success is a significant issue in California. The landmark Local Control Funding Formula, established by the Legislature in 2013, channels extra dollars to districts based on the number of students from poor families, English-language learners, and foster children. Notably, instead of telling districts precisely how to spend this money, LCFF lets them decide for themselves.

In a study published last month, Berkeley public policy school professor Rucker Johnson and Sean Tanner, a senior researcher at the Learning Policy Institute, confirmed the wisdom of the LCFF approach: All students, and especially those whom the legislation singles out for extra help, are benefiting from the infusion of funds.

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