In a new report, “Deregulating School Aid in California: How 10 Districts Responded to Fiscal Flexibility, 2009-2010,” Bruce Fuller, Julie Marsh, Brian Stecher and Tom Timar detail how leaders in 10 California school districts are responding to the deregulation of $4.5 billion in education funding. Sacramento policymakers have freed local educators from the specific guidelines that previously regulated spending on 40 categorical-aid programs. These program funds became entirely flexible in 2009, and local school boards could decide how to allocate these resources.
This decentralization of fiscal authority is the latest episode in a four-decade-old debate in Sacramento over who is best qualified to allocate public dollars to improve student achievement. This study illuminates what happened to these 40 programs (referred to as Tier 3 resources subject to categorical flexibility) in 10 diverse districts, how budget decisions were made by district leaders, and what local factors explain the various ways in which districts responded to this flexibility. The study was conducted by researchers from the RAND Corporation; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of California, Davis; and San Diego State University.