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Democratically Governing School Districts: How Four California School Districts Responded to the Local Control Funding Formula


A new structure for California education governance and funding, the Local Control Funding Formula, created fresh expectations for transparency, citizen engagement, and amplifying voices that have been previously marginalized. Changing these rules of the game has the potential to profoundly affect education policy decisions and normatively inform best practices for democratic governance.

Drawing upon a mixed methods approach that included a survey instrument, document analysis, observation, and semi-structured interviews around the state capital and in four California school districts, I found some variance in the implementation of the new law. This has important implications for how California educates its future citizens. I observed wide ranging skill sets among district administrators in how they facilitated meetings, responded to proposals or criticism from the public, and made their communities feel heard. The kind of engagement opportunities district administrators create combined with how the community choses to be involved contributes to a district culture, which affects the conditions for future engagement.

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