Several years ago before we were to leave the country for a year one of my children and I tried to visit the middle school she might attend upon our return.  We were stopped 10 feet into the school, before even reaching the front office, by a very formidable old woman who was more than a little bit fierce.  We were not able even to peer into the school to get the slightest sense of it.  All we left the country with, then, was a “visual” gained from the exterior, of a bombed-out-looking, parched and barren, cracked and faded, intimidatingly uninviting (I’m afraid saying “ugly” will hurt the feelings of friends and teachers there) place.

As it happens we have since been a family at that school for four years and can attest it is a diamond in the rough.  What it lacks in sparkle on the outside is truly apparent from within.

But appearances matter, and rumor matters, for random, not-relevant, misapplied information has heavy consequences.  When information is not exchanged, and “fed back” accurately, promptly, relevantly, then systems – all systems — cannot work properly.

One of many issues at LAUSD is that information about schools is simply not being fed back to the system appropriately.  At so many levels.  Starting with its parents and the community.  Received is only the superficial externalities, and that is not pretty.  But it is also not informative.

Parents are literally not allowed inside the schools that their children are attending.  They are not permitted on campus without significant red tape (e.g., TB test, background check) – imposed for understandable reasons, but off-putting all the same.  As a result families that live across the street from a school, know absolutely nothing of it.

As an example, I spoke with a family unknown to me this weekend who lived within spitting distance of one of my child’s schools.  A hallmark of this school is its very deep-seated, integral tolerance and “emotional safety”.  Which is a virtue among adolescents, truly.  And yet ironically, the singular piece of information this family retained about the school was of a sporadic and unrelated shooting incident there from several years ago.  It is not even something that made an impression on me, a neighbor, who is very clued-in to such events.  And yet their summary sense of this school is:  Unsafe.

In the absence of any true information about the school, and no way – literally – to get any, the information about this school that is “fed back” is absent.  There is no relevant information to supplant the irrelevant.

As a consequence, this family and so many others, send their children ten miles up hill to schools from a tonier part of town whose reputation matches their geographic elevation.  But not their academics.  Embedded in a low-lying flood plain are schools of rather striking excellence, whose reality it is not the fault of its denizens for not comprehending.

Because the system itself is completely constipated in terms of feeding back information from within it.

Ask any systems programmer:  when a system does not receive accurate, timely information back about itself, it becomes unstable and eventually non-functional.  Conversely, a system constructed to receive and correct imbalances, will hum, peculiarly independent of the contribution of any given individual particle, interestingly enough.

The impact for a matter like overall reputation is apparent and how this affects, say, a school’s matriculants.  What about its internal workings?

There is on the horizon a change of absolutely cataclysmic impact.  It is the state’s “Local Control Funding Formula”, or LCFF.  Formerly, monies were directed to impact certain issues like, say, supplementing the academics of children from impoverished families (i.e., funding tutoring for struggling, “economically disadvantaged” children).  This kind of specifically-“earmarked” money was put into pots of different sizes with various restrictions on it to make sure it was spent as intended, for the intended.  Eventually the number of such pots grew very unwieldy and just the sheer confusion of it alone became a hindrance.

Subsequently therefore Governor Brown and the state legislature have set up a new scheme that attempts to untwist a very rococo funding system.  This is a good thing, it will save monies administratively if nothing else.  But shining some light on a hopelessly opaque tangle is also good for a lot of other reasons.  It is in the murk of incomprehensible complexity that greed and graft find purchase.  Simplifying and clarifying the distribution of monies will benefit everyone; clearly there is none to spare among our state education funds, whose per capita ranking was 49th in the country last year.

The trouble is that the tidal wave in funding change which is LCFF, is barreling down the gully toward local education agencies (LEA) with a broken dam’s worth of impact.  While the old funding protocols were certainly problematic, the proposed new solution throws control of monies back at the local level without imposing any system for assuring the money is spent as had originally been intended.  These controls are supposed to be asserted at the local level.  One of the entities tasked with this oversight is “parents”, a group understood to be receiving only the most meager of information about the most comparatively trivial of matters in the best of circumstances.  When 90% (as a conservative guess) of parents (and a similarly deficient proportion of teachers and administrators, even) are entirely ignorant of the very existence — issues or realities — of funding for equity or even utterly apolitical purposes, how can they possibly assert the sort of internally informed information necessary to assure wise funding decisions?

Parents are supposed to be part of the new funding formula asserted at a local level.  But they will have a near-impossible time of fomenting a functional, fair system when almost none have even heard of the issue.  And when there is so little feedback under the best of circumstances, about what is happening at their very own school.

Instead, by tossing the entire structure of funding into an unregulated mosh pit of monies available for the grabbing, vulnerable will be the very most needy groups the restricted funds were originally intended for.  Without advocates who filter for social justice primed to sequester monies where needed the very most, it is all up for grabs among an avowedly hurting-overall population.

Effectively, the original distributions for monies hard-considered at the state and federal level are all being overturned, left to be re-formulated on the fly by the uninitiated and uninformed. The new funding formula potentially at least, has little recourse to historical arguments and cogitations about spending for equitable social justice.  And when a population is held so deliberately in ignorance of current circumstances, it is hard to understand how they will have anything like the tools necessary to make critical funding distribution decisions.  Essentially, therefore, money that was once hampered from reaching its intended source by obscurity and complication, is now being primed for redirection by imprimatur of the innocent.