school money

This Article is to address the impact on the Lagunitas School Budget from the Ross Valley Charter School.  It begins with a brief summary and includes details intended to answer specific questions that members of the Lagunitas school community have asked recently.

SUMMARY: When a student who lives in the San Geronimo Valley enrolls at the Ross Valley Charter School, that school charges The Lagunitas School District $8,506 for students in grades K-3 and $7,818 for students in grades 4 & 5.  A unique set of circumstances make this an especially difficult financial challenge for the Lagunitas School District. 

In order to understand this situation in depth please read these detailed notes. If you have further questions please email Superintendent John Carroll at

  • California uses two different public school funding models. 
  • One provides money based on how many students enroll in a school. It’s called the Local Control Funding Formula or LCFF.  When students enroll, the school gets more money; when students leave, the school gets less. Most districts in California use this model.
  • The other model lets a school district use their local tax dollars regardless of how many students attend school. That model is called Locally-Funded or Basic Aid. Those schools do not get any additional money when more students enroll but they may lose money in rare cases when students leave. 
  • Schools do not choose which model to use:  Districts with smaller property tax revenues are automatically assigned to LCFF and those with larger property tax revenues are Locally Funded. Usually, but not always, wealthier communities are Locally Funded and less wealthy communities are LCFF. 
  • It’s almost always better to be Locally-Funded simply because Locally Funded districts get more money per student. 
  • Not all Locally Funded districts are created equal. Some are “deeply” Locally Funded, meaning that their property tax base is very high so they get a lot more money per student than LCFF districts. Others are known as “shallow” Locally-Funded districts, meaning their property taxes provide a little more than LCFF districts. 
  • Lagunitas is a shallow Locally funded district so it spends more like an LCFF district than a deep Locally-Funded district where property tax revenues are much higher.  (A house in Ross, for example would be more expensive than a similar house in Forrest Knolls so it would generate more tax dollars for the school.)
  • State-sponsored charter schools may bill any Locally-Funded district (for about the same amount LCFF districts get per pupil from the state)...for any of its students who enroll in the charter.  (State-sponsored charter schools are rare; there are only 19 in California.)
  • Other charter schools (not state-sponsored) do not bill Locally-Funded districts and are funded similarly to LCFF.
  • The Ross Valley Charter School (RVC) is a state-sponsored charter.  So when a student who lives in Lagunitas, Ross, Kentfield or any other Locally-Funded district enrolls at the Ross Valley Charter, RVC will invoice that student’s school district for about $8,000 per year. 
  • For deep Locally-Funded districts, that may make a small difference in their budget. But for a shallow Locally-Funded district especially a small one like Lagunitas, the cost can be significant.
  • The Ross Valley Charter creates a greater financial challenge for Lagunitas than for other Locally-Fundeddistricts because:
  1. Lagunitas, as small, shallow Locally- Funded district simply has less money in its budget than its deep Locally-Funded neighbors.
  2. The San Geronimo Valley is not as affluent as many nearby communities so its foundation (LEAP) raises much less money than foundations in say, Ross, Tiburon or Mill Valley. 
  3. The Ross Valley Charter is geographically close to Lagunitas, making it easier for people to transport their children to the RVC facility than it would be for people living in Tiburon, or Stinson Beach. 
  • Last year, Lagunitas received more requests for out-of-district students to enroll in our programs than we had students who left to attend Ross Valley Charter. If Lagunitas were allowed to bill other districts the way Ross Valley Charter bills Lagunitas, the financial impact could be neutral or even positive each year.  
  • Next year, Lagunitas is budgeting for a modest number students (9) to enroll at Ross Valley Charter. That means a reduction of around $72,000… roughly equal to the cost of any of the following:
    • Our school’s entire K-8 counseling program and Spanish programs combined
    • The salary of a full-time, mid-range teacher.
    • A 3% raise for all teachers and support staff
    • Double the amount parents pledged to LEAP this year.

If Lagunitas were more deeply locally funded  or bigger, this financial shock would be easier to absorb. Our hope is, of course, that local families will enroll their children in their local school.  Our program is vibrant and our staff is outstanding. We have a beautiful campus in an accessible, natural setting. We are back in person 5 days per week and in the fall we expect to be back to our regular schedule with minimal restrictions. Our multi-age elementary schools offer unique alternative programs and our Middle School has an exemplary record of preparing students for high school and beyond.