25 Apr Schools We Deserve

By Alberto Retana

One hundred fifty Community Coalition leaders rallied to demand their fair share of over $1 billion in new funding for high-needs students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Students, parents and community members chanted, picketed and spoke about the importance of investing in South L.A. schools.

Local Control Funding Formula

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown enacted a new way of funding schools in California. The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is a groundbreaking piece of legislation that entirely changes how public education is funded in our state, transforming an outdated and unfair system to a more transparent and equity-driven system.

The LCFF not only provides additional funding to high-needs school districts but also establishes a new framework for how education is funded in the state. LAUSD is expected to receive an additional $1.1 billion for high-needs students over the next three years.

The Campaign

South L.A. residents have mounted a campaign to ensure that communities and schools with the highest needs get funded first.  Community Coalition, in partnership with InnerCity Struggle in East L.A. and the national civil rights organization Advancement Project, has developed a proposal to ensure the highest-needs schools get prioritized.

The proposal calls for an “Equity Index” that rates schools based on need by taking into account neighborhood factors such as crime and health disparities, along with the number of low income, foster youth and English Learners in a school.

Marqueece Harris-Dawson, president and CEO of Community Coalition, elaborates, “The Index provides a more accurate picture of the schools with the highest need. Without a more rigorous approach, LAUSD has the danger of spreading the money evenly between two very different schools.”

The Achievement Gap

The alliance of community organizations believes that LAUSD has a unique opportunity to close the achievement gap by investing in preventive services that target high-needs students. Preventive services include educational supports, a positive school climate, community and parent engagement and health services.

“By targeting our resources on preventive services, we can improve the educational outcomes, narrow existing gaps and prevent new gaps for high-needs students. This is a framework [that] will help us close the achievement gap,” says John Kim, co-director of Advancement Project.

Student leaders at Community Coalition are hopeful that LAUSD will invest in fully implementing the School Climate Bill of Rights they helped pass last year, which commits not only to reduce suspensions but also to provide positive supports and restorative justice practices in schools.

“LCFF is money that could be used to hire restorative justice counselors and provide the emotional supports we need to help stay focused and succeed in the classroom. With 40,000 less suspensions this year, our schools have a lot of work to do to make sure those students succeed,” says Alfonso Aguilar, a junior at Fremont High School.

The community leaders are clear about their campaign. John Kim says it best: “First things first, we need to make sure our schools get their fair share. Then we can talk about how to spend it. We will not be fooled.”

Alberto Retana is Executive Vice President of Community Coalition.

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