Mary Johnson, President
I am a very concerned parent. By one stroke of a pen, a new state law, the ‘Local Control Funding Formula,’ single handedly expels thousands of key stakeholders from the educational planning and decision-making table.
As a parent advocate for educational equity, I have fought for more than two decades to make sure that all California children receive a quality education and that all California parents have a meaningful say in shaping this education. Today, I see signs of progress on the first count, due to new approaches to funding California public schools. But on the second count, inclusion, I am shocked that some parents will not be fully included in this new reform. This reversal in course on parental involvement worries me because I know that energized parents are the key to all educational improvement.
After several years of having our children’s education harmed by painful budget cuts, parents like me are pleased to see new funds flowing into our local public schools. I am particularly pleased that Governor Brown and his allies decided this year to direct additional funds to schools with the greatest needs. Under the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), districts serving (1) the highest proportion of English Learners, (2) low-income students, and (3) foster youth will receive a substantial boost (up to 35%) to their base funding from the state.
This is my concern. While LCFF calls for districts to consult with parents on how these additional funds will be spent, which is laudable in principle, I am very concerned that the state’s plans for implementing this principle do not fully include all groups of parents, and thus key stakeholders that have traditionally had a seat at the education planning will not be part of the process.
According to LCFF, Districts are supposed to consult with parents about how these new funds will be spent The big question, however, is who will district representatives consult with? The answer is in the law itself: At the district level, one group only will be consulted: the District English Language Advisory Council (DELAC); and at the school site level, only the School Site Council (a general advisory group) will be consulted. As unbelievable as that may sound, no other parent groups need be consulted. This expressly disenfranchises countless thousands of parents that have historically been a routine part of this process. This is wrong, and a serious reversal of well-established public policy. Simply put, in one fell swoop, decades-long, hard-fought inclusion has been replaced with old-style exclusion. ALL parent stakeholder groups need to have their voices heard. In my own community, African American parents and many Latinos are English speakers. However, there is nothing in the law that requires districts to hear from them! In the Los Angeles Unified School District, where I live, broad-based community inclusion has been standard practice for many, many years. Parents representing all manner of needs, ethnicities, languages, backgrounds, neighborhoods, etc. have routinely participated in the planning, formation and implementation of programs and curriculum, with great benefits to the children and their families. Under LCCF, this has come to a screeching halt.
LCFF needs to promote moving forward, not backsliding, and reinstate/include all significant stakeholders in the planning process.
The District Advisory Council needs to be reinstated; a Foster Care Advisory Council needs to be added; a Special Education Advisory Council has to be part of the process; and other advisories must also be included as fit unique individual district and school site needs.
It is troubling to me that at a time when funds are increased, parent involvement is decreased. Why? A district trying to fulfill the broad principles behind the law wouldn’t seek to include parents beyond the D-ELAC.
Not only is the policy public policy reversal under LCCF a real shame in human terms, it is also a gigantic slap in the face to those of us who have labored tirelessly for decades to bring everyone into the fold and improve education for all, regardless of color, creed or anything else. LCCF reverses well over 50 years of state and federal public policy and, if not corrected, will have serious negative impacts on student achievement as well as community commitment and relations.
All stakeholders need to be back at the table.
The big question that still looms in the balance will the LCFF and Local Schools District share the decision-making with parents and community.