New school funds should go to needy students first, group says
A citywide coalition of community groups is demanding that 80% of $1 billion in new school funding headed to L.A. Unified be spent on needy students according to decisions made by local schools rather than district bureaucrats.
Coalition members plan to submit more than 7,000 petitions articulating their demands at the L.A. Board of Education meeting Tuesday. They are urging an additional $50 million for students in foster care, $25 million for those learning English and extra services for low-income youth -- including more counselors, social workers and academic support staff.
Communities for Los Angeles Student Success, a coalition of more than 50 community, educational and civil rights groups, also has compiled a list of impoverished neighborhoods that it believes should have first priority for extra funds. Those include Watts, Boyle Heights, Koreatown, East Hollywood, Huntington Park, Gardena, Canoga Park and Pacoima.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s new school funding system -- representing the most dramatic change in how educational dollars are allocated in four decades – will give districts extra money for foster youth, students learning English and those from low-income families over the next seven years. But many community groups want to make sure that most of the money is used to boost support for those students rather than fund staff pay hikes or generic programs districtwide.
L.A. Unified is not expected to unveil its spending plan until next month. But coalition members said they wanted to make sure their voices were heard. They held eight town halls, drawing nearly 800 participants who requested such services as reading coaches and college counselors.
“The district hasn’t come out with many details about its budget priorities,” said Maria Brenes of InnerCity Struggle, an Eastside community group and coalition member. “Given the urgency of budget deadlines, we want to come out very clear about where we stand.”
Another community coalition has released a sample plan to boost services for foster youth, who suffer from lower achievement, higher dropout rates, more suspensions and more frequent school moves than their peers.
The plan by the Coalition for Educational Equity for Foster Youth, which includes nine children’s advocacy organizations and agencies, aims to improve student test scores, attendance and graduation rates and promote more school stability. It proposes better tracking of foster youth and more educational counselors, among other things.
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