December 17, 2014

By Angelica Jongco

On November 14, 2014 the State Board of Education unanimously approved regulations that codify student and parent voice and provide for greater accountability in the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF).  This was a historic moment for several reasons:

  • First, due to the efforts of a grassroots student-led campaign, the regulations now require districts to include student voice in the development of local district spending and academic plans, known as Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs);
  • Second, due to advocacy of parent leaders, the regulations clarify the important role that parents, including parents of high-need students, must play on district Parent Advisory Committees; and
  • Third, the regulations retain the language that was spearheaded by Public Advocates and backed by the LCFF Equity Coalition to ensure that dollars generated by high-need students are “principally directed” towards and “effective” in meeting district goals for those students. As a result, districts will have to engage in robust local conversations about their use of such funds on services for all students. Read more about the effect of these words in our prior post, here.

We could not have won these victories without the collective effort of a broad coalition of students, parents and advocates coming together to push the State Board consistently over the past year. And we expect these new regulations to result in tangible reforms on the ground in school district LCAPs.

Last year, when LCFF was first implemented, many school districts did not prioritize input from students, parents or the community when developing their LCAPs. Most LCAPs lacked the benefit of actual meaningful conversations with stakeholders.

Establishing a Formal Role for Student Voice in District Planning

Now, with the implementation of these permanent regulations, districts must consult with students, especially those classified as low-income, English Learners (ELs), and foster youth (i.e., high-need students).

Before the State Board of Education voted on the new regulations, I spoke to Draquari McGhee, a 10th grader from Edison High School in Fresno, California. Draquari is part of the Student Voice Campaign spearheaded by Californians for Justice (CFJ). Draquari explained that, “Students throughout California need resources and understanding to succeed in schools. In order to do that, we need to support our fellow students because our voice does matter.”

Draquari is concerned that students are not getting the social and emotional support they need to transition from middle school to high school, and then to college. The State Board’s vote will ensure that students like Draquari have a voice in the student services their districts choose to support.

During the public comments, students delivered compelling testimony on the importance of being heard at the State Board and in their local districts.

“I’m doing this for the 6 million students who will no longer be ignored.” @Cal4Justice #LBUSD Student #StudentVoiceMatters#LCFF

— Angelica Jongco (@EdEquityLawyer) November 14, 2014

One CFJ student, Karla Rodriguez, enlightened the room: “We [students] understand what accessibility feels like.”

Karla Rodriguez @Cal4Justice speaks truth #wearetheexperts #studentvoicematters “@edgarcampos1#lcff #Studentvoice

— Angelica Jongco (@EdEquityLawyer) November 14, 2014

At a press conference outside the California Department of Education, Public Advocates Director of Legislative & Community Affairs Liz Guillen remarked how consulting students on their education makes good policy: “If you want to know what works for students, you have got to ask students.”

Clarifying the Role of Parents on Districtwide Advisory Committees

The permanent regulations also clarify the important role that parents must play in the process of developing district LCAPs. In developing their LCAPs, districts must consult with LCAP Parent Advisory Committees that consist of majority parents and must include parents of high-need students (i.e., low-income students, English Learners (ELs) and foster youth). Districts with more than 15% EL students, must also form EL Parent Advisory Committees with a majority EL parents. These advisory committees help ensure that parents, specifically those with high-need students, share in the district decision making process.

In thanking the State Board of Education for strengthening parent voice in the regulation, one parent, Guadalupe, from Santa Ana OCCCO/PICO California, acknowledged the necessary cultural transformation that must occur, “It’s time to open the doors to create trust between parents and the district.”

Still Work to Be Done

While recognizing how far we had come from the watered down LCFF-regulations of November 2013, advocates did lift up some outstanding areas of concern.

Public Advocates Managing Attorney John Affeldt pointed out that districts are not providing transparency around their actions under all the state priorities required by the law. Testifying to the State Board, he expressed that, “Districts should explain all the things that they’re doing with all of their LCFF money.”

“Districts should explain all the things that they’re doing with all of their LCFF money.” – John Affeldt #LCFF

— Pedro Hernandez (@pedrohzjr) November 14, 2014

Annie Fox of Sacramento ACT/PICO California testified that districts should use quantifiable metrics for parent involvement and school climate including investments in translation, outreach and restorative justice.

#LCFF @StateBd: Annie@PICOcalifornia urges Bd to develop authentic engagement metrics. It CAN be done!

— Liz Guillen (@liz4EdEquity) November 14, 2014

Advocates were also disappointed that the State Board did not require districts to make explicit in their plans how they calculated their supplemental and concentration funding — the funding intended to increase and improve services for high-need students. In the first round of LCAPs, Public Advocates and the ACLU brought attention to districts that made serious mistakes in these calculations.

In the end though, it was a day of celebration. As State Board of Ed President Mike Kirst recognized, “This is a fine day for California.”

And an especially fine day for recognizing the power of student voice.

After all, as Cassandra, a student from East LA and volunteer with Inner City Struggle remarked, “It is my life, my education. My voice matters.” Yes, it does. And now, the law agrees.

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