Community Forum Highlights Challenges and Solutions for High-Needs Students

Last month, parents and students from across LBUSD dedicated their Saturday morning to learning about what the school district is doing to close the achievement gap for high-needs students. The Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) Forum was organized by LBUSD and BHCLB partners including Children’s Defense Fund-California, Latinos in Action, and Success in Challenges, among others.

The forum served as a space for community members to interpret and dialogue about the achievement data for different student populations and learn about different solutions, from getting involved in school-based decision-making to learning how social and emotional health can impact students. Parents who attended found value in coming together and connecting with school district officials and other parents:

“I learned about how the district is improving, [how] we need help in some areas, and how there are more expectations to finishing high school [and] getting into high school.”

“I learned about the difference from a 4-year college and a community college. And how important it is to take AP classes, I learned a lot.”

“It was wonderful to have the opportunity to share my frustrations as well as learn some very meaningful information.”

“I liked it because I learned how to motivate my kids in their future scholastic lives such as attending University.”

As part of the Uniform Complaint Procedure settlement between LBUSD and community members, more upcoming forums and services for high-needs students will be offered in the coming months. Read more about the UCP complaint here and the settlement here.

Un foro comunitario destaca los desafíos y las soluciones para los niños con altas necesidades

El mes pasado, padres y estudiantes de toda parte de la LBUSD dedicaron su sábado por la mañana en aprender de lo que está haciendo el distrito escolar para reducir la brecha de logros para los estudiantes con muchas necesidades. LBUSD y socios de BHCLB organizaron el Foro del Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP, Plan de control y responsabilidad local). Los socios de BHCLB incluyeron al Children’s Defense Fund-California, Latinos en acción, y Success in Challenges, entre más.

El foro funcionó como un espacio en el que los miembros de la comunidad pudieron interpretar y dialogar sobre los datos sobre los logros de diferentes poblaciones estudiantiles y aprender de diferentes soluciones. Las soluciones incluyeron involucrarse en la toma de decisiones en las escuelas y aprender de cómo la salud social y emocional puede tener un impacto en los estudiantes. Los padres que asistieron apreciaron el unirse y formar conexiones con los funcionarios del distrito escolar y con otros padres:  

“Aprendí de cómo el distrito está mejorándose, [que] necesitamos ayuda en algunas áreas y que ahora hay más expectativas para terminar la high school [y] para entrar a la high school”.

“Aprendí de las diferencias entre una universidad de 4 años y un community college (instituto de educación superior). Y aprendí de la importancia de tomar clases de AP, aprendí mucho”.   

“Fue maravilloso tener la oportunidad de compartir mis frustraciones y también de aprender información muy significativa”.

“Me gustó porque aprendí a motivar a mis hijos en sus futuras vidas escolares como en asistir a la universidad”.

Como parte del Acuerdo sobre el procedimiento uniforme de quejas entre LBUSD y miembros de la comunidad, durante los próximos meses se ofrecerán más foros y más servicios para estudiantes con altas necesidades. Lea más de la queja de UCP aquí y del acuerdo aquí.

LA County Office of Education Finds LBUSD Misspent $24 Million

In a response to an administrative complaint brought by parents and community organizations, the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) has found that the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) misallocated $24 million in funds meant to increase or improve services for high need students last year. As a result, the school district will have to make significant adjustments to its education spending plan to provide increased services for students this school year.

While the California Department of Education has ordered districts to correct their spending, this is the first time that a county office of education has found that a district improperly credited itself as having spent funds for high need students, and called for the district to redress this error by increasing its expenditures to high need students in the subsequent school year.  

The administrative complaint, brought under a process called the Uniform Complaint Procedure, was filed in April 2017 by parents Guadalupe Luna and Marina Roman Sanchez, and Latinos in Action-California and the Children’s Defense Fund-California, who are represented by non-profit law firm Public Advocates, Inc.

“Finally, Long Beach Unified is being held accountable to fully meet its obligation to help high need students,” said Sanchez, a parent complainant and member of Latinos in Action-California. “We look forward to working with the district to identify the millions of dollars of new services that will benefit our students.”

According to LACOE, LBUSD did not justify how $17 million of funds generated by high need students spent on textbooks and materials and $7 million on teacher salary costs was used to grow services for low-income, English language learner and foster youth students. LACOE determined that, despite being given the opportunity, LBUSD “could not provide a satisfactory explanation” for its assertion that basic textbook purchases were principally directed to benefit high need students and ultimately concluded the $24 million in textbook and salary costs “should not have been included” among the actions credited against the district’s obligation toward high need students.

“With added flexibility comes greater responsibility for equity and transparency,” said Angelica Salazar, director of education equity for Children’s Defense Fund-California. “We thank LACOE for keeping students first. We continue to support students, parents and community-based organizations in Long Beach to meaningfully engage in this process and hold LBUSD accountable to serving high need students.”

LBUSD will need to demonstrate that it is living up to the promise of California’s groundbreaking education reform law, the Local Control Funding Formula, by amending its current-year spending plan. Complainants estimate that LBUSD will have to add millions more in new spending on high need students in the current school year. LACOE is first giving the California Department of Education time to issue a decision on an earlier appeal by complainants on these matters before requiring the district comply.

“For LCFF to deliver on the promise of equity in California, county offices will sometimes need to exercise critical oversight over local spending plans. We appreciate the county office stepping up to safeguard this promise,” said Angelica Jongco, Senior Staff Attorney at Public Advocates. She added, “We urge LBUSD to take action now to fix this $24 million mistake. High need students should not have to wait yet another year to get the services that they deserve.”

For a copy of the LACOE decision, click here.

For a copy of the UCP complaint against LACOE, click here.

For more background on the Local Control Funding Formula, click here.

Parents and allies file complaint with LBUSD over $40 million meant for high-needs students

The Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) is violating state law by misallocating more than $40 million of state education funding that is specifically designed to increase or improve services for low-income students, English language learners and foster youth, according to an administrative complaint filed today by Public Advocates, Inc. on behalf of Children’s Defense Fund-California (CDF-CA), Latinos in Action and parents of low-income and English learner students.

The complaint asserts that LBUSD is not meeting the promise of equity in the new school funding law known as Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) by failing to increase and improve services for the high-need students who generate additional funds for the district called “supplemental and concentration” grants. Instead, the district has approved allocations for everyday basic instructional services that do not specially address the neediest populations, including $17 million in Common Core instructional materials, $2.5 million for technology infrastructure, and $21.4 million in teacher and staff salary increases and benefits districtwide.

“This bothers me, and makes me very angry,” said Guadalupe Luna, who currently has three children in the district. “If this money was meant to help high need students, why is it being used this way? This is illegal and needs to be brought to public light. It’s upsetting that in a country like ours injustices like these happen and no one stops them when the law says this is the district’s responsibility. Where is the help?”

Luna is one of two parents named as complainants in this claim against the district. Marina Roman Sanchez, the other parent complainant and member of Latinos in Action, has two sons in the district and is equally appalled by the district’s actions or lack thereof as it relates to high needs students. For years, she has fought the district to protect the rights of her children and get them the services they are due and deserve.

“Confronting the district so that my sons can have appropriate services has been so stressful,” Sanchez said. “I have had to prove that my children deserve the services they need. I am tired.”

In total, the complaint asserts that the district is spending some $40 million out of $108 million of this special funding without justifying how these significant investments are meeting the needs of low-income, English language learners and foster youth. This significant spending grows to a total of $124 million in three years. A complaint was also filed against the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) for approving this unlawful spending in LBUSD’s 2016-17 Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP).

“We know what high needs students can and do achieve when they have the targeted academic and social-emotional supports they need from administrators, teachers and staff at their schools,” said Angelica Salazar, senior policy associate for CDF-CA. “Districts will give these students more of a chance by spending equity funds on programs and services they often need, such as intensive academic enrichment, assistance with transportation to and from school, support from mental health professionals, and coaching for teachers on how to eliminate implicit racial bias that impacts academics and school climate.”

The complaint urges the district to amend its 2016-17 LCAP to demonstrate that it is meeting its “proportional spending obligation” to increase and improve services for high needs students and reallocate unjustified expenditures of as much as $40 million to support critical services and comply with the equity promise of LCFF.

“Over the past two years, the district has received multiple letters warning that it is not meeting its obligations to equitably serve high needs students. Unfortunately, the district has not meaningfully responded,” Angelica Jongco, Public Advocates senior staff attorney explained. “While we support fair pay for all staff, across-the-board salary and benefits increases like these should be paid out of the district’s base funding for all students—not the limited pool of funds intended to change outcomes for students with greatest need.”

For a copy of the complaint against LBUSD, click here.
For a copy of the complaint against LACOE, click here.

For background information on LCFF, click here.

Public Advocates Inc. is a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination by strengthening community voices in public policy and achieving tangible legal victories advancing education, housing, transportation equity, and climate justice.

Children’s Defense Fund-California (CDF-CA) is a state office of the Children’s Defense Fund, a national child advocacy organization that has worked relentlessly for over 40 years to ensure a level playing field for all children. CDF-CA champions policies and programs that lift children out of poverty, ensure all children have access to health coverage and care and a quality education, and invest in our justice-involved youth.

Latinos in Action is a community-based organization whose mission is to fortify and enrich the lives of families, individuals, seniors and youth.

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