parent and kids school success

About 1,600 people attended community forums on the Local Control Funding Formula, like this one in Kern County, organized by The California Endowment. Credit: EdSource file photo

Gov. Jerry Brown’s belief in the principle of local decision-making will be put to the test with the state’s new school finance system known as the Local Control Funding Formula.

But at a dozen forums in low-income neighborhoods across the state, parents said that while they’re enthusiastic about the new funding formula, they “had little trust in current processes aimed at involving them in decision making,” according to feedback collected by The California Endowment,* which hosted the forums.

“Many (parents) who served on school site councils and other advisory committees felt they were expected to serve as a rubber stamp rather than as true partners,” the Endowment wrote in a report summarizing comments received on its School Success Express bus tour, held at 12 cities throughout California. The report will be shared with the State Board of Education, which is finalizing guidelines for districts on the funding law.

The new system gives school districts more control over spending decisions and requires them to include parents and other community members in deciding how to prioritize spending. Schools that serve high numbers of high-risk students – those who are low income, are learning to speak English or are in foster care – will receive extra money.

Parents at the forums said school districts aren’t doing a good job of communicating about the law, said the report, which includes a set of recommendations to help ensure the community is informed and involved in the budgeting process.

About 1,600 people attended the forums, which were held in English and Spanish, with translation into Hmong, Vietnamese and Somali. The majority of comments about the process focused on parent involvement followed by school climate, the report said. Students also asked for a significant role in the decision-making process.

“We are the next generation. We need to have a great impact on how the money is spent. We go to the school, we know the problems inside the school. So put an emphasis on student involvement because it affects us,” Fresno high school student Blain Haskin is quoted as saying in the report.

Among its recommendations, the report said the state should provide school districts with specific guidance on how to meaningfully include parents in the process and include that parent involvement in accountability plans districts must develop. It also calls on schools to conduct school climate assessments that include the number of support staff available to help students, such as nurses and counselors, and to provide training to help parents and students understand how to read school budgets.

“What ways will the district use to inform and explain what LCFF means? Break it down for the community,” said Jocelyn Vargas at the Coachella meeting.  “This is the first step to transparency.”

*The California Endowment provides financial support for EdSource but has no input into editorial decisions.

Filed under: Featured, Jerry Brown, Local Control Funding Formula, Reporting & Analysis, School Finance, State Budget

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  1. TransParent says:

    Parents are generally treated like road kill when they attempt to become part of the decision making machinery. After over 20 years as a parent learning about the system and eventually becoming a parent leader in LAUSD, I have helped to move the needle in small ways but when District leaders depart and new ones are appointed, parent voices are not honored. This is why I attempted to out together a grassroots parent union in LA…and no, this had nothing to do with Steve Barr’s Parent Union…and it predated it. When we met, he told me that I gave him the idea and he ran with it, getting financial support from the moneyed set he manipulated so well.

    As parents, we can most often make a difference of some kind at the school site level but the changes in funding will not leave such decisions to the site to make. In the end, the best way to get the attention of a District like LAUSD is to use the legal system …then prepare to bear up under the slew of allegations that so much money that would benefit students will be spent to defend your complaint.

  2. Frances O'Neill Zimmerman says:

    Distrust seems to be a common concern for all who are democratically elected to make financial decisions for our public schools.
    SSC elections are never contests, just dutiful obligations of a few knowledgeable parents to fill vacancies. SSCs always have a required teacher-member or two and SSC agenda length is usually determined by union contract rules, rather than full airing of pressing school issues. The once-radical ideal of parent involvement in school financing decisions (thank you former Superintendent Wilson Riles) –has long since become routine and inconsequential.
    School Board races sometimes are contested, but whether they are or not, the outcomes are always the same — less money for academic program and student remediation and always increasing class sizes, while step-and-column teacher raises are never on the table because they are set in stone (contract again.)
    Now Governor Brown is going to send a ton of money from Sacramento to be “locally controlled” and I’m betting little of it will ever see its hjghest best use — for the direct education of students and for smaller teachable classes.

  3. Jerry Heverly says:

    For what it’s worth, I’ve been participating on our school’s Site Council for six years. During that time we’ve had the same three parents on the committee. One quit this year and was replaced. Parent members are elected at the beginning of the year. Nominees are solicited at the first parent meeting after registration.Any parent can vote, I think. Few if any parents seem interested though I’ve never been to their meeting (I’m a teacher). I don’t know how they are going to get parents to be on the LCAP. It’s been difficult to find any parent with the time and energy to be on the site council.

  4. Paul Muench says:

    Yes. Our school has the same, but its not at all clear that everyone is reliably notified about the election and how to participate in the election.

    1. Paul Muench says:

      And given the rubberstamp nature of the committees that is fine. But if they start to mean more, then I think we need some changes.

      1. navigio says:

        Paul. Suggest to your SSC not to sign their SPSA if they dont feel they are being taken seriously. I think you will be surprised at the result. These groups have much more power than they believe, but they have to be diligent.

  5. Paul Muench says:

    If they are going to represent people then we need to have a real election. I don’t consider the current process of electing members a serious process. If we want these committees to have real decision making powers then put the names of the people running for membership on a real ballot.

    1. Paul Muench says:

      I agree the board elections have not been taken seriously in many districts, but LCFF gives people motivation to take them more seriously. Perhaps that motivation will be too weak to actually promote real participation. But at least board members are elected in a real election. So if someone decides to pass on the election process, well … to put it crudely I think they have to lump it. And my preference is to broaden our citizenship given how fluid modern technologies have made our border. As much as I’d like more people to have a voice, I see any other approach as subversive in a bad way.

    2. navigio says:

      Ok, but in our school we have an election, ie names on a ballot for everyone in the school to choose. Or by ‘real epection’ do you mean run through the county registrar?

  6. Paul Muench says:

    I think that parents have a significant role to play in accountibility which is why I always advocate for making more information about schools easily acesseible. But I’m not a proponent of having school site councils or district advisory committees having a significant role in deciding how money should be spent in schools. If people want changes then get involved in school board elections. I don’t see the school site council and advisory committee elections as serious elections. And I think that is a big reason they are treated as rubber stamps. District personnel cannot trust that they are truly representative. I think it is fine for these parent iinvolvement approaches to be a source of ideas, but I don’t think they should have a serious seat at the table when it comes to making district decisions. With LCFF we all have a lot more incentive to become involved in school board elections.

    1. navigio says:

      Paul, I am curious, what makes SSC’s invalid as a decision-making body?

      Do you believe that school board members more accurately represent the community in which they serve? (my expectation is that ‘voter turnout’ is even lower in school board elections than in school site council elections..). Or is there another reason?