Some hope California’s new funding formula could ease school segregation

Credit: Karla Scoon Reid/EdSource Today

Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles; Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity; Constance Rice, co-founder of the Advancement Project; Patricia Gándara, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA; and Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project discuss the findings of a new report detailing public school segregation in California.

LOS ANGELES – California’s new school funding formula may hold promise for education and civil rights advocates seeking to reverse the increasing segregation of the state’s schools and students.

Patricia Gándara, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, said the school funding law could spur action around school desegregation, which has had few vocal champions in recent years. School districts now have the funds and the flexibility needed to help combat racial isolation in their communities, she said.

The Local Control Funding Formula allows school districts, with community and staff input, to determine what programs it will implement for its students. The law also grants additional money to improve services for high-needs students – low-income pupils, English learners and foster youth. Each district must develop a Local Control and Accountability Plan that details how it is spending state dollars to boost services for those students. Gándara said she was disappointed that racial integration was not identified as one of the priorities districts must address in their accountability plans.

The potential of the state’s school funding law to help integrate the state’s schools was discussed during a two-hour media briefing May 22 about a new UCLA Civil Rights Project report that highlights the extreme racial imbalance in California’s schools.

The report, “Segregating California’s Future,” examines the “triple segregation” of students who are in schools that are overwhelmingly poor, black or Latino, and have large numbers of English learners. (Read EdSource Executive Director Louis Freedberg’s commentary for more details about the report.) The New America Media briefing was held at the headquarters of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles.

“Now is the time to think about how to use that money and other resources to make California schools less separate and more equal,” the report states.

Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project and co-author of the report, said districts could invest in creating high-quality schools that would attract a diverse student enrollment rather than supporting choice programs, like some charters, that exacerbate existing school inequalities. The report calls for options to allow students currently enrolled in segregated schools to attend magnet schools or academically strong schools outside of their communities. These students should be provided free transportation to those schools as well, Orfield said.

According to the report, school districts should use the money allocated in the Local Control Funding Formula to “help address some of the inequalities that face students in these unequal and separate schools while also expanding their real choices.”

Seeking A ‘Game Change’

Orfield said the percentage of nonwhite schools – those where 90 to 100 percent of the students are racial or ethnic minorities – has more than doubled in California since 1993. He added that the typical African-American and Latino student attends schools that are predominantly poor.

The report also examined the soon-to-be-revamped Academic Performance Index (API) listings, which measure school performance. It found that 40 percent of white students and almost 50 percent of Asian students (not including Pacific Islanders or Filipinos) attended schools in the top two decile ranks. Conversely, only 12 percent of black students and 9 percent of Latino students were enrolled in the state’s best schools, according to the API decile rankings. The Civil Rights Project will release a report in August detailing best practices to meet the needs of English language learners.

“This is very high stakes,” Gándara said. “Middle class and upwardly mobile parents chose their schools based on these scores.”

While Orfield believes Los Angeles attracts diverse families, they are not sending their children to the city’s schools; they’re opting for private schools instead. That’s where school districts’ accountability plans can make a difference, he said.

Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity, said the accountability plans could be crucial in preparing more African-American and Latino students for college. She said many high-needs students have little to no chance of seeking a university degree because some of their schools don’t offer the college-required curriculum, something that the accountability plans could address.

Meanwhile, Constance Rice, co-founder of the Advancement Project, a civil rights organization, lamented the lack of political will and the limited legal avenues available to confront the stark racial, language and economic divisions facing the state’s public schools. She suggested that instead of dwelling on “these pathetic patterns that persist decade in and decade out,” that the focus should be on encouraging kids of different races to interact meaningfully with one another. Rice, for example, talked about creating multi-ethnic athletic and academic teams across school and district boundaries.

“It’s time for a game change politically,” Rice said. “We need to change the politics so that the solutions that we know work get done.”

Karla Scoon Reid covers Southern California for EdSource.


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11 Responses to “Some hope California’s new funding formula could ease school segregation”

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  1. navigio on May 28, 2014 at 9:19 pm05/28/2014 9:19 pm

    • 000

    First off, I find the claim that school desegregation has had few vocal champions flat out wrong. Pretty much everyone who is vocal is for school desegregation. Those who speak with their feet rarely open their mouths on this topic. And even many of them leave not out of a desire to be segregated, rather because they often feel they have no other choice.

    Then, I think its completely wrong to propose that schools ‘now have the funds and flexibility to combat racial isolation’. They dont even yet have the funds to make up for what they’ve done away with from their already meager resources over the past handful of years. They didnt even have sufficient funding to target normal education at the peak, let alone desegregation. And Districts where disparities are high (ie with significant numbers of both disadvanged students and non) probably wont even ever make it back to historically peak funding anyway.

    I also believe its inappropriate to continue to use historical comparisons for achieving racial parity as demographics change, or at least to conflate racial and income discrepancies. It is, however, constructive to use racial demographic changes as an indication of a failure to even maintain the status quo, demographically. The media bears much of that burden, but school policy–explicitly funding levels and charter ‘reform’–place the majority of what remains square on our legislators and voters.

    If you really want desegregation, I have a proposal: Lower class sizes in school with high levels of poverty, english learners and minority populations until those lowered ratios cause enough people from the other end of the spectrum to move to them. Trust me, class size is one of the things parents care most about (independent of what anyone has to say about its efficacy). Of course, you will never see that happen, because integration isnt really as important to most people as we’d like it to be; even to school boards, and especially not to state legislators.


    • navigio on May 28, 2014 at 9:19 pm05/28/2014 9:19 pm

      • 000

      Remember, if you offer people a ‘choice’ but nothing about the possible options varies significantly, then people will choose to become segregationists. Because thats one difference they can ‘effect’ via their own behavior. And every one of the reasons these kinds of reports claim this is a real problem, is in fact an incentive for parents to do just that unless actively countered.

  2. Lou on May 28, 2014 at 9:13 am05/28/2014 9:13 am

    • 000

    We have been creating high quality magnet schools in the LAUSD such as North Hollywood High. But what happens is they get flooded with whites and Asian even though there is absolutely nothing stopping African-Americans and Latinos from attending them.

    So instead of looking into the reasons behind this Gary Orfield will cry racism like he’s been doing for all these decades.


    • FloydThursby on May 28, 2014 at 12:21 pm05/28/2014 12:21 pm

      • 000

      There is something stopping them. Studying, work and parental support. Lowell in SF is 2.4% black and 8% Latino. Whites are about 20% but in SF, whites perform at a higher level than most places. Asians predominate in the mid 60s. In California, Asians study 13.8 hours, whites 5.6. Latinos and African Americans in other studies study less than whites, though it’s close, in the 4-5 range. It’s not racist if everyone has a chance. In SF, the blacks and Latinos have far more money spent on them and have 2 advantages in terms of alternative ways to get in. A pure merit method would yield 1% and 6, but they put 15% from underrepresented middle schools and 15% with socioeconomic disadvantage. You won’t integrate a magnet school without providing tutors and convincing these kids to study more. Maybe if it’s a lottery, yes, but if it’s merit based, we need to hold up the 13.8 as an example, or realistically 20-25 as in SF, the average Asian isn’t near good enough to go to Lowell, maybe a quarter are if that. This gets left out of these equations. It takes a sacrifice, a significant one. We’re talking thousands of hours from the kids and parents, trips to the library instead of the park, Saturdays studying instead of at church or a game pr family picnic, all TV time and game time becoming study time, or almost all. These are the facts, and they are undisputed. You can dream or whine but only studying will get you to the promised land.

  3. Don on May 28, 2014 at 8:17 am05/28/2014 8:17 am

    • 000

    Three year old LAUSD racial demographic data puts the Latino student population at 75%, white 10% and black 10%. Seems to me these groups are trying to pull a white rabbit out of a hat.


    • navigio on May 28, 2014 at 10:18 am05/28/2014 10:18 am

      • 000

      Funny. As of the last census the city of LA was still 50% white.

        • navigio on May 28, 2014 at 9:30 pm05/28/2014 9:30 pm

          • 000

          true, but still more than one reason for the disparity of racial levels between schools and the general population.

          • Don on May 29, 2014 at 10:30 am05/29/2014 10:30 am

            • 000

            To point out the obvious, I think that would be the state of public education and the number of people with means who opt out, particularly in urban areas where the income disparity is great.

          • Floyd Thursby on May 29, 2014 at 1:14 pm05/29/2014 1:14 pm

            • 000

            The problem is a lot of people move to LA and other Cities and say they are progressive and believe in integration, but their kids get older and suddenly they were in the class in college talking about how bad segregation is and how bad it is people avoided Brown v. Topeka, and then they’re moving to a mostly white suburb or paying for private school. In SF you have schools which are under 4% black and Latino and private a few blocks away from schools which are under 4% white and mostly black and Latino (Cobb and Hamlin), in a district which voting-wise has one of the highest percentages of liberal votes anywhere. There is liberal says, and liberal does. That’s what I fear, the Democratic Party may have a monopoly of power as demographics change but it is becoming less pure and more corrupt. It’s becoming a corporate interest0-driven party, the cause is who is donating, including unions not looking out for kids, rather than who is in need. The Democratic Party is changing for the worst and you see that clearly in “liberal” Pacific Heights and “liberal” Los Angeles. I was extremely disappointed when Matt Damon, who is on all these TV commercials talking about support teachers, support our schools, sent his kids to private school. He tried to say he was being liberal and protesting testing, but give me a break, most people can’t afford to be liberal in that way and in that case, it becomes conservative. It was like the scene in Bruno where he laughs at the fashion looking like a homeless person but real homeless people can’t afford that fashion. It was ludicrous, and so is Matt Damon.

  4. Manuel on May 27, 2014 at 3:01 pm05/27/2014 3:01 pm

    • 000

    Ms Rice stated “solutions that we know work get done.”

    What are those solutions?

    Are those the “multi-ethnic and academic teams across school and district boundaries” mentioned in the article? Are these “teams” anything like magnet schools? If they are, LAUSD is already driving magnet schools to failure because it keeps reducing their funding.

    You see, magnet schools in LAUSD are primarily funded through the Targeted Instructional Improvement Block Grant. These grant has been static for a number of years, but LAUSD keeps redesignating “regular” schools into magnets when it wants to “shake things.”

    Since the number of magnets has gone up while the funding is stagnant, guess what happens to the existing magnets’ budgets? They simply can’t meet the needs of the students enrolled in them. Consequently, students drop out of the programs.

    I think this is all talk until the money is there to fund these efforts.

    OTOH, are there enough white kids out there to fill up these “athletic and academic teams?” Until shown hard evidence that they exist, I will continue to believe that achieving desegregation is impossible.

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