It might be hard to imagine what it’s like for Oakland students if you’ve never been through our schools. I have friends who have dropped out, or are thinking about dropping out, because Oakland Unified, the district I attend, doesn’t have enough money to provide sufficient resources in order for us to be successful.
For years, students like me in Oakland have been asking: How can we succeed when our classrooms are overcrowded and we have outdated computers, damaged textbooks, and so few desks that students have to stand or sit on the floor? How can we succeed without enough AP classes, counselors and college prep support? In other words, how can you expect us to succeed when we’re being set up to fail?
The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is supposed to make sure more money goes to the schools and students who need it most – low-income students, English language learners, and foster youth. Oakland Unified has a large number of these students and will benefit greatly from it.
But as the new funding system takes effect in Oakland and across California, there’s an important piece to remember. It’s called the Local Control Funding Formula. That means it must include local communities. Without real student and community input into how funding is distributed and spent, we will not be able to hold our districts and schools accountable to us. School districts across California must remember that they are working for us, the students, and that equity must be defined by what we need. After all, their local spending decisions affect our futures.
It’s really upsetting to learn about the language for regulations that the State Board of Education will hear on Nov. 7. It opens the door for school districts to have full flexibility when we know that the law is written to balance flexibility with the equity that districts are supposed to meet in the law and show through the Local Control and Accountability Plans.
The proposed regulations give districts three spending options to choose from to justify the additional money they will get for English language learners, low-income students and foster youth. They can spend more on these students; they can provide more programs and services for them, or they can show that these students have achieved more by meeting additional learning goals. But these three choices – Spend More, Provide More or Achieve More – do not go far enough to require districts to spend the money on the students for whom it’s intended or show that they are spending the amount close to what these students earned for the district in the base, supplemental and concentration grants. The Achieve More option shouldn’t even be an option for how to spend the money. Achieve More is already one of the eight state priorities that districts are supposed to meet with money and justify in their local accountability plans.
My peers and I want regulations that require school districts to spend more on the highest-need students; provide more services than they are already providing for these students and show how this investment is working through increases in achievement and in all the other state priorities, including parent and student engagement and improving school climate. This should be the only option! We deserve to succeed and to have the money we help generate for the school district spent on creating more opportunities and providing more services for us!
I’m proud of California for recognizing that all students deserve the same opportunity to succeed and to contribute to California’s future by passing the Local Control Funding Formula. Now the State Board of Education and school districts need to make sure that students, parents and communities are authentically part of this process, and honor the equity intended by LCFF, so that the formula can make the impacts we all know it can.
Cindy Andrade is a 11th grader at Oakland High School and a member of Californians for Justice and the Campaign for Quality Education (CQE). This op-ed is adapted from a speech she gave on the steps of the Capitol on May 21st at the CQE’s Day of Action in Sacramento.