Cindy Andrade

Cindy Andrade

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years, students like me in Oakland have been asking: How can we succeed when our classrooms are overcrowded and we have outdated computers, damaged textbooks, and so few desks that students have to stand or sit on the floor?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.

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  1. Tara 3 years ago3 years ago

    Thank you to Cindy and to EdSource for bringing the voice of a student to this important public debate. Policy makers need to hear directly from students and parents when making critical education policy decisions that affect them! Cindy, I hope the State Board of Education hears your message about the need to balance flexibility with equity.

  2. Katherine 3 years ago3 years ago

    I love this great dialogue about local engagement! I urge all of you (el, I have been curious forever to meet you!) Cindy, Sergio,Manuel, Paul, Jerry -- to join Educate Our State's statewide conference next weekend in LA. The push for what meaningful parent engagement looks like at the district level (and, I agree, student engagement!) will be one of the key elements of the conference, and teaching participants how to organize to … Read More

    I love this great dialogue about local engagement! I urge all of you (el, I have been curious forever to meet you!) Cindy, Sergio,Manuel, Paul, Jerry — to join Educate Our State’s statewide conference next weekend in LA. The push for what meaningful parent engagement looks like at the district level (and, I agree, student engagement!) will be one of the key elements of the conference, and teaching participants how to organize to make sure that the recommendations are strong and the execution is effective. We believe that statewide pressure, organized locally, will help to create not only the mechanism for effective engagement, but also put pressure on the system to create the tools (e.g. providing budgets that allow communities to make informed decisions about where funds are allocated vs. spending hours trying to decipher budgets for bureaucrats). The requirements are a very important start, but the effective implementation will demand engagement from local communities in a way that most have not previously participated.
    I hope you will consider joining us!

  3. Paul Muench 3 years ago3 years ago

    With so much changing at once its hard to know what to trust. At least on the surface achieve more is exactly what you are requesting. With Common Core achievement is supposed to mean a lot more. So its good to let everyone know how much you care and that you will be actively involved in the changes to come. Hopefully that will inspire your district leadership to work carfully to … Read More

    With so much changing at once its hard to know what to trust. At least on the surface achieve more is exactly what you are requesting. With Common Core achievement is supposed to mean a lot more. So its good to let everyone know how much you care and that you will be actively involved in the changes to come. Hopefully that will inspire your district leadership to work carfully to make the promise of all these changes to come true.

  4. Jerry Heverly 3 years ago3 years ago

    Cindy, You sound like a mature, articulate young person so I'm going to go forward on the assumption that you won't be troubled if an adult expresses reservations about your remarks. My frustration with your position is that it is self-contradictory. You lament the lack of funds and lack of commitment to repairs and maintenance in Oakland Unified. Yet you call for regulations to restrict the way district spend money because you fear they won't spend it … Read More

    Cindy,
    You sound like a mature, articulate young person so I’m going to go forward on the assumption that you won’t be troubled if an adult expresses reservations about your remarks.

    My frustration with your position is that it is self-contradictory. You lament the lack of funds and lack of commitment to repairs and maintenance in Oakland Unified. Yet you call for regulations to restrict the way district spend money because you fear they won’t spend it in ways that benefit you (the student).
    When the Governor and his staff developed LCFF I’m fairly certain they pushed for local control because they thought it would reform our present system where we spend far too much money on bureaucrats (who make sure the district is following the thousands of regulations under the present system). By advocating LCFF rules you are, perhaps unwittingly, constructing a system that will continue to deny you books and desks.
    There are other reasons why Oakland Unified is relatively poor but LCFF at least attempts to give your district some additional funds. Not much this year, as another responder has said, but still, something. Let’s not swallow up that modest increase by adding Sacramento rules.
    Every district is now facing the confusing job or spending this LCFF money. If they buy desks for Fremont High is that an expenditure that helps low income, EL, and foster youth in your view? Does adding AP Statistics fulfill LCFF goals? Figuring out what benefits low income students is tricky. I doubt that the State Board of Education can write rules that assure that the money will be spent in ways that everyone approves of.
    I hope you’ll consider participating in your school’s Site Council. These new district-wide site councils will desperately need student input. Why not try to have your voice heard locally rather than trying to bind other districts with new rules?

  5. Paul 3 years ago3 years ago

    Cindy, thanks for an impeccably written article. As someone who taught in several districts adjacent to yours, each with a similar demographic makeup and similar funding woes, I often found myself criticizing school district spending priorities. An earnest student who makes it through 13 years of schooling in any of the urban districts in the East Bay needs a strong will. Never let what you see around you deter you. Some school districts are sleazy, always … Read More

    Cindy, thanks for an impeccably written article. As someone who taught in several districts adjacent to yours, each with a similar demographic makeup and similar funding woes, I often found myself criticizing school district spending priorities. An earnest student who makes it through 13 years of schooling in any of the urban districts in the East Bay needs a strong will. Never let what you see around you deter you.

    Some school districts are sleazy, always grubbing for money and trying to spend it on pet projects. You are right to be wary of LCFF spending options that would allow a district not to spend supplemental funds directly on the students who generated the funds and who most need them. Nevertheless, there are legitimate uses of the third spending option, cases where district-wide projects will benefit all students, including especially those with high need.

    For example, implementing a proven instructional methodology like the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol (SIOP) is best done for a whole district, or at the very least, for a whole school. This methodology makes lessons clearer, benefitting English Learners (the focus of SIOP), but also students with disabilities, students who aren’t considered English Learners but who show the same traits (e.g. students who speak dialects outside school), and indeed, all students (who doesn’t want clearer teaching?).

    The only way to partially implement SIOP would be to isolate the target students in separate classes or schools and use the LCFF supplemental funds to train, support and evaluate those students’ teachers only. It’s bad enough that this sort of segregation happens unintentionally. To make it intentional would be a step backward.

    I hope that you’ll talk with your teachers to find out their ideas for improvement projects. I’m sure you’ll find that many of their priorities make sense on a school- or district-wide, rather than per-student, scale, hence the need for the third LCFF spending option — and the associated local accountability for results.

    Replies

    • Manuel 3 years ago3 years ago

      Paul, you suggest that Cindy talk with her teachers.

      What if her teachers are in the same boat and Oakland’s Board and Superintendent do not listen to teachers either?

      What then?

      Time for pitchforks and torches?

      • Paul 3 years ago3 years ago

        Hi, Manuel. I was just encouraging Cindy to see the potential of the policy by talking with people who are accessible to her and who would be well-positioned to justify options such as SIOP, board configuration, multiple methods (math), and collaboration time. These solutions would seem rather abstract when compared with the solutions that Cindy's article alludes to: the latest computers, new textbooks, and more guidance counselors. Despite my own computer science background, I can teach effectively … Read More

        Hi, Manuel.

        I was just encouraging Cindy to see the potential of the policy by talking with people who are accessible to her and who would be well-positioned to justify options such as SIOP, board configuration, multiple methods (math), and collaboration time. These solutions would seem rather abstract when compared with the solutions that Cindy’s article alludes to: the latest computers, new textbooks, and more guidance counselors.

        Despite my own computer science background, I can teach effectively with just a chalkboard. Despite my belief that districts should provide up-to-date textbooks, I can deliver worthwhile lessons without one. And in case there is no guidance counselor, I know enough about university and college admission requirements, institutions’ reputations, the federal financial aid process, etc., to be able to assist parents and students. On the other hand, SIOP, multiple methods, etc. are teaching tools that I couldn’t do without — and their effectiveness is blunted if only a minority of a student’s teachers use them.

        Of course no one, least of all at Oakland Unified, listens to teachers! Still, if there is any possibility of holding political leaders accountable for education-related decisions, it is at the local level. I am more enthusiastic than you about the role of school boards under LCF. Where it is impossible for any of us, as ordinary citizens, to exert meaningful, direct influence in D.C. or Sacramento, we can address our local school boards in person. An ordinary citizen’s being elected to a school board is also within the realm of possibility.*

        * Sadly, there are some places where even a lowly school board seat is off limits to the ordinary citizen. In certain communities, like San Francisco, the local Democratic Party determines who may be elected to the school board, because that is the first step in a “machine” pipeline that leads to city council (board of supervisors, for S.F.), then to state assembly, then to state senate and then either to Congress or to a paid, benefited, lifelong post on a state board or commission that meets three times a year to discuss sales tax regulations or waste management policy. In certain conservative communities, substitute the Chamber of Commerce for the Democratic Party.

  6. el 3 years ago3 years ago

    Let me tell you a little about my perspective, which comes from a small rural district, and why I am concerned that "Spend More, Provide More or Achieve More" is already potentially overrestrictive. My district is much smaller than yours. Because we only have one school covering each grade level, we do not have the concern that you might that money might be disproportionately spent on the wealthy school in the hills versus the impoverished school … Read More

    Let me tell you a little about my perspective, which comes from a small rural district, and why I am concerned that “Spend More, Provide More or Achieve More” is already potentially overrestrictive.

    My district is much smaller than yours. Because we only have one school covering each grade level, we do not have the concern that you might that money might be disproportionately spent on the wealthy school in the hills versus the impoverished school on the flats. We are a Title 1 district and eligible for concentration money under LCFF, but all our kids are mixed together already. I believe this district has already been allocating additional resources to kids in need.

    When the rules say we must “spend more” it straight up insists that we haven’t been spending more on disadvantaged kids already, whether that’s true or not. There’s not even the possibility considered that this district may need to put money into the base program more than special programs, based on past choices, to benefit all kids, including disadvantaged kids. Our district does not have a paid librarian, for example. Yes, I can be an LCAP parent and write some beautiful prose explaining why librarians are especially beneficial to disadvantaged kids, and I suppose that’s what I’ll do if we decide to spend money that way. Our true goal in school finance is to have money spent wisely and equitably, not to write better justifications in the documents.

    As for “achieve more” … from my perspective our school already has this as a primary goal, and it’s up to the students as much as anything else. Anyone who says that you can take Input X and definitely get Y more achievement on standardized tests is, to quote The Princess Bride, selling something. It makes sense as a safe harbor, but no one can count on that in any given year.

    And as for “provide more” …. I’ve seen the numbers, and for our particular district, even with concentration funds, we’re not actually getting more money in any meaningful amount.

    I really appreciate the impulse to insist that money be distributed to schools based on the supplemental funds. One of the places I would push back would be to suggest it needs to go to populations equitably – that for example, it might provide more benefit to spend concentration funds at the middle school rather than the elementary or high school for a particular population of kids, based on the current state of the program and the particular needs of the kids.

    The law applies to all 1,000 or so California school districts, and it’s really important that we keep in mind all the different flavors that are possible. The law should say what it needs to, and no more. I want you to have local input, and local control. I want that for myself and my community as well. Let’s try this experiment before calcifying the specifics of what you want to achieve with your local control at the state level, which could inadvertently tie the hands of others.

    There’s definitely a conversation to be had on this, and I’m interested in learning more about the obstacles you’ve dealt with in getting funding where it needs to be.

  7. el 3 years ago3 years ago

    Cindy, I appreciate your voice and taking the time to involve yourself with decisionmaking at your school, your district, and at the state level. As you say, the new paradigm is supposed to be about local control. I see you simultaneously excited about that... and also wanting to add more rules at the state level that matches what you think local control should be. I see these two ideas as being in tension with each other. Before … Read More

    Cindy, I appreciate your voice and taking the time to involve yourself with decisionmaking at your school, your district, and at the state level.

    As you say, the new paradigm is supposed to be about local control. I see you simultaneously excited about that… and also wanting to add more rules at the state level that matches what you think local control should be. I see these two ideas as being in tension with each other.

    Before we add more rules at the state that have to simultaneously apply to districts with a single K-12 campus and a few hundred students and also megadistricts like LAUSD and districts that are small in area with many students, and also districts that are far-flung geographically, I’d like to ask specifically what in the process is preventing you from having your input heard locally.

    Do you go to board meetings and find that you are not allotted time to speak?
    Do you find that attending board meetings is impossible because they happen during school hours, and/or at an inaccessible location?
    Do you have input at board meetings but feel that your words are unheeded?
    Do you have trouble getting information about the budget such that you can give good input?
    Do you feel that you’re not heard because you’re not an adult?

    Let’s talk about the specifics on how you are being denied input into the process, and let’s see what we can do that would address those specifics, so that you can be heard as part of the community and so that you are a genuine part of the process. All interested people should have the opportunity to give input, and I’m very interested in knowing what the obstacles are for people who want to participate.

    Replies

    • Manuel 3 years ago3 years ago

      el, all questions you posed to Cindy apply to LAUSD. I'd guess the same happens in every district that has more than one school. (Your district has only one school? Talk about a "span" concept.) Given that in the case of LAUSD all answers are yes and apply equally well to adults as well as "children," I find it hard to figure out a way to codify into law that the Board and edu-cracy must listen to … Read More

      el, all questions you posed to Cindy apply to LAUSD.

      I’d guess the same happens in every district that has more than one school. (Your district has only one school? Talk about a “span” concept.)

      Given that in the case of LAUSD all answers are yes and apply equally well to adults as well as “children,” I find it hard to figure out a way to codify into law that the Board and edu-cracy must listen to genuine local input when defining spending priorities. Other than replacing the Board and putting new members, I don’t see how to affect change under the current setup. Even if “throwing the bums out” were to happen, you never know what you are going to get as made amply clear by the recent circus caused by Deasy’s threat to resign.

      The problem with LCFF is that it passes control to the local boards. It does not grant any power to the local school and community and I think it is by design. Yes, Kirst may say that communities should be more active, but there is only so much head-banging-against-the-wall anyone can take.

      Now that you have heard from my answering your questions all in the affirmative, what do you think can be done to address those issues without upsetting the apple cart for districts such as yours where personal dynamics are way more important than in districts where not everybody knows every one else.

      • el 3 years ago3 years ago

        To clarify, my district has multiple schools but only one school per grade level. Because of this, everyone in the community does have an investment in all the schools because they will get there eventually, and this certainly changes the dynamic. My contention has always been that LAUSD is plain too big, and one of the factoids I cite is that with 700+ schools, there is no way for any one person to visit them all … Read More

        To clarify, my district has multiple schools but only one school per grade level. Because of this, everyone in the community does have an investment in all the schools because they will get there eventually, and this certainly changes the dynamic.

        My contention has always been that LAUSD is plain too big, and one of the factoids I cite is that with 700+ schools, there is no way for any one person to visit them all in a school year. Not a board member, not a superintendent, not even anyone who had that as their sole and only job duty. I will completely agree that the district level is not local in this case. 3 minutes of public comment, if you had one speaker from every LAUSD school, would take 35 hours to hear.

        (Oakland is a bit more manageable with only about 100 schools and a relatively small geographic area.)

        If I had my way about it, I might make each high school and its feeder schools (middle and elementary) a funding unit, and give them a fair amount of autonomy over their spending within those schools. Then, they could elect to feed back some portion of that to the district for district-wide initiatives like increased professional development and other shared services. It keeps the community from becoming so large that they don’t have a way for voices to be heard and it also makes it more likely that everyone has direct experience with the programs being discussed.

  8. Sergio Cuellar 3 years ago3 years ago

    Great Job Cindy! Given the real opportunity to weigh in at a state and local level, young people can become major assets in the development of Local Control Accountability Plans. There is no reason why they have not been given a clear role for input as part of the template and regulations. Young people who make up the targeted populations of LCFF should be at the table when these key budget decisions are … Read More

    Great Job Cindy! Given the real opportunity to weigh in at a state and local level, young people can become major assets in the development of Local Control Accountability Plans. There is no reason why they have not been given a clear role for input as part of the template and regulations. Young people who make up the targeted populations of LCFF should be at the table when these key budget decisions are being made. And as Cindy has pointed out, the proposed regs are a slap in the face to the equity LCFF is supposed to bring to high need students.