The public will be able to comment Tuesday on a proposal to funnel a larger share of the $837 million in supplemental and concentration grant funds under the new school finance system to the most needy students and schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District for the 2014-15 school year.
The school board will be hearing comments from community members on the district’s initial Local Control and Accountability Plan and on a resolution by three board members to create an “equity-based student need index” to determine which schools should be given the extra funds.
The vast majority of schools in Los Angeles Unified are eligible for both supplemental funds and special concentration grant money from the state because more than 55 percent of their students are low-income, English learners or in foster care. But both the district and advocacy groups are saying that the spirit of the new school finance law – aimed at helping schools that have the most needy students – calls for a closer look at how these funds should be distributed.
Community-based organizations in East and South Los Angeles are promoting a “student need index” that includes school factors (e.g., test scores and the number of dropouts and suspensions) and neighborhood factors (e.g., exposure to violence, asthma rates and access to community resources). Based on this index, the organizations have identified 242 schools out of a total of more than 900, primarily in East and South Los Angeles, that would be eligible for the extra funding. The resolution (item 48 on the agenda) by board members Mónica García, Richard Vladovic and Steve Zimmer says that the district should use this student need index “as the foundation” for its decision on how to distribute the funds.
Although the district has not agreed completely with the criteria and the suggested list of schools put forward by the advocates, its proposal is “similar to what the advocates and youth are promoting,” said Edgar Zazueta, chief of external affairs for the district. “We’re not that far apart, but we want to make sure we capture all the schools. A few schools are missing.”
The issue has come to the forefront because of the way the state currently allocates funding, using what are called “unduplicated counts.” So, for example, if 80 percent of School A’s students are low-income, 40 percent of those low-income students are English learners and 5 percent are foster youth, the state only counts 80 percent in determining both supplemental and concentration funds allocated to the district based on the students in that school. The school does not receive extra funds for the English learners and foster youth because they are already part of the low-income count.
The needs of the students in that school, however, are arguably greater than School B, which has 80 percent low-income youth but no English learners or students in foster care.
Zazueta says the district wants to use duplicated counts, which would give School A a need of 125 percent versus 80 percent for School B, ranking it much higher on a student need index.
The district is still considering what other factors to include and how to weigh the various factors, he said. “We want to first start with the schools and students hit hardest during the recession,” he added.
Zazueta says the district expects push-back at the meeting from the schools who wouldn’t get the extra funds under a student need index even though they are eligible, as well as support for such an index from advocacy groups, such as students from Fremont High in South Los Angeles, who met last Thursday to rally support.
“We need to get resources in the schools that need them the most,” said Briana Lamb, a senior at Fremont and a member of Fremont Youth Empowered Through Action, which is organizing youth to attend Tuesday’s meeting.
“Just showing students that somebody does care, that gives them the extra push to want to succeed in school and actually graduate and go to college and do something positive,” she said.
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