Pass / Fail | So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

After hours of waiting, scores of parents, advocates push for funding priorities for LA Schools

Annie Gilbertson/KPCC

A line of parents and advocates stretched around L.A. Unified headquarters Tuesday, some arriving as early as 6 A.M.. to get a chance to comment on the next years's $6.8 billion budget and accountability plan.

But the wait dragged on as the discussion, set for 4:30 P.M., was delayed for hours while the district's Board of Education handled other matters, including signing off on purchasing items and reviewing charter school renewal petitions.

"It's been a frustrating experience for me as an advocate, and I have the luxury of being able to stand here all day," said Zoe Rawson with the Community Right Campaign, an advocacy group for working class communities of color. 

Rawson, who would like to see a grater investment in restorative justice programs, said several people waited hours only to have to go home to their families before speaking.

The board finally began taking public comment on the budget at 7 p.m.

Around 90 people signed up to speak on a wide range of concerns - from cuts to a literacy program and not enough spending on English learners to funds for school police.

Many of the speakers were brought in by Communities for Los Angeles Student Success — a coalition of advocacy groups spearheaded by the United Way —and had aligned recommendations. 

"As a society we already spend too much money on school police. LAUSD  should invest in our education, not our incarceration." said Laura Aguilar, an 11th grade at Manual Senior Arts High School.

Aguilar came with the Community Rights Campaign, which recommends using $13 million district administrators have budged for school police to instead support behavior intervention programs. After speaking, Aguilar rushed off in a cab paid for by the organization to go home and finish her homework.

Other students were able to stick around later.

"I wish had someone in my life to inform me of resources," said Manuel Roque, a former foster student who now attends L.A. City College.

"Foster students need productive positive and consistent role models," Roque said, echoing concerns raised by The Coalition for Education Equity for Foster Youth. The group of advocacy organizations is also pushing the district to make ambitious improvement goals for foster youth and mandate individualized learning plans.

California new school funding law requires parents to be consulted on how school districts spend additional funds targeted for disadvantaged kids.

L.A. Unified estimates it will get $837 million to target at foster youth, English learners and low-income students.

Martha Martinez, a parent of English learners, said Superintendent John Deasy's proposal is unacceptable. It would keep funding for English learners at $35 million, the same as last year despite more money from the state.

"We need more children prepared for college, not prison. These funds allocated are insufficient," Martinez said in Spanish.

Other Spanish-speaking parents complained that the family literacy program is on the chopping block, and adult English learning programs continue to be underfunded. Several parents said they took off work to attend the meeting.

Some advocates want the school board to rethink the their school funding formula all together. They want more money should go to schools with high concentrations of low-income and students in need.

"If we really want equity we really want to invest in the schools  where we haven't been investing that need it the most, which are schools in south LA and in the east side," said Nancy Meza with Inner City Struggle.

Others want cash should to follow high needs kids – regardless of the school they attend. 

Toward the end of the meeting, Board President Richard Vladovic said they'd take speakers with children first so they could take them home and put them to bed.

"We are all concerned," he said.