New Education Budget Initiative Seeks to Increase Support to Students

As the district receives an additional $20 million to support at risk students, district representatives held 4 forums this week in an attempt to get student input on how the funding should be allocated.

A PowerPoint slide summarizing the District’s plan for how to utilize the $20 million given by the State under the Local Control and Accountability Plan

East Side Union High School District

A PowerPoint slide summarizing the District’s plan for how to utilize the $20 million given by the State under the Local Control and Accountability Plan

Luca Dhagat

As school districts move out of distance learning, the State Education Department has restarted their Local Control Accountability Plan, or LCAP, as a means of helping provide additional funding to help support at-risk students across California.

The LCAP is a 3-year funding plan that all California school districts develop in order to receive an additional $20 million from the state. This money goes towards supporting 8 key areas, such as ensuring basic services are in good condition and available to the student body and increasing pupil achievement through improving performance on standardized tests.

Another mandate of the LCAP is to seek student input. In order to do this, representatives from the district hosted 4 forums this week where students had the chance to learn more about the LCAP and voice their opinion on how they believe the funding would best be used. 

The forum started off with district representatives highlighting 3 student demographics that LCAP funding would be aimed to support: English learners, foster youth, and low-income students. However, the forum’s facilitators emphasized how this wouldn’t invalidate input from students who don’t belong to these groups. Teresa Marquez, the Associate Superintendent of Educational Services said, “Your voice still matters. We can put in place services that benefit all students.”

Explaining the district’s reasons for deciding to focus on these 3 at-risk groups, the district’s representatives highlighted data showing how these groups, due to a lack of support, perform at much lower rates than other demographics. The best measure of this is the comparison of A-G course completion rates. Foster youth, English learners, and homeless youth have some of the lowest completion rates. Another group emphasized by the district representatives was the disparity in the completion rate among Students with Disabilities. 

The A-G course completion disparities also correspond to disparities among graduation rates. The demographic with the lowest graduation rate in our district was Foster youth, at 43%. Closely following this is both homeless youth and students with disabilities. Another problem highlighted was the difference in performance among certain ethnic groups. For example, African American and Hispanic students have had lower rates of graduation at ESUHSD.

Another representation of the disparities within marginalized groups of the student body was among disciplinary actions. Schools in the district disproportionately refer to Hispanic students, African American students, and students with disabilities for behavioral issues. For example, the Hispanic population, making up 49% of the student body, accounts for over 70% of disciplinary actions. For students with disabilities, this disparity is even higher. Making up just 11% of the student population, they represent 30% of all disciplinary actions. The district representatives made sure to clarify how this problem did not just generate in a vacuum. Identifying a lack of adequate resources for creating these differences, the facilitators further emphasized the need for student input in formulating solutions to overcome these problems.

As low-income students make up 49.4% of the student body, along with an additional 15.7% of students being English Learners, these disparities have wide-reaching effects in the district. Marquez, summarizing the monumental challenges the district faces in order to overcome these disparities, simply stated how “Across the board, we have a lot of work to do.”

Marquez ended the forum with another call to increase student input in the LCAP planning process. Fully admitting the district’s lack of understanding of the problems students face, she said “We as adults think we know what’s best for you. We try to get it right, but your voice matters. This is the opportunity for you to give us your input.” Marquez and the rest of the facilitators then opened the forum for any students in attendance to express their opinion on how LCAP funding should be allocated. None chose to do so, however. Marquez concluded by asking all the attendees to fill out a Student Input Form in order for the district to get a better idea of student priorities.

Despite the enthusiasm from the District’s representatives for the chance to receive student input, the opinions of the 22,000 students at ESUHSD were still unknown. With only 24 students attending the Monday forum, and practically no engagement either in the open forum or in zoom’s Q&A function, the district’s ability to accurately gauge the student body’s views on LCAP funding allocation was severely limited.

East Side Union, no stranger to budget cuts, may be slated for even more as local governments attempt to recover from budget deficits due to the pandemic. This would likely cause an increasing reliance on LCAP funding to simply fill in gaps in the budget, instead of working towards increased support to students and closing disparities among marginalized groups. As a result, the actual effect the $20 million in LCAP funding will have in improving educational services for the student body is uncertain.