By Srishti Prabha | OBSERVER Staff Writer 

After a veto by Governor Gavin Newson, Black educators are asking parents of color to take a more direct approach by attending local funding meetings. 

Black in School Coalition dedicated one year to passing the legislation AB 2774 which would target low-performing students in California — the 80,000 Black students in 2022 who were being left out of the Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF. After the bill passed the state’s Assembly and Senate, Newsom vetoed it in February of this year. 

Newsom’s solution is the equity multiplier, part of the LCFF that supplements funding to schools where 70% of students are from low-income backgrounds and where a quarter of the students didn’t stay for the entirety of the year. The Coalition responded to this decision with a youth-based rally in April, fighting against the supposition that race has not been a factor in forming the education system. 

“We’ve been marching for the same thing over and over again, and it’s really unfortunate that we’re not seeing change,” said Hannan Canada at the rally, the former president of Black Students of California United.

The LCFF model places students into three buckets — low-income, foster or unhoused, and English language learners — and makes the false equivalency between students of color and the three identified barriers to education in the funding formula, explained Margaret Fortune, founder of Sacramento’s Fortune Schools and a Coalition member. 

At the Black in School Coalition roundtable this month, Dominic Zarecki, Director of Data Analytics and Strategy for the Fortune School of Education, reviewed data that supported the Coalition’s efforts.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s 2021 or 2001, it’s a similar gap between Black students and other students in the state,” Zarecki said. He added that data speaks for itself when examining the difference between white students from low-income backgrounds and Black students from higher-income backgrounds.

“Often people say, ‘This is really about income, it’s not really about race.’ But low-income white students, 32% of them, this past spring, were meeting the standard in math — low-income black students, only 29% of them were meeting the standard in math,” he underscored.

The money from the vetoed legislation, which would have generated $533 million a year, was reduced to $300 million through the equity multiplier lens, and would not target low-performing students of color.

“For 10 years, we’ve had a funding formula that has done nothing in particular for Black students and maybe the way for that to change is for us to show up and show out,” said Fortune, to the 2,000 Black students who came to the rally. 

Now, the Coalition has shifted its focus to the money from the equity multiplier — coming in 2024 — and is urging parents to get involved in their schools’ funding plans. 

What is the Local Control Accountability Plan?

In the recent Coalition meeting, Black leaders discussed how to push for progress despite the challenges they’ve met on the policy front. Ka’Dijah Brown, a school board trustee in the Berkeley Unified School District, advocated for community members to hold their school board trustees and schools accountable. 

“We were able to move our Local Control Accountability Plan goals to ensure that our Black students are represented because of the advocacy of parents who said, ‘I will no longer sit by and stand by and watch our Black students fail year after year after year,’” said Brown.

The Local Control Accountability Plan, or LCAP, is a three-year plan for every district that recommends priorities, actions, services and expenses that a district should implement to improve student outcomes. The plan is created by a district school board-appointed committee yearly and is a mandated portion of the LCFF model to receive funding from the state.

Most importantly, the LCAP requires school districts to collaborate with the District Parent Advisory Committee, or PAC, English Learner Parent Advisory Committees, or DLAC, along with parents, students, school personnel and local bargaining units. 

Representing Area 6 on Sacramento City Unified School District’s LCAP committee is parent Junior Goris who, based on his involvement in the community, was appointed to the LCAP committee by school board trustee Taylor Kayatta.

“We work under the school board advising them on goals that we want to meet in education along with funding,” describes Goris on his role. “As an LCAP member and parent, you are not working for the district.” 

Outside of his day job as a flight attendant, Goris is also on the First 5 Sacramento advisory committee, the Measure U committee and the Pocket-Greenhaven Neighborhood Association. His advocacy work stems from his background as a Dominican immigrant with parents who were not as engaged in politics. 

“I speak for people that look like me and talk like me and [for] parents that feel like they don’t have a place at the table,” explained Goris. “Sometimes, they don’t have a place at the table because they’re working two jobs and want to keep the food on the table, the lights on … very similar to my parents.”

He is one of 12 LCAP committee members which has parents and community members representing the district’s seven areas, but he said parent attendance at LCAP meetings is necessary for better representation and accountability.

“It is very stressful, and sometimes very frustrating because things that may seem kind of common sense aren’t because of red tape,” said Goris about the work associated with the LCAP. “And it’s very difficult to get data from the district.”

He confirms that they currently don’t have a student representative and are trying to engage more school sites and parents so that they can have “power in numbers,” an effort which, according to Goris, has been lacking.

“We don’t get parents, just the committee members.” Goris said, “When more parents show up, the more that the district knows that we’re involved and watching.”

Similar to trustee Brown, Goris encourages parents to prioritize LCAP meetings and details the advantages of those meetings over school board sessions. 

“An LCAP meeting is smaller, so your voice will be a lot louder,” he said. “Being in a more non-traditional space, you can be more impactful.”

In Sacramento, a projected analysis by the Coalition suggests that Twin Rivers Unified will be one of the top five school districts in the state to receive the most money through the new equity multiplier:

  • Los Angeles Unified: $42,294,724
  • Fresno Unified: $16,566,492
  • San Bernardino City Unified: $9,179,980
  • Lancaster Elementary: $8,766,669
  • Twin Rivers Unified: $7,527,886

Akele Newton, principal at the Rex and Margaret Fortune Early College High School, suggests that public schools can provide high-quality education to their Black students if money is spent wisely. 

“We make sure that we utilize and stretch whatever funding comes in,” said Newton, who will be receiving money through the equity multiplier for their majority Black and brown student population. 

This is the time to speak up for Black students, the Coalition roundtable speakers emphasized, to have dollars allocated to Black student achievement. 

LCAP meetings can be pivotal in advocating for the needs of Black and Brown students, reminded Sacramento City Unified LCAP member Goris. His children have been a product of learning loss, and he said, “Education is what makes us all on the same level. That’s my driving force.”

To attend Sacramento County’s monthly LCAP meeting or to review LCAP documents check the following district’s websites:

Srishti Prabha is an education reporter and Report For America corps member in collaboration with CapRadio and The Sacramento Observer. Their focus is K-12 education in Sacramento’s Black communities.

Support for this Sacramento OBSERVER article was provided to Word In Black (WIB) by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. WIB is a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media that includes print and digital partners.