Public Advocates Files Appeal for Parents, Children’s Defense Fund-California, Latinos in Action-California Against Long Beach Unified School District

29 Aug

 

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Parents and their supporters, on Thursday, Aug. 24, pose for photo after their press conference announcing their appeal to the California Department of Education regarding their Administrative Complaint against the Long Beach Unified School District; photo by Barry Saks

Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach, Children’s Defense Fund – California and Public Advocates, Inc. held a press conference, on Thursday, Aug. 24, to announce that Public Advocates, Inc. had filed an appeal, the day before on Wednesday, Aug. 23, with the California Department of Education, that alleged the response of Long Beach Unified School District to an administrative complaint for poor parents, their children and foster youth was inadequate.

The administrative complaint filed in April alleged $40 million intended for poor students, English-language learners and foster youth was misspent.

Public Advocates, Inc., which according to its website, is “a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination,” filed the administrative complaint and appeal for CDF-California, for Latinos in Action-California and for parents, challenging the district’s budgeting of funds, which are required to be targeted toward new or better services for high-need students under the new school funding law, the Local Control Funding Formula.

The press release distributed at the press conference admits LBUSD has taken steps to address the April complaint.  It states, “The district has discontinued paying $14 million in teacher salary increases out of these funds and significantly reduced challenged technology expenses, resulting in more than $17 million over the next two years….(T)he district also revised its 2016-17 spending and academic plan…to provide greater clarity as to how the district is spending the $40 million.”

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Angelica Jungco, Senior Staff Attorney for Public Advocates, Inc., on Thursday, Aug. 24, speaks at press conference, where the appeal to the California Department is announced.  The appeal is for a decision on an administrative complaint filed in April against the Long Beach Unified School District; photo by Barry Saks

Angelica Jungco, Senior Staff Attorney for Public Advocates Inc., said, “We’re here today to celebrate that LBUSD has taken steps to address some of the issues raised in our complaint….Our complaint also prompted the district to making meaningful improvements to its spending and academic plan….In particular, the district revised its plan from last year to better explain how it is spending that the $40 million we asked questions about….While we are encouraged to see the strides the district has made towards providing better information, it should not have taken years of advocacy and a formal complaint to compel LBUSD to explain its strategies for high-needs students.”  Jungco added, “Here in Long Beach, we have parents, youth and community members ready and willing to partner with Long Beach Unified (District) to make the promise of equity and shared decision making at the heart of the new funding law a reality.”

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Shimica Gaskins, the Executive Director of the Children’s Defense Fund, on Thursday, Aug. 24, speaks at press conference; photo by Barry Saks

Shimica Gaskins, who is the Executive Director of CDF-California said, “Today we are proud to stand here as a community to announce the appeal of our case to the California Department of Education and bring Long Beach schools closer to achieving equitable distribution of funds through the Local Control Funding Formula.  The LCFF dramatically changed the way schools are funded in California and for the better….The law requires us to align resources to students’ needs.  As advocates and community members, we have been focused on ensuring the goals of LCFF are achieved when budgetary decisions are made….(S)ome students have had great educational opportunities here, while others have been tracked into a path where they may graduate from high school but without the skills or the support needed for college and career readiness.  These English-learner and low-income and foster-youth students would have benefited from a more early intervention to ensure they did not fall behind and from more individualized support from teachers, a counselor or tutor.  For years, we have weighed with letters to both the State Board of Education and the Long Beach School Board with recommendations on how to better serve these students.  We are not convinced that the investments made thus far are materializing into improved services that are sufficiently accessible for  high-needs students and that’s why CDF-California signed on to the Unified Complaint Procedure.”

Guadalupe Luna, who spoke in Spanish with English translation and who is a complainant and a parent of three school-age children, said, “I have seen in adequate tutoring programs for which my children don’t qualify because the limited slots are for the students with severe learning needs or enrichment for students who are more advanced.  There is nothing for English- learner, low-income and foster-youth students who aren’t in these programs.  The lack of equity in the district affected my children and more students in Long Beach.”

Martha Cota, who also spoke in Spanish with English translation and who is a parent and resident of Long Beach and is the Executive Director of Latinos in Action-California, said, “LBUSD should consider convening a parent-consulting team that focuses specifically on how supplemental and concentration funds will be spent on benefit (sic) for high-needs students.”

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Marina Roman Sanchez, a parent and one of the complainants, on Thursday, Aug, 24, waiting to speak at press conference; photo by Barry Saks

Marina Roman Sanchez, who also spoke in Spanish with English translation and a complainant, pointed out she learned she had to become an advocate for her children, which included filing complaints and using a lawyer.  Sanchez, who has two school-age children, one with autism, said, “After 16 years of supporting my children, I found out that there are many other families who do not receive the necessary services they need just because they do not know how to maneuver (through) the policies of the district….I would like for other families to actually receive the appropriate services without having to tirelessly fight for their rights.”

CDF-California, according to its About Facebook page, “provides a strong, effective and independent voice for all the children of America who cannot vote, lobby or speak for themselves.  We pay particular attention to the needs of poor children, children of color and those with disabilities.”

Latinos in Action-California, according to its About Facebook page in Spanish, is a nonprofit organization with the mission to strengthen and enrich the quality of life for families, youth and individuals.

Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach, according to its About Facebook page, “works to reduce health disparities and improve community health through systemic changes fueled by adult and youth resident engagement, collaboration and resource sharing, and strategic communication about community needs and solutions.” The California Endowment funds BHC: Long Beach.

On Friday, Aug. 25, Chris Eftychiou, the Public Information Director of LBUSD, provided a statement by email.  The statement reads, “Our school district’s Local Control Accountability Plan meets or exceeds state requirements and the spirit of the law.  The Long Beach Unified School District is one of the most progressive school systems in terms of addressing specific student groups in the plan.  In addition, about 70 percent of our students meet one of the specified populations to be addressed in the plan, so the whole-system work we’re doing benefits these students as well.

“The LCAP is by nature an ongoing, living process.  We consider all viewpoints.  But just because someone disagrees with our approach, that doesn’t change the fact that we’re in compliance and producing steady, significant growth in student achievement.

“When the California Department of Education releases student performance data next week, the public also will see that the Long Beach Unified School District showed greater growth in English and math last year than the state’s other large school districts.  All student subgroups improved here, including all racial/ethnic subgroups, students learning English as their second language, special education students, and homeless and foster children.  Many of our schools closed achievement gaps by 50 percent or more.

“The bottom line is that Long Beach is getting significantly better results than our counterparts elsewhere in the state, but Public Advocates disagrees with how we’re getting there.  So the question is, at what point do such complaints become an attempted end run around local control, when large law firms from well beyond Long Beach continue to assert their vision of how we should be serving our local students?  When Governor Brown successfully pushed for local control of spending in our public schools, he wanted exactly what Long Beach is doing. We surveyed 20,000 of our parents this year, and 94 percent indicated that they agreed or strongly agreed that they felt welcome to participate at their child’s school.”

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Guadalupe Luna, another parent and complainant, on Thursday, Aug. 24, speaks at press conference; photo by Barry Saks

 

 

 

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