California Education Advocates Team Up to Make Their Voices Heard in Sacramento

While California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), the school financing overhaul enacted in 2013, has positively impacted students’ academic achievements, there are marked areas for improvement such as strengthening fiscal transparency and reporting on school district use of the student-targeted funds.

Isaias Hernandez
Isaias Hernandez of UnidosUS Affiliate Mexican American Opportunity Foundation

Under the LCFF policy, school districts receive supplemental state financial support based on the population of three specific student groups: low-income students, English Learners, foster and homeless youth.

If teachers, community members, and parents want to influence how local school districts make financial decisions, they need to get involved in providing oversight of the fiscal decision-making process.  To do that, they must first understand how local school district financial decisions are made. Furthermore, to advance a more equitable education system it is essential for stakeholders, advocates, and parents to know where the targeted high-needs student LCFF dollars go, and what outcomes are produced on behalf of our kids.


Advocacy Partners in the Fight for Equitable Education

In April, the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF) joined UnidosUS and more than 60 statewide community leaders and education advocates in Sacramento to participate in an Education Equity Advocacy Day co-hosted by Education Trust-West and The Campaign for College Opportunity’s. We participated in legislative meetings with various staff members and Legislators in the Senate and Assembly to encourage our state representatives to support more fiscal transparency for LCFF.

“Education equity should be at the center of policy discussions.”

The Education Trust-West “advocates for educational justice and the high academic achievement of all California students, specifically those of color and living in poverty.” And the Campaign for College Opportunity’s mission has been to ensure that all eligible and motivated students in California have an opportunity to attend college and succeed and they recently established the goal of 60% college attainment by 2030.

The Education Trust-West and The Campaign for College Opportunity are leading advocacy groups lobbying for equitable education on behalf of our disadvantaged public school students in California. They partnered on this Ed Equity Advocacy Day to increase support for fiscal transparency and a student-centered funding formula at the California Community Colleges as proposed by the Governor’s 2018-2019 State Budget.

The mission of MAOF, located in Los Angeles, is to provide for the socio-economic betterment of the greater Latino community of California, while preserving the pride, values and heritage of the Mexican American culture. As a UnidosUS Affiliate, MAOF works with UnidosUS on advocacy initiatives at the federal, state, and local level. MAOF’s core services are focused on Early Childcare Education. Knowing that the infants and toddlers in our pre-school and Head Start centers will soon enough enter the world of K-12 education it is important for me, as the Community Development Coordinator for MAOF, to take opportunities to help shape and support policies that support the education of low-income and children of color.  Participating with UnidosUS in The Education Trust-West’s Ed Advocacy Day was an important and inspiring first step.

Empowering Day with California Lawmakers

Flying to our state capitol is roughly an hour plane ride making it accessible for Angelenos, with the resources to travel, to go to Sacramento for advocacy efforts. Upon arrival, I headed to the California Museum where Ryan Smith, Executive Director of The Education Trust-West and Jessie Ryan, Vice President of The Campaign for College Opportunity were giving opening remarks. Their respective messages had a clear theme: ensure that our California leaders understand that education equity should be at the center of policy discussions.

As the day moved into full swing, I received comprehensive advocacy training , including an overview of current legislation that will strengthen the LCFF to ensure funding is reaching the student groups it is intended to reach. Concerns have been raised by education stakeholders that funds set aside specifically for high needs students are not always being used to provide direct services that create a foundation for a more equitable education. The proposal for more fiscal transparency will mandate that school districts show in detail how they used the supplemental and concentration grants set aside for the high needs student population in their Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP).

This new mandate will support education stakeholders, advocates and parents in keeping school districts accountable for providing additional resources funded by the supplemental and concentration grants to meet the needs of California’s English Learners, low-income, foster and homeless youth which are disproportionately students of color.

In the afternoon, after a morning full of encouragement from The Education Trust-West team members, I was off to the State Capitol to visit the offices of State Senator Anthony Portantino (SD-25) who is a member of the subcommittee No. 1 on Education, State Senator Holly Mitchell (SD-30) who is Chair of the Budget and Fiscal committee and State Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (AD-66) a member of the Education Finance committee. Given that MAOF is in Los Angeles County, I wanted to meet with legislators representing different areas of the county. It was also a priority to meet with legislators who are members of budget committees because ultimately, they will help determine if the LCFF fiscal transparency proposal could be enacted.

By the end of the day, I grew more confident in my ability to discuss the improvement of the LCFF for K-12 education.  So much so, I decided to participate in one more meeting at the Office of the Assembly-Speaker Anthony Rendon (AD-63). Joining fellow California advocates for the Ed Advocacy Equity Day gave me an opportunity to listen to their experiences and personal stories, learn from their expertise and knowledge and benefit from their invaluable advice on how to improve funding for K-12 and college education.

Some of the most compelling stories came from the parent advocates who participated. They expressed their experiences with navigating the school system and the difficulties they’ve had in ensuring their children receive the resources they deserve. Ed Advocacy Equity Day was such an empowering experience for me that I now compelled to make MAOF more civically engaged in advocacy work that will further benefit the communities we serve.

By:  Isaias Hernandez, Community Development Coordinator, Mexican American Opportunity Foundation (MAOF)

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