Against a backdrop of achievement numbers that leave no one in doubt that African American students in California and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) are struggling, a coalition of Black parent groups and educational activists met recently at the Baldwin Hills Library to air their concerns about what is happening to their children in the state’s public education system and to recommend actions to begin changing the situation.
The meeting, called “A Parent’s Storytelling Session on Engaging in Your Children’s School,” was the latest session convened by New America Media (NAM) to engage Black parents around the state, and was funded by a grant from The California Endowment.
It asked participants to discuss what is right and wrong with their children’s education; what they were most worried about; what schools need to do better, and what parents can do to help schools.
The session ended with the creation of a list of standards the parents felt were critical to implement in the state’s public schools.
Among the topics that were discussed in the roundtable were the school-to-prison pipeline; the marginalization of informed, vocal and passionate Black parents; the negative impacts of zero-tolerance discipline policies; as well as other disciplinary measures that effectively push out Black youth; the over representation of African American children, particularly boys, in special education as well as the challenges parents face with the LAUSD’s policy of mainstreaming special needs students and transforming the schools they have traditionally attended into career technical educational campuses that only serve the needs of high school students.
One parent also talked about a tactic schools are using to circumvent the LAUSD’s crackdown on the high number of expulsions Black students experience. Officials are now using so-called Opportunity Transfers to remove young people.
And the parents also pointed to the fact that contrary to state requirements, some disciplinary actions are staying on students’ records for more than the three years allowed.
There was also a collective agreement that the needs of African American students were not being properly met.
As the discussion wound up, attendees developed a list of standards that they want to see implemented. These include: parents having an opportunity to look at laws before they are passed and signed; a mandate that the LAUSD bring back the District Advisory Committee; making sure that the curriculum at the state level meets the needs of Black students; an audit of all schools with African American children; to make sure that there is a curriculum of inclusion that insures all students learn Black history and the contributions people of African descent have made in and to America; and to finance programs specifically designed to improve the academic performance of African American students.
NAM intends to send a report on parents’ ideas and concerns to The California Endowment, which will in turn, submit a report to the state board of education that reflects parent feedback. This is important because the new Local Control Funding Formula for education that was recently created in the state requires the input of parents in determining how the increase in state education spending should be disbursed.
According a NAM report, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) will bring increased state funding to school districts over the next eight years. Under LCFF, the state is to provide the greatest funding increases to schools in low-income communities and those with large numbers of students who are learning English as a second language.