As part of the Brothers, Sons, Selves coalition, dozens of students participated in a youth-led LCFF town hall last Saturday, March 15. These youth are making their voices heard as Los Angeles Unified School Board leaders work to develop local budget priorities. Now that school districts across the state are soliciting community input on budget priorities—at the direction of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF)— students are adding their important perspectives and concerns to the conversation.
The students' dedication and leadership impressed several of the LAUSD leaders who participated in the town hall including Superintendent John Deasy, Board Members Steve Zimmer and Monica Garcia, and Dr. Sylvia Rousseau. The youth shared their personal stories around the lack of resources that many of them face within their schools. They also posed serious questions about LCFF and asked LAUSD to support the Student Climate Bill of Rights, use equity to inform the distribution of LCFF funds, and to ensure that high needs students are accurately counted.
Many of the youth in the room were leaders who were instrumental in LAUSD’s passing the Student Climate Bill of Rights, which favors alternatives that promote positive behavior over punitive school discipline policies. The students asked Superintendent Deasy to use LCFF funds to support the expansion of restorative justice, a process that focuses on repairing the harm done to a school community versus punishing students, by funding more restorative justice counselors in schools. Such investments would likely improve school climate, which is one of the State’s Eight Priority Areas that each Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) must address. Both Superintendent Deasy and Board Member Zimmer agreed that improving school climate should be a budget priority for LAUSD and thanked the youth for their leadership on this issue.
Students also suggested developing an equity index, which would take into account a variety of factors in schools and their surrounding neighborhoods that likely lead to negative educational outcomes. They proposed that this index could most accurately identify where the schools with the greatest needs are located so that the funding could be allocated accordingly. The students expressed that an unduplicated count does not take into account the reality that many youth have multiple needs and fall into more than one of the three LCFF target student populations (low income, foster youth, or English Learner).
Superintendent Deasy told students that such a change would have to be advocated for and made at a statewide, not local, level. He encouraged them to continue to express their concerns and advocate for the changes they would like to see around LCFF and added that the voice of youth is one of the most important and persuasive within this ongoing conversation.
If you live in the Los Angeles area and would like to learn more about the educational issues facing many young men of color, the Assembly Select Committee on Boys and Men of Color will be holding a public hearing on Friday, March 21, on the implications of LCFF for this subset of students.