Farm Worker Parents Voice Their School Funding Priorities

Farm Worker Parents Voice Their School Funding Priorities

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SALINAS – Roughly 130 parents, students, teachers and community members attended a town hall-style meeting on Monday, November 4th, where they shared their thoughts on what the biggest areas of need are in their local schools.

The forum, organized by The California Endowment and billed as the “School Success Express Tour,” was the ninth such event to take place across the state, for the purpose of informing parents about California’s new state funding scheme, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), and to ensure that those parents have a voice in determining how school districts use state education funds.

A good number of the parents who were on hand in Salinas are farm workers, who said they rarely have opportunities to engage directly with school staff or district officials, due to their demanding jobs. One such farm worker, Leonardo Arciga, said he works 9 to 10 hour shifts, often waking up as early as 5am to begin his day. For most farm workers like Arciga, putting in an exhausting day of “stoop labor,” picking local produce, can be a barrier in and of itself to getting involved in school life.

“[As a farm worker] it is difficult to come to these types of meetings, but I try to attend as much as possible,” said Arciga, whose child attends Los Padres Elementary,

The new Local Control Funding Formula was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last June, following enactment of the 2012 voter-approved Proposition 30, which increased the income tax for Californians earning over $250,000 a year, to fund public education.

Under LCFF, school districts will have more power than ever before to determine how state dollars are spent at the school level, based on the theory that parents and school officials understand the needs of their children better than Sacramento.

“Before LCFF it was almost impossible to understand how funding was allocated from the districts to the schools… before, the State would dictate how the money would be spent. Which means that if they gave funding for books, the school would have to buy books even if your school didn’t need books,” said Rigel. S. Massaro, a policy and legal advocate at the nonprofit, Californians For Justice, and a co-presenter of Monday’s event.

In addition to bringing more local control over state revenue, LCFF will funnel more dollars to the state’s neediest schools.

Under LCFF, every school will receive the same “base grant,” which amounts to $6,845 per student in grades K-3; $6,947 for grades 4-6; $4,154 for grades 7 and 8; and $8,289 for grades 9-12.

But LCFF will also raise the base grant by 20 percent for every “at-risk” student, and by 50 percent if at least 55 percent of all students in a given district qualify as “at risk” – a group that includes English language learners, low-income students and foster youth.

For schools in low-income districts, this comes as a great relief, but in order for them to receive funds under LCFF they must first draft a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), a three-year plan that states how the money will be spent.

That’s where the School Success Express Tour comes in.

“The school districts must involve the parents and community members in the development of their LCAP,” says Annabelle Rodriguez, program director at Action Council, a local advocacy organization.

After introductions and some opening remarks, parents and community members broke into smaller groups where they were asked a series of questions including: “What types of programs and activities do you think would benefit or help your child achieve academic success?” and “Do you feel your school has involved you in decision-making and in what ways can schools help parents or guardians be more involved in school district decisions?”

Answers to the first question included more training for teachers and counselors, more funding for after school programs and field trips, greater emphasis on technology and the sciences, more physical education opportunities, and more nutritious school meals.

After the meeting, Arciga spoke about his children’s education goals. His eldest came from México and entered school in the U.S. as a 6th grader, and now has dreams of attending a university. After participating at the meeting, Arciga said he feels he can be more active in making sure his child’s education is helping to make that goal a reality.

“After this meeting I feel more prepared to participate in [the LCFF],” said Arciga.

The School Success Express Tour finishes on November 13th in Del Norte County.