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Battle lines forming in LA Unified for ‘Local Control’ spending

Vanessa Romo | April 3, 2014

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imgres-4The battle over the new money coming into LA Unified from the state’s new Local Control Funding Formula starts in earnest tomorrow when Superintendent John Deasy lays out his plan for the 2014-15 budget.

Deasy is meeting with reporters to unveil his spending priorities plan for an estimated $390 million the district will receive in extra resources, before he presents it to the school board on Tuesday.

It’ll be the first glimpse of how well (or how poorly) competing interests have lobbied for a piece of the pie, and it’s likely to kick off of an intense debate over dollars as the district — like all school districts in California — formulates its Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) over the next couple of months.

A preview of the pressures came into view today when Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS) and various constituencies outlined their wish-list for some of the districts’ neediest schools.

Under the new plan, districts will receive a base grant per student. Beyond that, students who are either low-income, foster youth or English learners earn supplemental money. Additionally, schools with more than 55 percent of low-income students get concentration grants.

Elmer Roldan, education program officer at United Way of Greater Los Angeles, said the group is calling on Deasy to allocate 80 percent of the supplemental and concentration funds for use in educating students with the highest needs.

“Because these students are the reason that LAUSD is receiving this extra funding, then we want that to be the priority for the district,” he said.

United Way is also urging the district to allow spending decisions to be made locally — by principals, teachers and community members  — and not centrally by district officials. Furthermore, they are asking the district to reserve an additional $50 million for foster care services and $25 million for English learners.

Roldan called unfair an argument made by school board members whose districts cover more affluent areas, that the district should invest the extra revenues in districtwide initiatives since more than 80 percent of LAUSD students are high need.

“This would make sense of all kids came into the classroom living in the same conditions with the exact same opportunities, but we know that that’s not the case,” he said.

Angela Vazquez, a policy analyst with the Advancement Project, wants a plan that puts foster youth students front and center. Her group is staging a rally on Monday

As an example of the need, she says there are only three staff people dedicated to serving more than 8,000 foster care students in the district.

“We know that foster youth are the least likely to graduate, the most likely to drop out and the most likely to change schools during the year,” she said. “They face an achievement gap on statewide tests, even compared to other LCFF target populations.”

Once Deasy shares his proposal with the board, the lobbying for priorities is expected to intensify and probably continue until the LCAP plan is complete.

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