In Partnership with 74

City, LA Unified join forces for one-stop family needs centers*

Vanessa Romo | April 25, 2014

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Lydia Ponce at the podium

Lydia Ponce at the podium

Once upon a time people turned to local parishes in times of need, whether they needed help for aid for family counseling, putting food on the table or finding safe shelter.

Now, labor and city leaders in Los Angeles want that hub of help to be your local school.

SEIU Local 99, the school workers union, is the driving force behind OASIS — Optimizing Access to Services, Inspiring Success — a new program that will coordinate existing public and private programs to bring health care, tutoring, meals, counseling and other services directly to families in local schools.

By integrating resources from city, county, and community-based organizations, educators hope to improve students outcomes and increase parent engagement.

“Nobody can be sure if this approach is going to work,” School Board member Steve Zimmer told LA School Report, “but we owe to our students to see if this type of a model will work.”

“I think it will,” he said.

The program gained a boost today from the the Los Angeles City Council as members approved a motion to work with OASIS to improve the delivery of city services to families at LA Unified schools. It was unanimously approved today by the council in a 12-0 vote (three council members were absent).

“The success of our city depends on the success of our students,” Council President Herb Wesson said at a news conference on the steps of City Hall. “By reaching out to students and their parents directly in our schools we’re working to address real barriers that impact student achievement, and ultimately, building a better Los Angeles.”

The resolution directs LA City Departments, including the Economic and Workforce Development, Housing and Community Investment, Library, Parks and Cultural Affairs to develop plans for the implementation of services in the next 45 days.

Funding for the program comes from federal dollars, through the district’s California Office of Reform Education Waiver, which part of the No Child Left Behind waiver granted by the U.S. Department of Education last year. The waiver frees up about $80 million in Title I dollars that LA Unified can decide how to spend.

Lydia Ponce, an SEIU 99 member and Parent Community Representative at Venice High School, works to connect families with with local resources.

“In my position I’ve seen hunger, depression, fading hope, and longing,” she said at the news conference. “There are people who need help but there’s too much red tape . . . they don’t know how to get access to the resources that are available.”

“Having OASIS in the school will mean that a family won’t have to trek across town on a bus to apply for food stamps. They can come into the school and do it when they drop their kids off,” she added.

The official kick-off for OASIS is timed to coincide with the start of summer school programs in mid-June. If success, officials are planning to continue it through the school year.

Starting as a pilot program, the first centers will open at Utah Street Elementary in east Los Angeles, Venice High School on the westside, and Audubon Middle School and Fremont High School in south Los Angeles.

“The Great Recession has left many families struggling, and all too often their children feel the greatest impact,” Congresswoman Karen Bass said at the conference. “I believe that as lawmakers we have a responsibility to our children, especially those most in need, to provide opportunities like OASIS that address the needs of children and their parents. When children have a stable home and academic programs that stimulate their minds and ensure their health, students have a much greater chance to succeed in school and thrive in life.”

John Deasy, the LA Unified superintendent, was scheduled to join parents and other officials at the announcement, but after addressing the City Council, he did not attend.

*Adds comment from Rep. Karen Bass.





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