Report: Los Angeles Unified Shortchanges ELLs, Other Disadvantaged Students
A new report from a coalition of California-based charitable, civic, and civil rights organizations claims that the Los Angeles Unified schools diverts money from English-language learners, students from low income families, and those in the foster care system.
The criticism centers on hundreds of millions of dollars in increased state funding designed to benefit students who traditionally struggle academically, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The coalition— called the Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS)—argues the students are not getting the full benefit of the money that they are generating under new state funding formulas. The coalition includes the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Community Coalition, the Los Angeles Urban League, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Center for Powerful Public Schools.
While acknowledging that Los Angeles Unified faces long-term financial problems, the coalition still has questions about the district's spending priorities. State officials have raised similar concerns.
According to the report, Los Angeles Unified is using about $5 billion in funding to aid the disadvantaged students.
Chief among the coalition's concerns are that only 20 percent of the $1.06 billion that the high-needs students generate is currently distributed to schools based on the student population. Also, English-learners are 25 percent of the district's population, but only receive 1.5 percent of the designated funding. The report's finding are based on based on research led by Bruce Fuller, a University of California, Berkeley professor of education and public policy.
The groups want more transparency and accountability for the funding, and for district leadership to dedicate more of that money to improving the rate at which the district's 150,000-plus English-learners are reclassified as proficient English speakers.
The district has struggled in the past to meet the needs of English-learners. District leaders reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education in 2011 to overhaul its master plan for serving English-learners to improve educational opportunities for them.
My colleague Alyson Klein wrote a story for Education Week's special report on English-language learners about the challenges encountered by long-term English-learners, students who have been school system for years but "never managed to 'reclassify' and move on from the English-learner designation."
"There is much work to be done to connect monies to increased student outcomes that close the opportunity and achievement gaps. The CLASS coalition remains largely concerned at the extremely low outcomes for low-income, English learner and foster youth in particular," the groups wrote in a letter to Los Angeles Unified school board members. "We will not be satisfied until all investments, allocations and policies are rooted in equity, and precipitate improved outcomes for our students."
The district issued a statement in response, the Times reported.
"We agree that there is more work to be done to ensure great strides are made in the outcomes for all students and especially for our neediest students. ... We welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions around an equity agenda that is beneficial to all students in L.A. Unified," the paper wrote.