Another View: Local schools are fully ready to implement new funding plan

Published: Tuesday, Jun. 11, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 9A

Sacramento knows best – local school districts can't be trusted, especially when they have a bunch of poor kids in them.

That's what we read in Peter Schrag's recent column ("Here comes yet another school funding fix," May 31) criticizing Gov. Jerry Brown's Local Control Funding Formula. As school board members and education advocates in poor communities, we didn't like what we read.

Schrag argues those school districts tasked with educating underachieving students – mostly young people of color – can't be trusted to make the best decisions for their students.

Talk to school board members – especially in places where high numbers of struggling students live, such as Los Angeles, Oakland or Lynwood – and they'll tell you they understand their communities a lot better than Sacramento bureaucrats and columnists do.

Local communities elect their school board members to fix their schools because, in poorer communities like ours, parents care about their kids too. They want their children to succeed, to stay in a school that keeps them on a healthy path. The investment of a few extra dollars in local school districts that make the right decisions for their community can pay off exponentially for our students.

As California Forward explains, a "better education leads to better jobs, which leads to a healthier population ... and, ultimately, less pressure on government budgets."

Still, poorer school districts are falling farther behind than more affluent districts. The status quo is not working.

Editorial Projects in Education Research Center gives California schools a C grade and ranks them 30th in the nation in spending.

We applaud the governor for recommending we put more control in local communities. A recent California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University poll shows that people favor it 54 to 34 percent. The governor learned when he was mayor of Oakland what more people in Sacramento should know – the best decisions are made closest to the people. No one hears from constituents like a school board member because their constituents are parents with real "skin in the game" – their own children.

In that same poll, three out of four surveyed think California's middle class is shrinking. Put another way: People fear we are "creating an atmosphere" that will result in more poor people.

We increase the middle class by making sure we provide everyone access to a quality education, and preparing them for 21st century global economy jobs.

Providing a quality education in our communities is one of the most important civil rights issues we face. All students, regardless of their socioeconomic background, should have access to top quality education.

A student's ZIP code and family hardships should not dictate the quality of their education. Too many school districts across California go without the resources they need to help students meet the challenge of competing with their more affluent peers.

We've tried it Sacramento's way for far too long. It isn't working. Our schools and students deserve a rational and modern approach to school funding.

José Luis Solache is vice president of the Lynwood Unified School District Board of Education; Micah Ali is vice president of the Los Angeles County School Trustees Association; David Kakishiba is president of the Oakland Unified school board.

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