Soapbox

Here’s one thing that California charter schools and public school boards agree on

Sacramento Charter High School students walk past the ”wall of Fame” – the pennants represent colleges that former students have attended – in 2014.
Sacramento Charter High School students walk past the ”wall of Fame” – the pennants represent colleges that former students have attended – in 2014. Sacramento Bee file

The California Charter Schools Association and the California School Boards Association are unlikely partners. We are rarely on the same side of an issue, and we’re occasionally on opposing sides of a courtroom.

It takes a special matter for us to put our differences aside, and we’ve done exactly that in support of Assembly Bill 2635, which calls for equity in public school funding for the state’s lowest-performing student group.

Margaret Fortune.jpg
Margaret Fortune

Now, that group is African-American students, a historically underserved population with the results to match. In the future, it could be other underserved groups, such as Native American or Latino students.

AB 2635 will be unveiled Wednesday at the state Capitol by its authors, Assemblywomen Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, and Autumn Burke, D-Marina Del Rey, and Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson.

Mike Walsh 2017-18 Headshot.jpg
Mike Walsh

This bill would create accountability for the academic outcomes of African-American students because their collective performance demands it. Some people have been reluctant to speak directly that black students are failing in plain sight, instead using euphemisms such as “low-income” students.

Opinion

While it’s true that poverty is a major factor in educational outcomes, poverty alone does not explain the academic performance of African-American students as a whole. It’s high time we call the problem by its name and take decisive action to address it. AB 2635 does just that by directing resources to African-American students based on their academic performance.

The bill would allocate funds to schools that serve the lowest-performing group of students in 2018-19 – when state revenues for education are anticipated to be $3 billion higher than originally projected. It’s estimated that Elk Grove Unified would receive $10 million, Sacramento City Unified $5.3 million and San Juan Unified $1.5 million. That’s enough for the school boards and parents in these communities to take serious action to support African-American students. If AB 2635 passes, that could happen in communities across the state.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula, which includes most public school revenues, identifies three classifications of “high needs” students for additional funding: English learners, low-income students and foster youth -- all worthy recipients. At the same time, the formula overlooks 90,000 African-American students statewide who are not classified as low-income, but still perform below average on English and math tests. African-American students also have the lowest high school graduation rates and the highest suspension rates of any student group.

The new funding formula was designed to usher in a more equitable education finance system. But how can we take it seriously when 90,000 of the state’s lowest-performing kids are left off the list of “high-needs” students?

AB 2635 corrects that oversight in a way that better realizes the governor’s original intent -- directing more money to those students with the greatest need.

We stand united on this issue and encourage legislators, the governor and all members of the education community to join us in support of AB 2635.

Margaret Fortune is board chairwoman of the California Charter Schools Association and can be contacted at Communications@ccsa.org. Mike Walsh is president of the California School Boards Association and can be contacted at mwalsh@csba.org.

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