Group calls on LAUSD officials to adopt ‘racially just’ budget – Daily News

 

LOS ANGELES >> About 30 parents, students, educators and community activists gathered outside the Los Angeles Unified School District’s headquarters on Thursday, May 13, demanding the school board adopt a “safe and racially just” budget for the 2021-22 school year and beyond to meet the needs of students of color who have historically been underserved.

With the nation’s second-largest K-12 system poised to receive an estimated $5.2 billion in COVID-19 relief aid, members of Reclaim Our Schools LA — a group aligned with the teachers union — called on district officials to use the money to transform public education and to address the impacts wrought by decades of underfunding schools.

Their demands come at a time when students and families are starting to emerge from the pandemic and as society faces a racial reckoning.

It also comes just weeks before the school board is scheduled to adopt a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Earlier this week, the board decided to more than double the amount of money the district will distribute to schools this coming year through an equity-based funding formula based on student needs.

On Thursday, Reclaim Our Schools announced it was kicking off a budget campaign, as members called for an additional $200 million to be allocated to support the district’s Black Student Achievement Plan. The Board of Education had allocated $36.5 million to this initiative earlier this year, which will provide resources to 53 low-performing schools with high concentrations of Black students.

“We know we need a transformation of our public schools,” Joseph Williams, director of operations and campaigns at Students Deserve, one of several groups that make up the Reclaim Our Schools coalition, said during a news conference.

“We’re here advocating for a safe and racially just reopening (of schools) … and we are here demanding that they meet the needs of our students, of our parents, of our educators, of our community members,” he said.

Coalition members are demanding the district set aside funds to:

  • Pay for social workers, counselors and special education and academic supports ($350 million);
  • Reduce class sizes ($250 million);
  • Invest in technology and Internet services to address the digital divide ($140 million);
  • Provide small-group tutoring, Saturday school, college and career readiness programs and other learning opportunities ($180 million); and
  • Invest in summer school, child care and enrichment activities ($120 million).

Additionally, group members want the district to hire enough nurses so there is one at each campus and to continue to invest in community schools by adding 10 such schools each of the next three years. Community schools provide wraparound services such as health programs and other resources to students and families that go beyond meeting their academic needs.

Furthermore, Reclaim Our Schools is calling on the district to convert vacant or underutilized district property into housing for low-income families.

Group members also continued to push for the complete elimination of the district’s police department, following last year’s advocacy which resulted in the school board slashing $25 million from the department’s budget.

Months later, the board voted to redirect the $25 million to support Black students in LAUSD and removed officers so that they’re no longer stationed permanently at schools. Their presence on campus made students of color feel targeted, say those who want the department completely defunded. Some students claim they have been the victim of or witness to random searches by school police or have seen officers use pepper spray.

“We need care, not cops,” said Maleeyah Frazier, a 10th grader at Hamilton High. “Instead of police and handcuffs, Black students need counselors, mental health support and programs with our futures in mind.”


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