December 13, 2013: As school districts begin to hold community meetings to bring parents and the community into the (required) loop of engagement, one trend is clear: business as usual, i.e., announcing mid-week evening meeting, one that requires physical attendance of working families is probably not going to be a barn-burner.
At left, Dr. Cathy Nichols-Washer, superintendent of the Lodi Unified School District.
From Wes Bowers in the Lodi Sentinel yesterday (Lodi Unified held two meetings on the Local Control Funding Formula this week) [emphases ours]:
...District officials asked those in attendance Thursday night, just eight parents and community members, to suggest what skills or abilities they’d like Lodi Unified students to have by the time they graduate.In addition, guests were asked to propose what programs or services may help students and the district achieve those goals. Those in attendance said they’d like to see more language immersion classes, or a focus on technological, communication and organizational skills. Programs and services suggested to help students with those skills included Regional Occupational Programs, summer school, personal finance programs, and more informational technology courses. In addition, many said students’ curriculum should be more fun, as that would help them learn and absorb more information...
The descriptive choice of the attendees -- guests -- may have been the reporter's. School officials need to keep in mind that taxpayers are not guests. They might even be considered hosts. In approaching issues of parental and civic engagement, semantics is not irrelevant.
December 6, 2013: Most parents of students in California's public schools have heard "nothing at all" about the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) adopted by the state to give local school boards more flexibility in spending allotted monies -- but, says a new survey from EdSource, "they are eager to get involved in school district spending decisions."
At left, district superintendent of the Fresno Unified School District, Michael Hanson, explains the LCFF to a parent group at a meeting in November.
...The survey of 1,003 parents across California is the first to look at how connected and involved parents are with their children’s schools. It found that the majority of parents had heard “nothing at all” about the state’s new finance system, which requires districts to involve parents in spending decisions. Altogether, 57 percent said they had not heard of the formula, compared with 9 percent who said they knew a great deal about it.
But when they were given a short explanation of the [LCFF], three-quarters of parents said they supported the idea and close to three-quarters were willing to commit from an hour to 10 hours per week helping guide school spending decisions. Only one in 10 opposed the reforms...
The survey also reveals distinct differences among high-income and low-income parents:
- Nearly four in 10 parents (39%) who report incomes of $100,000 or more describe themselves as “very involved” in their child’s school, compared to only 24 percent of those reporting incomes of $30,000 or less.
- 43% of parents with incomes higher than $100,000 give their child’s school an A, compared to only 25% with incomes of under $30,000.
- 39% of low-income parents feel that only a small group of parents have the opportunity to engage in decision-making at their child’s school, compared to only 19% of high-income parents who feel that way.
These differences suggest schools will have to work harder to engage low-income families, whose children are targeted for extra funds under the new finance system....
The EdSource survey was funded by the California Endowment (one of the funders of EdSource, but which "has no say in its editorial decisions); the California Endowment is also funding parent education programs in selected districts in the state. One such forum was held at Edison High School in Fresno in early November; at that time, "more than 100" parents and school officials gathered to discuss the LCFF and the extra $15 million Fresno USD will be getting as a result of the recalculations of allotments for low-performing schools and schools with high percentages of at-risk students. The small group at Fresno signalled some of the conflicts that will arise in local districts among differing interests: longer school days, increased teacher pay, more early education aides, lowering class sizes, more career tech ed classes...and the groups that represent these interests: school boards, school administration, unions ...and parents.
The California Endowment is a 17-year-old foundatioin created by WellPoint Health Networks, the for-profit subsidiary of Blue Cross of California. The foundation reports that over the years, it has "invested in health broadly, from strengthening the safety net for families struggling with poverty to diversifying the health care workforce."