By Tanu Henry, California Black Media
A coalition of California educators, civil rights groups, religious leaders, parents, students and other concerned citizens are calling on Sacramento elected officials to do something about the continued underperformance of black students at the State of California standardized testing.
“We are in California, the Golden State, where Democrats hold a supermajority in the Legislature and the Governor is a Democrat. People who call themselves progressives have the authority and the license to right the wrongs that have been inflicted on African American Californians for generations,” said Dr. Margaret Fortune, education advocate and founder of a network of seven charter schools in Sacramento and San Bernardino that focuses on closing the achievement gap between African Americans and preparing students for college.
Fortune was speak at a gathering that the Los Angeles chapter of the National Action Network (NAN) met last week at the LA County office of Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), who is chairman of the committee of assembly education.
In the lobby outside O’Donnell’s office, Fortune stood with other advocates, activists, elected officials and students, carrying signs and punctuating speeches by the group’s leaders with chants of “no justice, not peace”.
Protesters were calling on O’Donnell to schedule an Assembly Education Committee on Assembly Bill (AB) 2774. The legislation would provide additional funding aimed at improving the scores of the lowest-performing subgroup of students on state assessment tests, according to the wording of the bill.
Assemblyman Akilah Weber (D-San Diego) introduced AB 2774 in February. The bill is co-authored by Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), chairman of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Both Weber and Holden are members of the California Legislative Black Caucus.
Referring to the funding requirements included in AB 2774, Fortune said, “It would generate an additional $400 million per year in perpetuity for schools that serve black students – because black students are the lowest performing subgroup.”
According to data compiled by the California Department of Education (CDE), only 18% of black students in California pass math on standardized statewide tests and only 23% meet English Language Arts requirements.
There are nearly 310,000 black students enrolled in California public schools.
“Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell’s continued denial of a hearing for AB 2774 is intentional,” said NAN Western Regional Education counselor and liaison Christina Laster. “This is yet another way for the State of California and many of its elected officials to use their authority to withhold and manipulate resources and conditions that would help our children overcome racialized cumulative disadvantage in their kindergarten education. in 12th grade.”
“We oppose such tactics and urge O’Donnell and the State of California to firmly establish their investment in the lowest performing subset of students in the entire state,” Laster added.
In California, funding for local education agencies (called LE-A for short by state government insiders) is determined by the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which was first implemented in 2013.
The LCFF is based on a three-tier structure. The first provides general funding to all education organizations. The second directs additional funding to agencies that meet specified criteria. The third approves concentrated funding, “which is typically required due to persistent performance issues over a specified period of time,” according to the CDE.
About 80,000 black students in the state receive no additional funding under the LCFF, according to data compiled by the CDE.
Among the protesters at the Long Beach rally was Dr. Tecoy Porter, who is president of NAN in the state of California and president of the organization’s Sacramento chapter. The Rev. Jonathan ED Moseley, acting president of the LA County chapter of NAN, also attended the rally and spoke.
“We’ll be back if we don’t hear from O’Donnell in the next five to 10 days,” Moseley said.
“We will come back because the education and the future of our children are at stake”, he concluded.