Last week my niece Kennedy finished her first year of college and proudly texted me a screenshot of her final grades. She received all A’s…except for, she lamented, one A- in Biology. Just like my other nieces–Jordan, who is currently studying in Japan after finishing her freshman year at Spelman College and Kayla, who finished her first year with a 4.0, Kennedy is the product of a family with high expectations and parents who made sure they were enrolled in the best public schools with the best academic environments.
Not all families of color have had the same type of educational experience. According to a poll by The Leadership Conference Education Fund, while most Black and Latino parents and families have high expectations of their children, they believe their schools do not. Many believe there is an overwhelming disparity and racial inequity in school funding. For African-Americans in particular there is a strong sense of racial inequity in both funding and school quality, and they see this lack of equitable funding as the biggest cause of racial disparities in education. It’s important to note that according to the poll, these parents and family members “prioritize high-quality and well-equipped teachers, the fair treatment of students, and the opportunity to take challenging classes above all else.”
The annual poll was released this week just as states across the country work to develop plans to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, enacted by President Obama in 2015. As part of these plans, states are required to explain to everyone – parents, educators, and the U.S. Department of Education – how they will remove barriers to educational success for all children. According to Wade Henderson, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund who developed the poll to capture the beliefs of Black and Latino parents, “states are still developing plans and policies that preserve institutional inequities and impede educational success for children, particularly children of color.” We cannot allow that to happen in California.
As part of the process, states are required to consult with diverse stakeholders at multiple points during the design, development, and implementation of the plan. In our state, California’s Every Student Succeeds Act Consolidated State Plan is currently in development with guiding principles designed to be consistent with our existing Local Control Funding Formula approach. The goal is to promote coherence across programs to better serve the needs of local education agencies, schools, educators, and students and recognize their diverse and multidimensional characteristics.
Since June of last year the public has had the opportunity to participate in regional meetings, webinars, and surveys to provide feedback on what should be included in the State Plan. This month we all have an opportunity to give all our students the same opportunities Kennedy, Kayla, and Jordan had by reviewing the first complete draft of the State Plan, which can be accessed online: http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/es/draftplantoolkit.asp
In addition to this formal public comment period, stakeholders are encouraged to submit comments, questions, recommendations, or letters concerning the State Plan by email to ESSA@cde.ca.gov.