(photo credit: Matthew Grant Anson)
In our coverage of the Local Control Funding Formula – the new way California’s schools are funded that places more control of funds in the hands of districts while giving more money to districts with high need students – we’ve stressed the importance of parental involvement.
LCFF requires that districts, in their pursuit of figuring out where they should spend their newly freed up resources, must provide the opportunity for parents to weigh-in. However, a new study commissioned by EdSource reveals that California school districts are going to have to work especially hard just to inform parents what LCFF even is.
According to the survey, which asked questions to 1,003 California parents with children in public schools, parents overall are involved in their kids’ schooling, but are almost completely in the dark as to what LCFF is or what it will do. Only nine percent of Californian parents reported knowing a great deal about the formula, while a whopping 57 percent have never even heard of it.
But all is not lost. Fortunately, parents are still supportive of the funding reforms once they learn a bit more about it. According to the study, “the policy has the support of at least seven in ten parents across lines of gender, ethnicity, language, and income” once they’re given a short summary of the policy change.
This is good news, but it comes with some caveats. Even though parents do like the reforms, parents (particularly low incomes ones) still face roadblocks on their way to voicing their opinions to their district. The dichotomy is striking. While 39 percent of parents in households with incomes of at least $100,000 report being “very involved” in their kids’ school, that number drops to just 24 percent for parents from household incomes of $30,000 or less. This isn’t necessarily surprising; less income means more time spend trying to put food on the table, which means less time to devote toward a child’s academic future.
Because the status quo isn’t surprising doesn’t make it acceptable, however. It means districts in California must work especially hard to make it possible for parents to bring their concerns and suggestions to the table. A good start for them would be to take a look at the reasons why parents aren’t as involved in schooling as they would like to be, as reported by the EdSource survey.
By far the main roadblocks for parents are “Not having enough time” and “Work hours make it difficult,” each coming at 69 and 66 percent, respectively. Senior director of policy programs for the California School Board Association minced no words back in October when she told California Forward the common sense steps districts must take to do the correct type of outreach: “Districts need to be flexible about scheduling,” Burns said. “If most parents are working until 5 o’ clock, having a meeting in the middle of the day doesn’t make any sense.”
Schools must combat this by working with parents to figure out what times of day are more suitable to their work schedules, even if it means extra LCFF outreach meetings and more time and energy from our districts. The survey results show that the desire is there with parents. It must then be a collaborative effort between them and districts to ensure education can be a top priority for anyone with a child regardless of their place on the income spectrum.