One of the charges I hold seriously is to ensure every child in California has the resources they need to succeed.
As a product of California’s K-12 public schools in the Central Valley, I can still recall the deficiency in resources as well as the knowledge of those that were appointed to secure that my future endeavors were aligned for excellence.
Opportunities and supports were overlooked for the most part due to low expectations and bias. It was not that I could not complete the work, it was mainly in part to those faculty and staff that just could not see where I as a Black student fit in the narrative due to poor professional development and cultural competence.
AB 2774 focuses on fixing a school funding formula that was designed to supplement under-resourced schools.
This is why I, and my organization, the Black Students of California United (BSCU), are a co-sponsor of Assembly Bill 2774 by Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-San Diego) and Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena).
This legislation addresses decades-long inequities and specifically will support Black students who have continually been in the lowest performing student subgroup for years. This legislation will help change this as it is our responsibility to support our youth to receive the resources they need to succeed.
AB 2774 focuses on fixing a school funding formula that was designed to supplement under-resourced schools known as the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The LCFF was enacted in 2013 as a way to create a more equitable funding system for the highest needs students. The way the formula works is that specific subgroups of students attending school receive additional funding such as English Language Learners, low-income, and foster or homeless students.
Since its adoption, it has become clear that there is a gap that needs to be addressed regarding the lowest performing students. The LCFF does not recognize lowest performing students as a subgroup and these students deserve additional resources.
About 67% of students in the lowest performing subgroup do not meet English Language Arts standards and 79% do not meet Math Standards.
There are many reasons why Black students have experienced low academic performance including inequitable access to quality K-12 programs, inexperienced teachers, low expectations, racial bias, trauma, and lack of services.
What the data has shown that the two decades of low academic performance of Black students is that the performance gap is not siloed to only low-income but across the economic spectrum for these students.
Furthermore, according to the California Department of Education’s Academic Achievement Dashboard, 2019 statewide testing data show that 67% of students in the lowest performing subgroup as defined in AB 2774 do not meet English Language Arts standards and 79% do not meet Math Standards. Black students are currently and have been for years in the lowest performing subgroup.
In addition, Black students have the highest suspension rate of any subgroup at 8.8% and the lowest high school graduation rate at 76.8%. Black students have suffered for far too long without the additional support afforded to other populations.
AB 2774 would help close this significant inequity and provide the resources these students need and not have had access to in order to help close the performance gap.
AB 2774 will fix the LCFF funding that is intended to provide equity to students by recognizing that lowest performing students should be a subgroup to receive supplement funding. Right now, over one of every four Black students is not receiving additional supplemental funding through the LCFF. And that needs to change.
In addition, I do not believe that funding should go unchecked but that every dollar we allocate to students and schools needs to be transparent and include accountability to ensure the resources are being spent properly and to benefit the students who are in need. AB 2774 also includes such accountability measures.
I am concerned that every year that passes without addressing this inequity we are doing a disservice to our Black students. I believe that when we help our most in need to rise, we all rise. That is why there is no time to wait to change the law and support Black students so they can perform and succeed.
I encourage the State Senate to support equity in school funding by passing AB 2774.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Angie Barfield is the co-founder of Black Students of California United.