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Leaders: Asm. Patrick O’Donnell Must Address Black Student Underperformance

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Tanu Henry | California Black Media

A coalition of California educators, civil rights groups, religious leaders, parents, students and other concerned citizens are calling on elected officials in Sacramento to do something about the continuing underperformance of Black students on California state standardized tests.

“We are in California, the Golden State, where Democrats hold a supermajority in the Legislature and where the governor is a Democrat. People that call themselves progressive have the authority and license to rectify the wrongs that have been served to African American Californians for generations,” said Dr. Margaret Fortune, an education advocate and founder of a network of seven charter schools in Sacramento and San Bernardino that focuses on closing the African American achievement gap and preparing students for college.

Fortune was speaking at a rally the National Action Network (NAN) Los Angeles Chapter held last week at the L.A. County office of Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), chair of the Assembly Education Committee.

In the hall outside of O’Donnell’s office, Fortune was standing with other advocates, activists, elected officials and students, carrying placards, and punctuating speeches the group’s leaders made with chants of “no justice, no peace.”

The demonstrators 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 the state’s assessment tests, according to the bill’s language.

Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-San Diego) introduced AB 2774 in February. The bill is co-authored by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Both Weber and Holden are members of the California Legislative Black Caucus.

Referring to funding requirements included in AB 2774, Fortune said, “this would generate an additional $400 million a year in perpetuity for the schools that serve Black students – because Black students are the lowest performing subgroup.”

Only 18 % of Black students in California pass Math on statewide standardized tests and only 23% meet the English Language Arts requirement, according to data compiled by the California Department of Education (CDE).

There are nearly 310,000 Black students enrolled in California’s public schools.

“Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell’s continued denial of a hearing for AB 2774 is intentional. It is yet another way the State of California and many of its elected representatives use their authority to hold back and manipulate the resources and conditions that would help our children overcome the racialized cumulative disadvantages in their K-12 Education,” said Christina Laster, NAN Western Regional Education Advisor and Liaison.

“We are opposed to such tactics and urge O’Donnell and the State of California to firmly establish their investment into the lowest performing subgroup of students statewide,” Laster added.

In California, funding for local educational agencies (called L-E-As 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-tiered structure. The first provides general funding to all education agencies. The second directs supplemental funding to agencies that meet specified criteria. The third approves concentrated funding, “which is generally required based on persistent performance issues over a specified period of time,” according to the CDE.

Approximately, 80,000 Black students in the state do not meet receive any additional funding under the LCFF, according to data compiled by the CDE.

Among the demonstrators at the Long Beach rally were Dr. Tecoy Porter, who serves as California State President of NAN and the organization’s Sacramento chapter president. The Rev. Jonathan E.D. Moseley, Interim President of NAN’s L.A. County chapter, also attended and spoke.

“We are going to come back if we don’t hear from O’Donnell in the next five to 10 days,” said Moseley.

“We will be back because our children’s education and future are at stake,” he ended.


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