Apr 13, 2023 - News

Black students march in Sacramento for equitable school funding

Data: San Francisco Unified School District; Reading scores are for grades 3-10, math for grades K-12; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Black students marched on the state Capitol this week to protest Gov. Gavin Newsom's school funding equity proposal and demand targeted resources to address longstanding racial disparities in academic outcomes.

Why it matters: Newsom's proposal would set aside $300 million for schools with high proportions of low-income students, but a CalMatters analysis found that no more than 26% of California's Black students attend a school that would qualify.

State of play: California public schools are funded through a system that funnels more resources into districts with large percentages of high-needs students, such as English learners, foster youth and those who qualify for reduced-price lunches.

  • Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa) introduced a bill last year to provide additional funding targeted to the student group with the lowest standardized test scores but later withdrew it because of constitutional concerns.
  • Newsom promised to incorporate the funding into his proposed budget, which would also require all districts to publicly identify where African American student performance lags and develop goals to address gaps.
  • But some education experts say segregation and Jim Crow-type policies are systemic issues that contribute to gaps in outcome and will as such require resources targeted to the community.

Driving the news: More than 2,000 people showed up to call for equitable funding for Black students, the Sacramento Bee reports.

  • "We have been demanding change for too long without seeing change," Hannan Canada, a senior at Cosumnes Oaks High School in Elk Grove and the president of Black Students of California United, said at the rally.
  • "If we want equity, we need to start seeing direct solutions instead of trying to slap a Band-Aid."

Zoom in: As in the rest of California, disparities in performance have persisted for years in the San Francisco United School District, where African Americans constitute around 7% of students.

  • In the 2021-22 school year, 28% of African American students in grades 3-10 met the proficiency rate for reading comprehension, compared with 58% of all students.
  • The gap was smaller for math proficiency in grades K-12 but still notable — 41% of African American students versus 71% of all students.
  • Only 25% of African American students met the "college and career readiness rate" in 2020, the last year it was measured, compared with 58% of all students.

What they're saying: In a statement to Axios, Newsom spokesperson Izzy Gardon called the governor's proposal an "unmatched game-changer for advancing equity and student achievement using both carrots and sticks — funding and accountability."

  • Weber has endorsed the plan, as have the California Legislative Black Caucus and the California Association of African-American Superintendents and Administrators.

Quick take: The debate over improving student outcomes in San Francisco has remained somewhat tense since the Board of Education voted to make Lowell High School's admissions process a lottery system, which proponents said would bolster diversity and equity at the academically prestigious school.


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