By Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media
With a 7-0 vote, the Assembly Education Committee approved legislation that would require California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction to identify — and provide targeted funding for — the lowest-performing pupil subgroup in the state. That sub-group is Black students.
Assemblymembers Akilah Weber (D-San Diego) and Chris Holden (D-Los Angeles), both members of the California Black Legislative Caucus (CLBC), co-authored the legislation: Assembly Bill (AB) 2774.
AB 2774 also requires school districts, charter schools, and county offices of education (COE) to be held accountable to provide additional services and improve academic performance. Weber and Holden say they wrote the bill to remedy existing racial equity gaps and ensure that all Black students regardless of socio-economic status have the resources they need to succeed.
“This is one of our priority bills,” Weber said of the effort to enhance educational resources for Black students. “We think it is time for California to invest and focus on closing the academic achievement gap. (This bill) will add a new sub-category for the sole purpose of achieving improved test scores.”
The bill is headed to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations, chaired by Holden.
Before the vote, educators, students, and faith leaders held a rally at the State Capitol in support of AB 2774. If approved, the legislation would provide $400 million per year in additional funding for the lowest-performing subgroup.
In 2019, testing data showed that Black students are the lowest-performing subgroup on state standardized tests with 67% not passing English Language Arts (ELA) and 79% not meeting the Math standard. The legislation, the authors say, is designed to address longstanding equity issues with the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which was created to provide additional funding for the highest need students in California. The LCFF was enacted in 2013.
Supporters of AB 2774 say that over one-quarter of Black students are not receiving supplemental funding through LCFF. “This is not the first time this bill has been introduced. It was previously introduced by my mother Dr. Shirley Weber who is now our Secretary of State,” Weber said. “Although we did not get everything that we wanted, our persistence will ensure this time we will get it passed. We fought hard to make sure we got this hearing.” The language in AB 2774 states that the subgroup identified for the 2023-2024 fiscal year, based on the 2018-19 the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) scores “shall be included within the ‘unduplicated’ pupil count until its scores equal or exceeds the highest performing subgroup (Asians).”
Existing law provides school districts, charter schools, and County Offices of Education (COEs) with a base level of funding based on the enrollment of pupils who are either English learners, low income, or in foster care. But students that fall into more than one category are counted only once for LCFF purposes, hence the term “unduplicated pupil,” AB 2774 language explains.
Along with Weber, other advocates for Black students attending the rally included Dr. Margaret Fortune, Founder and CEO of Fortune School of Education, a network of seven charter schools in Sacramento and San Bernardino; Dr. Ramona Bishop, co-founder of Elite Public Schools, a charter school focused on technology based in Vallejo and former Superintendent for Vallejo Unified School District; the Rev. Tecoy Porter, Executive Director of National Action Network Sacramento; and the Rev. Jonathon Mosley, Director of National Action Network Western Region.
Other attendees were Joette Spencer Campbell, NAACP San Bernardino; Tak Allen, International Faith Coalition; Dondrell Swanson, Alpha Community Education Initiative; and Bina Lefkovitz, Trustee Sacramento County Board of Education; and Tracie Stafford Chair of the Sacramento Democratic Party.
Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chairperson of the CLBC, and Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Sacramento) also attended the rally. “This is going to be a collective effort to show that we all care, and all are accountable for the achievement of Black students,” Fortune said.
“This is the third time we’ve gone after this bill, and the third time with Dr. Akilah Weber it is going to be the charm.”