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Using Local Control To Expand Learning Opportunities

Students spend only 20 percent of their time in school. If we are serious about closing the opportunity and achievement gaps we have to invest in their experiences outside of the regular school day.
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Most consider the recently passed state budget as good news for education. The Governor funded an additional $3 billion for the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) for school districts, bringing the total LCFF funding to $55.6 billion in 2016-17. With this increase, districts with high percentages of students eligible for free and reduced price meals (FRPM), English Learners, and Foster Youth, will continue to see their per pupil funding increase more quickly than anticipated.

This good news, however, masks a significant threat to one of the key initiatives that we rely on to help close the opportunity and achievement gaps. California's nationally-recognized after school system is at risk of crumbling without additional state funding in this year's budget. While the costs, demands, and expectations of California's After School Education and Safety (ASES) programs have consistently increased, the funding has remained stagnant for almost a decade. With the California Consumer Price Index up 19 percent and the state minimum wage up 33 percent since 2007, programs cannot continue to provide the quality service we depend on with the same $7.50 per student per day. Instead of including an additional dollar per student per day in this year's budget, the Governor has made it clear that the fate of these programs relies on district LCFF investment.

In the Mountain View Elementary School District (El Monte, CA), we've made sure that expanded learning opportunities -- both after school and summer programs -- are of the highest quality. And we are committed to maintaining that quality by continuing to invest LCFF money. A $450,000 LCFF investment supports seven weeks of summer programming, designed to keep our students engaged and learning all summer long. An additional $300,000 during the school year helps boost the quality of programming, including fine arts activities and an innovative journalism program for English Language Learners.

The results are palpable -- students enrolled in expanded learning programs attend school more regularly, are better prepared and participate more actively in class, and have a strong sense of connection to their peers and adults in the school community. Seeing these impressive benefits, parents, students, and teachers all spoke up in support of this investment during the LCAP process.

Despite the Governor's budget decision, we are fully committed to supporting expanded learning opportunities. The research is strong. Without summer learning time, our students -- particularly those who come from low-income families -- risk losing two to three months of reading level each summer. This annual summer slide accounts for two-thirds of the ninth-grade achievement gap between lower and higher-income youth. With about 600 hours of additional learning time (the equivalent of 90 extra school days), students in after school programs go to school more, see improvements in their behavior, and increase their likelihood of moving on to the next grade level and graduating.

Students spend only 20 percent of their time in school. If we are serious about closing the opportunity and achievement gaps we have to invest in their experiences outside of the regular school day. By increasing our LCFF allotment, districts like ours -- that serve a high proportion of low-income, homeless, and foster care youth -- must use our local resources to ensure that students get the supports and opportunities they need and deserve.

This blog was co-written with Lillian Maldonado French, Superintendent, Mountain View Elementary School District, and we thank her for her input and assistance.