By Olivia Rodriguez
COACHELLA, CALIF. — This month, parents, students and community organizations gathered outside of Palm View Elementary in Coachella, Calif. before a Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) hearing. This is the third year the coalition, organized by Building Healthy Community Coachella Valley, has continued advocating for accountability and transparency in the LCAP funding process.
LCAP requires school districts across the state, including the Coachella Valley Unified School District, to submit a funding plan every year. For the last three years, local stakeholders have worked to have the CVUSD school board include the community in conversations about district funding priorities. However, this coalition has found themselves in the same position, yet again.
Silvia Paz, hub manager for BHC Coachella Valley, said CVUSD has not disclosed all the LCAP funds they received from the state for years. In the fiscal year 2016-2017, CVUSD was granted 30.8 million dollars through LCAP, but the district only budgeted to spend 26.5 million. However, as of Wednesday, June 14th, CVUSD disclosed they only spent 18.9 million out of the 30.8 million they were originally granted in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
“By law, the school district is required to engage parents in the decision making process and on how they allocate funds for the LCAP,” Paz said. “We have several questions that need to be answered by the school district in terms of how much money they are receiving, how much they’re planning to spend and how much they have spent. We have incomplete information regarding that and we need them to listen to the priorities of the community.”
At the recent LCAP hearing on Thursday, June 8th, students, parents and community partners voiced their concern that funding was not allocated for the implementation of Restorative Justice in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. In the previous fiscal year, the LCAP did allocate funding for the implementation of Restorative Justice. However this year, the district has proposed cutting funding for implementation and instead allocating funding for a counselor to oversee Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports (PBIS) and Restorative Justice.
Members of the BHC Coachella Valley coalition presented the CVUSD board with a petition signed by 200 community members urging the board to make Restorative Justice implementation a priority. Sandra Ramirez, local organizer and mother of four students at CVUSD, addressed the school board Thursday night.
“We need to see that the money is being invested in our children’s education, in programs such as Restorative Justice so that we can guarantee that our children will feel comfortable in school with a healthy school climate,” said Ramirez. “The district needs to be held accountable. They need to have transparency and let us know cent by cent and dollar by dollar how they will be investing the money in the education of our children.”
Students from Desert Mirage High School and the BHC’s Youth Organizing Council also spoke at the hearing about the benefits of funding Restorative Justice, an alternative to suspensions that focus on building better relationships between teachers and students.
“It’s important for our classrooms to have togetherness so that we can avoid conflict between students that don’t really know each other and so through Restorative Justice we can change the type of discipline we’re given. Restorative Justice would help to make a better, healthier climate for the school,” said Angel Garcia, a student at Desert Mirage.
Sahara Huazano, project manager for BHC Coachella Valley, said she thinks the proposed 2017-2018 LCAP does not address the community’s priorities.
“It’s really important for us to take into consideration the comments from the parents that were involved in the LCAP forums because we saw that 32 percent of the comments made at the LCAP forums were in regards to Restorative Justice,” said Huazano.
Community advocates said they look forward to receiving more updated information regarding the 2017-2018 LCAP at the next hearing. The district has scheduled the second LCAP hearing for Thursday, June 15th from 6:00pm-9:00pm at the CVUSD district office in Thermal, Calif.
About the Author:
Olivia Rodriguez, 24, is from Thermal, Calif. She graduated from UC Berkeley in 2015 with a Biology degree. One of her favorite places in the Eastern Coachella Valley is the Mecca Park where you can find her playing basketball. At the end of a long day she loves spending time with her family in their garden enjoying a cup of unsweetened chamomile or hibiscus tea. View her author page here.