Commentary: An open letter to LAUSD’s school board candidates before Tuesday’s vote — and a plea to address Board District 5’s educational disparities
Yolie Flores and Layla Avila | May 13, 2019
Dear Board District 5 candidates:
Tomorrow is the runoff election in L.A. Unified’s Board District 5, a mostly Latino district. The next board member representing BD5 will not be Latino, and therefore, as educators and leaders of color, we believe it is critical that the ultimate winner in this election makes an explicit commitment to addressing the unique socioeconomic challenges that district residents face every day.
In order to improve educational outcomes for children across the district, the community needs a representative who can understand the important cultural characteristics that define it and who will be responsive to the variety of ways in which marginalization of Latinos has fostered educational disparities.
We call on the candidates to focus on the following issues:
- Focus on equity and diversity and their link to achievement. The new school board member should prioritize advocating for the needs, rights and safety of immigrant students, increasing the number of young children in dual-language early education, raising the percentage of college-ready students of color and increasing the number of teachers and administrators of color in schools. Research shows that the positive results for Latino students are indisputable when their backgrounds are reflected on the school board and in the classroom. Outcomes in graduation rates, dropout rates, enrollment in Advanced Placement classes, suspensions, expulsions and standardized test scores all improve, independent of other school population and economic factors. How will you increase teacher and administrator diversity in BD5 schools?
- Value and act on community input. Cultural competency and the ability to communicate with Latino families are critical to BD5 parents, who are frustrated that schools in their communities have been neglected for too long, especially throughout the district’s majority Latino southeast. Parents have shared that low expectations, overcrowded classrooms, poor school maintenance, safety and security concerns and poor food quality are challenges that don’t exist in schools just 10 miles north of where they live. What is your plan to engage and respond to the community to eliminate these disparities?
- Address the unacceptable third-grade reading proficiency problem. Smarter Balanced assessment results for the 2017-18 school year show that only 1 out of 7 socioeconomically disadvantaged third-graders in BD5 were reading above standard. Yet, research shows that third-grade reading proficiency is one of the strongest predictors of high school graduation and college matriculation. What will you do to lead on closing this gap for the students of LAUSD and BD5 in particular?
- Support the expansion of dual-language instruction. Dual-language instruction — one of the best chances for English language learners to succeed — is unquestionably provided to middle-class white families when requested yet often denied or dismissed when requested by Spanish-dominant families. How will you advocate for increased dual-language instruction for BD5?
We know from research and our personal experiences that the change the community deserves is only possible if the next leader on the school board can embrace its multifaceted set of challenges and strengths — and truly work in the best interests of the community you represent. We eagerly await your response to these questions so that we can more fully understand how you plan to meet the needs of our community.
We are a national network of Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC), and we look forward to working with the next representative of BD5 to set the entire BD5 community on a successful course for a better future. We hope that this is the beginning of an open dialogue to achieve that goal.
Yolie Flores, former LAUSD board member for BD5 and a member of EdLoC’s Los Angeles branch
Layla Avila, CEO and executive director of EdLoC
Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC) is a national membership organization of 300 leaders of color working to elevate the leadership, voices and influence of people of color in education and to leading more inclusive efforts to improve education. EdLoC aims to advance a third way that breaks through the polarizing divides that have consumed efforts to improve public education and to forge the alliances needed to realize and sustain EdLoC’s vision of providing low-income children of color expansive and substantive opportunities for the highest levels of academic and economic attainment.