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San Bernardino not targeting funds to needy students, state says

San Bernardino County school officials failed to properly monitor the millions of dollars going to the most needy students, including English learners, students from low-income families, and students in families. ‘welcome, according to a conclusion from the California Department of Education which advocates hope will lead to an infusion of much-needed help for these children.

The finding came in response to a complaint filed last year by the ACLU of Southern California and Public Advocates Inc. on behalf of two community groups.

The advocates – Home Congregations United for Change and Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement – said they hoped the decision would pressure county school officials across the state to improve their control over billions of dollars. dollars that the state allocates annually to school districts for the most needy students. .

Parents and organizers are also hoping the results will lead to increased spending on enrichment programs, counseling, tutoring and social-emotional learning for students who need it most.

“COVID-19 has highlighted the disparities that have been shown to still be present in our school system,” said Jewel Patterson, a youth organizer with Organized Congregations for Prophetic Engagement.

Victor Leung, an attorney for the ACLU in Southern California, said that “unfortunately many counties do not do their job effectively in holding districts to account and in many cases are content to validate the reports “. The American Civil Liberties Union hopes the finding “will make all counties aware that they really need to do their homework and make sure it’s transparent and goes to the most needy students it needs to go to.” “, did he declare.

State officials have found two of the three allegations contained in the complaint to be substantiated. First, county officials failed to ensure that districts identified and justified how funds allocated to high need students were spent. The complaint alleged the failure resulted in a shortfall of more than $ 150 million in services for the county’s most needy students. County education officials dispute this conclusion.

The state also said the county should not have allowed districts to use money intended for students with high needs to pay law enforcement and other security services without showing how such use benefits them.

Jenny Owen, spokesperson for the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, said the ruling “validates that there has been no abuse or misappropriation of funds” by their office or affected school districts.

She added that the decision does not oblige the education office “to take additional steps other than complying with its oversight responsibilities … to move forward.”

The State Schools Funding Formula was intended to help correct educational inequalities by allocating additional funds to school districts based on the number of high need students in the district – including children in school. low income, young people in foster care and English learners.

Districts should use the increased funding to improve services for these students and show how the money has been used to achieve them.

The oversight of spending plans is the responsibility of county school officials. But advocates say there have been many loopholes that have allowed school districts to use the money for general expenses rather than for students with high needs.

In 2019, a state audit found that the state’s approach to the formula did not ensure that the additional money reached the intended beneficiaries.

In 2017, the Los Angeles Unified School District settled a lawsuit over how the school system was spending money for its neediest students by agreeing to allocate $ 151 million to 50 schools.

Sergio Luna, director of the organization with Inland Congregations Unified for Change, said parents in San Bernardino County have often asked their districts for programs such as music, wellness and parent engagement, as well. than teacher training, only to be told there weren’t enough. funds.

“What has emerged recently is that the districts were not 100% transparent with parents,” he said.

Patterson, the youth organizer, said the decision “gives the community a moment of ‘we hear you’ and a time when we are able to take those funds that were already earmarked for students with high needs and to use them for things that will actually benefit high needs students.

The county education office, meanwhile, is considering appealing the decision, Owen said.





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