Since 2018, parent leaders in South Los Angeles have organized for LAUSD to increase Black Student Achievement and directly funnel resources to Black students. After an unapologetic commitment to Black Student Achievement in December 2019 from LAUSD Local District South Superintendent Mike Romero, parents believed things would finally change for their students, but in 2020, they saw minimal action from the district.
Keshia Jones, who had to “navigate many hurdles” and was often left unsupported from the district when addressing her needs, is a core leader with the Black Student Achievement parent leader team at Innovate Public Schools. Over the years, she’s been an active voice in the campaign to increase opportunities and academic excellence for Black Students.
Despite facing a global pandemic that forced school closures, Black parents across Los Angeles, similar to Keshia, refused to give up on their children. With distance learning policies accelerating the inequities Black and low-income students endure in LAUSD, it was time for parents to take bold action for the 50,000 Black students enrolled in LAUSD. The 2020 political uprisings, coupled with the ongoing global pandemic, are shining more light on the very same educational justice and policy changes that Innovate parent leaders have been fighting for in Los Angeles schools. The actions taken by parents forced a widespread movement across LAUSD in which local districts and community members are now evaluating the status and experiences of Black students.
“What we know to be true is that the Black community is demanding more for Black students; who’ve historically received the least resources from the district.”
For three years, Black parents at Innovate built a movement to increase Black Student Achievement, pushing for representative policies in LAUSD that do not bundle Black students with all students of color, but for Black students to have district wide policies that provide equitable funding, targeted intervention programs, and center culturally responsive pedagogy.
The parallel movements occurring across Los Angeles, organized by LA Students Deserve and the Equity Alliance for Students have identified opportunities for LAUSD to double down on equity for Black students – demanding the district shift resources through the Students Equity Needs Index and divert funds away from school police and to Black students. What we know to be true is that the Black community is demanding more for Black students; who’ve historically received the least resources from the district.
Persistent in their efforts to bring the district back to the table, Black parents have now found their champion on the LAUSD Board with newly elected Board member, Tanya Ortiz Franklin. Jones and other parent leaders, like Everil Nelson, are “proud to be a part of a community team who is working with Board Member Ortiz Franklin to co-create a plan that allows them to offer feedback based on her experiences while also supporting her grandson, his school and their community.”
Now, in 2021, Black parents, faith leaders, community members and educators are working with Ortiz’ staff and holding planning meetings to devise a plan specifically focused on African American Student Academic Excellence in LAUSD.
A statement from Ortiz Franklin emphasized the importance of this partnership saying that “The meetings we are having with Black parents, community members and LAUSD staff are getting to the core of what’s needed- all stakeholders at the table. And it’s more than just showing up, it’s being an active voice in meetings, participating in breakout sessions and amplifying the concerns of Black parents and students. Participation from the Board level has been a long time coming and I am happy that I am able to work with parents and families in my district to really address their needs.”
Jones, who feels that a “partnership with district policy makers is key to real impact and change” looks forward to seeing the plan implemented. The plan, titled Validated: Promoting Academic Excellence for African American Students, was developed in partnership with Board member Ortiz-Franklin, local superintendent Romero, district staff, Black families, Black clergy and community leaders is Black centered. It sees parents as experts, calls for budget equity, presents targeted intervention models and most importantly, calls for a commitment from the district to adopt and implement the plan.
Outlining the need to take a collaborative stakeholder approach to meaningfully increase African American student achievement in Los Angeles, outlines opportunities for parent involvement, career-based mentorship, the effective hiring of teachers, principals and school staff, the need for cultural responsiveness, the problem with over identification of Black students in special education, a shift in the narrative to include the success stories of Black students, intervention processes, and overall removing barriers for Black student success.
“We can’t move forward with business as usual, we are very close to change, Black students and families have been waiting, working and advocating for this change to happen, now is the time, and I believe our partnership with Board member Ortiz Franklin can make that happen,” said Jones.
“We are putting action into the action steps,” and we will walk away with not only a commitment to increasing Black Student Achievement, but with a plan created by parents in collaboration with schools.
Innovate Public Schools is a nonprofit community organization that builds the capacity of parents and educators working together to create excellent and equitable public schools.