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Sal Güereña: Latino Parents ‘Stand and Deliver’ at Santa Barbara School Board Meetings

Latino parents have been coming out in droves to local school board meetings to express themselves and let school board members know just how they feel about educational matters of importance to them.

The Santa Barbara Unified School District’s move toward adoption of a proposed Local Control Accountability Plan has prompted a level of Latino parent interest not seen in years. Also called LCAP for short, the plan amounts to a paradigm shift of how schools are funded and just what their funding priorities will be.

California’s Local Control Funding Formula is driving the creation of LCAPs throughout the state, giving school districts greater local control on how they spend state money on schools.

Beginning at the school board’s LCAP public hearing on May 13, a crowd of about 100 Latino parents took their seats, filled the overflow room and spilled out the door as speaker after speaker cogently presented their arguments for needed improvements.

The most repeated requests were for increased attention to the needs of English learners, who parents pointed out amount to a third of the school district’s student enrollment.

Latino parents also argued for more centralized planning to support parent engagement services, as well as improved language access, and greater focus on the needs of children from poor families.

At the school district’s May 27 meeting, another lineup of outspoken Latino parents again pressed their case.

At that meeting, parent Mario Rodriguez spoke out on LCAP.

“While one of the most important statewide priorities of the state’s Local Control Funding Formula is parent involvement, we see very little tangible evidence for leadership, planning and oversight in the current LCAP draft plan,” he said.

La Colina Junior High School parent Rocío Jiménez also spoke to school board members on the value and importance of providing parent engagement support and oversight. She said she came out to support the creation of a school district position of Director of English learners and asked that the post include parent engagement services.

While standing room-only crowds are not unusual when there are hot-button issues, what is not usual is the regularity of Latino voices that are being heard and lately are becoming the norm at school board meetings.

Olga Zermeño, president of the school parent advocacy organization United Parents/Padres Unidos, welcomed this new development.

“I think that Latino parents are showing that they, too, want to be part of the solutions,” she said. “They are stepping up to the plate, they want to express their views, and they want to be considered partners with the schools. This is all good.”

The next school board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 10, at the SBUSD office, 720 Santa Barbara St. A big turnout of Latino parents is again expected as the district’s English Learners Advisory Committee will be presenting its recommendations to the school board that evening.

— Sal Güereña is executive director for the school parent advocacy organization United Parents/Padres Unidos. The opinions expressed are his own.

Fueled by an increasing turnout among Latino parents, Santa Barbara Unified School District trustees meetings are filling to capacity. (Sal Guerena photo)
Fueled by an increasing turnout among Latino parents, Santa Barbara Unified School District trustees meetings are filling to capacity. (Sal Güereña photo)

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