Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS) Coalition’s letter to Superintendent Beutner and the LAUSD Board requests a public meeting to address equity and online learning



 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - June 23, 2020

CONTACT:

Jen Wheeler, Ocean & Mountain • (310) 344-1551 • [email protected]

PHONE AND VIDEO INTERVIEWS available with spokespeople from signing organizations

SPANISH-SPEAKING SPOKESPEOPLE available

In response to last week’s announcement that LAUSD schools would remain virtual this fall, the Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS) Coalition has demanded a special meeting of the LAUSD Board of Education in July to address concerns about equity in distance learning and the need for enhanced social-emotional support. A letter sent by the coalition is included in this release.

“We are disappointed at the lack of engagement with students and families from the school board as important decisions are being made. Virtual learning will inevitably increase inequities and further the digital divide for our most vulnerable students,” said Ray Lopez Chang, Program Officer, United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “This pandemic has intensified existing equity issues in our education system, making them more serious and urgent. Technology including devices and stable internet connections are still not universally accessible.” 

Our students deserve to be served by a well-thought-out instructional model that includes a clear plan for engagement, communication, and data usage to close these gaps. This plan should not be written in a vacuum with the input of a select few, but be inclusive of the diverse voices throughout the community and throughout the district as well,” said Alicia Montgomery, Executive Director, The Center for Powerful Public Schools. “In addition, there needs to be transparency around the progress of student learning in this plan. Furthermore, any plan needs to be written with the future in mind. We do not need to return to normal, for there were many things wrong in what was normal. Rather, we should let the sacred cows die and allow a new and better system emerge.

Based on the District's own data, our Black and Latino students were receiving less instruction during the shelter in place months this last school year. This is unacceptable. We need a different approach to distance learning,” said Jeimee Estrada, Executive Director, Educators for Excellence. “A July board meeting will allow educators, students, and parents to weigh in on what the entire community and district can do to improve this situation for kids in the fall.

The District's decision last week to keep schools closed was the right one. LA Unified must make another important decision on what distance learning will look like on August 18th. Students, parents, teachers, staff, and administrators who are most impacted, must be included in the decision-making process,” said Vanessa Aramayo, Executive Director, Alliance for a Better Community. “This pandemic has shed more light on the growing inequities our Black and Brown students face. Listening to the concerns of parent and student voices about the numerous challenges we are experiencing is vital to making the right decisions and finding solutions that work. Together, we can get there.

Established in 2013, Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS) is a collaborative of parent, student, educator, community-based and civil rights organizations dedicated to ensuring that historically underserved students receive an equitable education through advocacy and community engagement. The coalition’s membership represents over 150,000 students, families and teachers. It includes the following organizations: Alliance for a Better Community, CARECEN, Center for Powerful Public Schools, Community Coalition, Educators for Excellence, Families in Schools, InnerCity Struggle, MALDEF, Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, Promesa Boyle Heights, TeachPlus, United Way of Greater Los Angeles, and United Way’s Young Civic Leaders.

FULL TEXT OF CLASS COALITION LETTER BELOW

“LAUSD must consider our voices”—student, Benjamin Franklin High School

Board Members and Superintendent Austin Beutner,

Firstly, thank you for the paramount decision to keep school doors closed during impending coronavirus spikes. The unique ways that COVID-19 has aggravated inequities against our most vulnerable communities tell us that it is doubly important we treat the health and safety of students and educators as first and foremost.

These inequities, unfortunately, are worsening. Students are battling learning loss, parents are feeling uncertain, and educators need our support. As we approach the beginning of a new school year, our communities continue to have many questions and are feeling unheard. When students tell us they feel “belittled” because of thin community input on what the new school year should look like, we grow deeply concerned. 

Black and Brown families, especially, are experiencing a lack of adequate connectedness to their school communities, including heightened anxieties around what distance learning will look like. This should not be a surprise, considering the gross impacts of the digital divide.

Students depend on their teachers' and school administration’s intentional support and connection, year-round, to help them succeed. While, at times, connections between students and teachers have been strengthened by educators’ commitment to supporting students, COVID-19 and this country’s response has robbed them of a school community that supports their academic progress and social-emotional wellbeing. We can’t do it all in an online setting, but we must do more.

As a coalition that has remained adamant about our stance on equity, our primary goal has always been to uplift the voices of those we serve. Today, alongside many families and educators, we are calling on LA Unified to hold a Special Board Meeting in July. Time is running out and we are at a critical moment where it is unacceptable to walk into the school year without having proper avenues for community voice to be at decision-making tables.

Students are requesting more social-emotional support, more meaningful interaction with their peers, and an opportunity to influence decisions that affect the way that they learn in this virtual environment, especially those who must navigate distance learning for younger family members. Now, more than ever, this District has a responsibility to listen and consider the voices of the folks most affected by what is happening to our learners.

We will kindly await your response and truly look forward to your actions.

Thank you,

Communities for Los Angeles Student Success (CLASS) Coalition

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LAUSD MUST CONSIDER OUR VOICES