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March 5, 2020

Funding Meant for High-Need Student Programs Given to Police in Many Southern CA Districts

LOS ANGELES — An investigative report released today by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and Public Advocates Inc. shows that tens of millions of dollars earmarked for programs to aid high-need students were instead unlawfully spent by school districts on school police and other security measures.

Diverting these funds from English learners, foster youth, and low-income students violates the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) that went into effect in 2013 in California. Spending the money instead on police is not only unlawful, it sends a message that these students — often of color — are automatically to be considered security risks that need to be controlled.

"The research and narratives being presented can no longer be ignored by education leaders,” said Jesus Sanchez, founder and executive director of Gente Organizada, a non-profit community group based in Pomona that participated in creating the report. “The over policing and militarization of schools is a racial equity issue. We need to create tenacious policy to protect black and brown students from abusive systems that think it is acceptable to dehumanize our young people.”

The study — which showed that 56 school districts in Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties illegally diverted funds — began last year with the Pomona Student Union (PSU) that is part of Gente Organizada. At the time, the student-run group discovered that Pomona United School District was attempting to spend millions of dollars intended for high-need students on law enforcement and security. The youth leaders ultimately convinced the district to reallocate those funds towards hiring more school counselors.

The diversion of funds meant for high-need students was especially disturbing in that many of the districts had a need for more counselors, social workers, psychologists, and nurses. For instance, 60 percent of the districts reviewed in the report had student-to-counselor ratios exceeding 500:1 and 10 districts lacked counselors altogether.

“Given how severely California underfunds its public education system, it is all the more critical that school districts spend its scarce resources in an effective manner to serve students,” said Nicole Gon Ochi, senior education attorney of Public Advocates. “Stationing law enforcement on campus does not help to close achievement gaps or create a more positive school climate for low-income students of color, whereas school-based mental health professionals, restorative justice, and positive behavior intervention programs do.”

The report includes several recommendations to stop districts from diverting funding meant for high-need students. Among them:

  • Lawmakers and other policy makers must issue guidance that school districts should not divert education funding to school police programs that have been shown to be ineffective and even harmful for students.
  • School board members and administrators must welcome community and participatory processes that gives parents and others meaningful input.
  • Parents, students, and teachers should review their district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) funding to ensure that it is spent on programs for high-need students.

“We hope this report serves as a wakeup call,” said Sylvia Torres-Guillén, the director of education equity of the ACLU SoCal. “The state, county offices of education, and school boards must stop cheating students and live up to their obligations to ensure that funding for high-need students is actually spent on resources that support them.”

Read the report here:


Thursday, March 5, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
ACLU of Southern California, 1313 W. 8th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90017
Please contact:, 213-977-5252