Student Advocates Helped Lead the Fight to Re-claim $2 Million
POMONA — The Pomona Unified School District (PUSD) has voted to restore more than $2 million in state funds to programs for high-need students. The school board changed its spending plan as the result of advocacy by students, parents, and activists who were outraged that funds intended to support low-income students of color had been improperly appropriated for law enforcement and school “security.”
Students argued that spending the funds on law enforcement would criminalize students instead of supporting them.
“I came to this district as an English learner,” said Ev Lopez of the Pomona Students Union, one of the groups that fought for the funds to be restored to high-need programs. “I fail to understand how cops and security would help anyone learn a new language. Cops and security didn’t help me learn English and they won’t help me get into college.”
Under PUSD’s revised spending plan approved by the school board Wednesday evening, the district will hire new counselors focused on high-need students for elementary and secondary schools throughout the district.
California’s Local Control Funding Formula legislation provides school districts with funding that they must spend on services for low-income students, English learners, and foster youth. The Pomona Students Union and Gente Organizada, supported by Public Advocates Inc., and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California, engaged in advocacy over the past year with PUSD and the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
Last month the county issued its determination that the school district’s spending plan would not be approved unless the funds were spent on programs for high-need students and not law enforcement.
“As an ally to the youth movement, I could only feel complete disgust and disappointment when I discovered funds meant to support foster youth were allocated for cops and security,” said Jesus Sanchez, executive director of Gente Organizada. “The majority of our prison system is made up of Black and Brown people who were in the foster system, and yet our school district decided to invest their resources in more policing. State leaders must ensure that these special funds are being utilized properly.”
Nicole Gon Ochi, senior staff attorney at Public Advocates, Inc. said, “Under California’s equitable school funding law, districts receive more money to educate low-income students of color and help them overcome the systemic barriers to reaching their potential. Investing these equity dollars in propping up the school to prison pipeline harms the very children that these funds are designed to support.”
Students, community members, and advocates plan to ensure that the board’s decision last night is properly implemented. They will continue to advocate for the district to adopt participatory budgeting, which is a democratic process to allow the public to shape school district spending.
Gente Organizada (Gente) is a community-led social action non-profit organization based in Pomona whose mission is to bring together generations to access, build, and wield their collective power to achieve educational, economic, and social justice in our communities.
Public Advocates, Inc. is a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that challenges the systemic causes of poverty and racial discrimination by strengthening community voices in public policy and achieving tangible legal victories advancing education, housing and transit equity.
The ACLU Foundation of Southern California, founded in 1923, defends the fundamental rights outlined in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. These include the right to freedom of speech and assembly, the right to religious freedom, due process of law, equality before the law and the right to privacy.