Berkeley school district meeting addresses future funding, assisting underprivileged students

Kaleo Mark/Staff

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At Tuesday night’s Berkeley Unified School District’s, or BUSD’s, meeting, members discussed revising the English Learner, or EL, master plan, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new budget proposal and drafting a new Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP.

The meeting began with public comment, during which several BUSD students and parents spoke in support of modifying the district’s EL master plan

Andrea Calderon, a teacher at Sylvia Mendez Elementary School, voiced her concerns over insufficient funds and said she believes an updated EL master plan would provide the guidance needed to better support EL students.

“We as a district need to come together to develop a plan that best serves our English learners and supports them and is not a hindrance,” Calderon said at the meeting. “The demands on our teachers and students are not backed up by the support they need to be truly successful.”

Soon afterward, BUSD Assistant Superintendent Pauline Follansbee presented an analysis of Newsom’s new budget proposal. Lower than anticipated cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, funds — which are allocated by Newsom’s budget — may account for approximately $1.3 million in budget reductions over the next two years, according to the report.

BUSD board member Judy Appel said she believes other districts are also having funding shortfalls and that Newsom’s budget will not fully address the issue.

Later in the meeting, BUSD Superintendent Brent Stephens discussed the district’s 2020-23 planning process for LCAP — a tool for local educational agencies to support “high-need” students, and in particular, Black students and their families.

“I’m really appreciative to see this new African American success framework because it shows that it is something that our district values,” said BUSD board member Ka’Dijah Brown at the meeting. “I think that African American students and the challenges they face are sometimes swept under a rug.”

Kaleo Mark is a schools and communities reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @kaleomark_dc.