Equity in Education

All children deserve access to a high quality public education. CDF-CA believes each child has tremendous potential to learn and develop, and we work to ensure schools have the resources and supports to provide students with high quality instruction and a positive learning environment.

CDF-CA engages in policy advocacy, research, coalition-building, and youth organizing to fight for policies that benefit all students, especially poor students, students with disabilities, and students of color who too often attend schools with fewer resources, higher teacher turnover rates, higher drop-out and school push-out rates, and lower achievement outcomes. We believe educational equity is one important component of replacing the Cradle to Prison Pipeline® with a pipeline to college, career, and success for every child in California.

CDF-CA advocates for positive alternatives to exclusionary disciplinary policies and practices—such as suspensions, school transfers and policing of children and youth at schools—as well as adequate supports and resources to implement effective behavior management strategies that keep students learning in the classroom. 3.5 million public school students across the country were suspended out of school at least once in the 2011–12 school year, which has resulted in approximately 18 million lost instructional days (Civil Rights Project). At these rates, it is estimated that one in three students will be suspended at some point between Kindergarten and 12th grade (Shollenberger, 2015).

In California, 500,000 suspensions were issued in the 2013–14 school year, with higher rates for students of color, especially for Black and Native American students, who are suspended at 4.4 and 2.4 the rate of White students, respectively. Suspensions are associated with repeating grades, dropping out of school, and having contact with the juvenile justice system. Positive alternatives to punitive discipline include research-based practices that foster learning, equity and justice such as School-Wide Positive Behavior and Intervention and Supports, restorative practices, Social-Emotional Learning, and Trauma-Informed Care.

School Climate Policy Reform in L.A. County

CDF-CA works across Los Angeles County to promote positive approaches to school discipline that are restorative, trauma-informed, and child-centered—with a specific focus on the Los Angeles and Long Beach Unified School Districts, the largest and third largest school districts in California, respectively.

Long Beach, California

In Long Beach we have combined policy and data analysis with youth organizing and leadership development in a policy reform campaign—the Every Student Matters Campaign-Long Beach (ESM-LB). ESM-LB is comprised of several youth-serving community organizations, many of which are part of Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach. ESM-LB is also a Dignity In Schools Campaign chapter.

Our campaign seeks to work in partnership with Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) leaders, educators, parents, and students to promote a positive school climate and effective alternatives to discipline practices that currently remove students from the classroom and school. Unlike other large school districts, LBUSD does not have a district-wide discipline code that ensures the use of positive approaches and tiered discipline that employs suspension only as a last resort. Similar to other school districts in California, LBUSD has worked to reduce suspensions, but we still see punitive approaches—especially for students of color.

CDF-CA demands a district-wide school discipline policy that guarantees students have access to positive alternatives and supportive interventions to suspensions, school transfers, and over-policing at their schools. In addition to working toward these systematic changes, CDF-CA also invests in youth leadership development in North Long Beach at Jordan High School and with the Action Scholars Leadership (ASL) program, in partnership with Success In Challenges, Inc. We believe these school transformations are only possible with the leadership of those impacted—the students of LBUSD.

Los Angeles, California

In Los Angeles, CDF-CA participates in both the Dignity In Schools Campaign-Los Angeles (DSC-LA) and the Brothers, Sons, Selves (BSS) Coalition to transform school climate in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schools, and ensure the District is allocating sufficient resources and developing supportive infrastructure to implement the School Climate Bill of Rights—one of the nation’s strongest school discipline policies in terms of protecting and supporting students’ rights.

Dignity in Schools Campaign-Los Angeles

CDF-CA belongs to the Los Angeles chapter of the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC)—a national campaign that challenges systemic school push-out across the country and advocates for the human right of every young person to a quality education and to be treated with dignity. School push-out is a national crisis many students face as they do not drop out of school, but rather, are pushed out of school through the use of zero-tolerance, harsh school discipline policies that do not account for the overall well-being of individual students or school communities.

Students all over the country are being over-suspended, transferred out of comprehensive schools, and over-policed for subjective, low-level actions. These harsh school discipline policies do not work. DSC advocates for policies and practices that support students, teachers, and communities by preventing conflict at schools, and intervening in a manner that resolves the root causes of discipline issues. DSC unites parents, youth, educators, advocates, community organizers, lawyers, and researchers to adopt and sustain positive alternatives to zero tolerance school discipline policies. CDF-CA works with DSC-LA to secure adequate resources for positive school climate in the Los Angeles Unified School District through effective implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula.

Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition

CDF-CA belongs to the Brothers, Sons, Selves (BSS) Coalition along with several other youth development, base-building, and advocacy organizations that work collaboratively to improve the life conditions and outcomes of boys and men of color in Los Angeles County and California. Low-income and young men of color living in L.A. County have the lowest life expectancy rates, highest unemployment rates, fewest high school and college graduates and most murder victims of any demographic group.

BSS engages in fast-track social justice campaigns led by young men from diverse backgrounds and also seeks to strengthen the leadership of young women and other specific populations experiencing the layered injustices of racism, economic injustice, sexism and homophobia. In collaboration with DSC-LA, BSS led the campaign to pass the School Climate Bill of Rights in Los Angeles. CDF-CA works with BSS to secure adequate resources for positive school climate in the Long Beach Unified School District through effective implementation of the Local Control Funding Formula.

School Climate Policy Reform in California

CDF-CA is a member of the Fix School Discipline-Policy Coalition (FSD-PC), a statewide coalition of organizations that work to improve school discipline policies and practices in California’s schools. We work together to ensure that school climate protections and supports for both students and school staff exist at both the state and local levels.

In the last few years the FSD-PC has built awareness about the effective school climate practices that should replace the punitive approaches that do not work, as well as helped pass laws that ensure students have access to effective alternatives to suspensions; prohibit students in Kindergarten through 3rd grade for being suspended for willful defiance (a subjective cause for low-level behavior that is often overused), and ensure schools promptly re-enroll students coming back from the juvenile justice system, for example.

Education Funding Equity and Justice

In 2013, California lawmakers transformed the way schools are funded by passing the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Under LCFF, school districts receive more state funding to benefit high-needs students, those in low-income households, English learners, and foster youth. The law grants school districts more flexibility and local control to make spending decisions that meet the needs of their students, and requires each school district develop a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) that outlines goals and strategies to improve services and outcomes for high-need students. The law also requires that students, parents and community members be engaged in developing funding goals and priorities.

At a statewide level, CDF-CA works with other advocacy and community organizations to ensure sound implementation of LCFF that is consistent with the promise of equity for all students. At a local level, CDF-CA works with students, parents, community organizers, lawyers, advocates, and other stakeholders to monitor implementation of LCFF by the Los Angeles and Long Beach Unified School Districts. We help build the capacity of students, parents and community stakeholders to participate in the LCAP process, and make funding recommendations in the area of school climate.

Data and Publications

Get the latest research and data on education in California and beyond.

Our Publications

Untold Stories Behind One of America’s Best Urban School Districts
Children’s Defense Fund - California & Public Counsel | October 2016
This report focuses on recent education equity and racial justice trends in LBUSD related to school climate. We explore how students, especially students of color and high-need students — low-income, English Learner, special education, and foster youth — have been impacted in recent years by exclusionary school climate practices. The findings and recommendations in this report seek to encourage more district-community collaboration that supports student learning and a universal pathway to college and career for LBUSD students—particularly high-need students.

Long Beach Equity Index
Children’s Defense Fund - California | July 2016
This Equity Index of Supplemental and Concentration Funds Target Schools was created specifically for LBUSD by BHCLB with support from Advancement Project. The Equity Index builds upon LBUSD’s current list of high need schools, based on the concentration of high need students per school site, by also including academic and neighborhood indicators that affect student learning and are of concern to constituents.

LCFF Recommendations for Positive School Climate
Children’s Defense Fund - California | April 2014
Six Control Funding Formula (LCFF) recommendations to Long Beach Unified School District to support positive approaches to school discipline that address behavior and support all students’ learning and engagement.

Other Resources

Analysis of School Climate Priority in Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs) for California’s 50 Largest School Districts
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids | January 2015
An analysis of the effectiveness of the LCAPs of the 50 largest school districts in the state to decrease suspension rates and 100% have actions to address school climate.

REPORT: Building A More Equitable and Participatory School System in California
Ed Trust - West | December 2014
An analysis of first-year Local Control and Accountability Plans with an eye towards how transparently and effectively districts share these plans with the public, along with how they propose to invest in the success of low-income, English learner, and foster care students.

Joint “Dear Colleague” Letter
U.S. Department of Justice & Education | January 2014
A joint letter to assist public elementary and secondary schools in meeting their obligations under Federal law to administer student discipline without discriminating on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

Model Code on Education and Dignity
Dignity in Schools Campaign | October 2013
A set of recommended policies to schools, districts and legislators to help end school pushout and protect the human rights to education, dignity, participation and freedom from discrimination.

Brothers, Sons, Selves
Liberty Hill Foundation | January 2012
A pivotal landscape analysis on the conditions and outcomes for boys and men of color in Los Angeles County.

Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study on How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement
The Council of State Governments | July 2011
A study of nearly 1 million Texas public secondary school students suspended and expelled from public secondary schools, and the impact of those removals on students’ academic performance and juvenile justice system involvement.

Civil Rights Data Collection
US Department of Education

How We Can Fix School Discipline Toolkit
Public Council

Local Control Funding Formula
California Department of Education

Our Partners

The following organizations are working hard to bring equity to education.

American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California

The ACLU 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. The ACLU also relies on state constitutional provisions and federal and state laws that further these and similar rights. https://www.aclusocal.org/

Brotherhood Crusade

Founded in 1968, the Brotherhood Crusade’s principal mission is dedicated to building and sustaining an institution that raises funds and resources from within the community and distributes those funds directly back into the community. http://www.brotherhoodcrusade.org/

Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach

Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach is a non-profit organization focused in Central and West Long Beach that supports community engagement to ensure that “Health Happens Here.” BHC Long Beach works to build a sustainable community where health happens not just in the doctor’s office, but also with active transportation options, quality housing, healthy food access, improved environmental health, increased school attendance, parent engagement, and youth violence prevention. http://www.bhclongbeach.org/

California Conference for Equality and Justice

The California Conference for Equality and Justice (CCEJ), is a human relations organization dedicated to confronting bias, bigotry and racism in America. CCEJ promotes understanding and respect among all races, religions and cultures through advocacy, conflict resolution and education. http://www.cacej.org/

Californians For Justice

Californians for Justice is a statewide grassroots organization working for racial justice by building the power of youth, communities of color, immigrants, low-income families, and LGBTQ communities. Led by students, we organize to advance educational justice and improve our social, economic, and political conditions. http://caljustice.org/

Centro CHA

Centro C.H.A. exists with the mission to enrich the lives of low-income, underserved Latino/a youth, families and neighborhoods in the City of Long Beach through community advocacy, health and educational programs, social and economic enrichment, cultural arts, community
service, and after-school youth development programs. Through various programs and services, Centro C.H.A. strives to develop future leaders, create and maintain healthy communities, and instill a sense of pride within the Latino/a community of Long Beach. http://www.centrocha.org/

Community Asset Development Redefining Education

CADRE is a community-based, membership parent organization in South Los Angeles founded in 2001. CADRE is led by African American and Latino parents and caregivers whose children attend local schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). We work for systemic change by supporting grassroots South LA parents as the leaders in stopping the pushout crisis in schools serving low-income neighborhoods of color. http://www.cadre-la.org/

Community Coalition

Community Coalition works to help transform the social and economic conditions in South LA that foster addiction, crime, violence and poverty by building a community institution that involves thousands in creating, influencing and changing public policy. http://www.cocosouthla.org/

Educated Men with Meaningful Messages

Since 1996, EM3 at St. Mary Medical Center, has provided multi-ethic youth with opportunities to be proactive about issues that affect youth and their community. https://www.facebook.com/EducatedMenwithMeaningfulMessages

Filipino Migrant Center

We will work for an empowered Filipino community actively engaged in the movement for local and global justice. We aim to educate, organize and mobilize the low-income and working-class families of the Filipino community in Southern California and address the issues and concerns that we face in our daily lives. http://filipinomigrantcenter.org/

Gay-Straight Alliance Network

Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA Network) is a next-generation LGBTQ racial and gender justice organization that empowers and trains queer, trans and allied youth leaders to advocate, organize, and mobilize an intersectional movement for safer schools and healthier communities. https://www.gsanetwork.org/

Inner-City Struggle

InnerCity Struggle has worked with youth and community residents since 1994 to promote safe, healthy and non-violent communities in the Eastside. We organize youth and families in Boyle Heights, unincorporated East Los Angeles, El Sereno and Lincoln Heights to work together for social and educational justice. http://www.innercitystruggle.org/

Khmer Girls in Action

Khmer Girls in Action is a community-based organization whose mission is to build a progressive and sustainable Long Beach community that works for gender, racial and economic justice led by Southeast Asian young women. http://kgalb.org/

Labor/Community Strategy Center

The Strategy Center is a Think Tank/Act Tank for regional, national and international movement building, founded in 1989 and based in the 10 million-person world city of Los Angeles. Our campaigns, projects, and publications are rooted in working class communities of color, and address the totality of urban life with a particular focus on civil rights, environmental justice, public health, global warming, and the criminal legal system. http://www.thestrategycenter.org/

Public Counsel Law Center

Public Counsel is the nation’s largest not-for-profit law firm specializing in delivering pro bono legal services. Founded in 1970, Public Counsel strives to achieve three main goals: protecting the legal rights of disadvantaged children; representing immigrants who have been the victims of torture, persecution, domestic violence, trafficking, and other crimes; and fostering economic justice by providing individuals and institutions in underserved communities with access to quality legal representation. http://www.publiccounsel.org/

Social Justice Learning Institute

The Social Justice Learning Institute (SJLI) works to fundamentally improve the lives of urban communities of color. To achieve this goal, SJLI helps individuals and groups build their capacity to assess injustices, and then use their own agency to advocate for, and achieve, health and educational equity. http://www.sjli.org/

Success In Challenges, Inc.

Founded in 2001 by Rev. O. Leon Wood, Jr., Success In Challenges is a non-profit grass-roots social service agency largely serving the greater Long Beach Community. Our mission is to provide community youth and adults with safe, interactive programs that promote good citizenship, character development, creativity and discipline, designed to inspire them to face life’s challenges with enthusiasm and dignity. http://successinchallenges.com/

Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA

The Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA is a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the foundations of community through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. http://www.ymcala.org/weingart-east-los-angeles

Youth Justice Coalition

The Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) is working to build a youth, family and prisoner-led movement to challenge race, gender and class inequality in Los Angeles County’s and California’s juvenile injustice systems.The YJC uses direct action organizing, advocacy, political education, transformative justice and activist arts to mobilize system-involved youth, families and our allies – both in the community and within lock-ups – to bring about change. http://www.youth4justice.org/