Fifteen years ago I attended a high school within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) system. At that time, I had access to a school counselor, a college counselor, a nurse, a school psychologist and teachers who stayed around. My teachers had such longevity at the school that I was able to revisit them once I returned from college. Today in LAUSD that is not the case.
Since the school psychologist was there a few days a week, I was able to access her for career exploration and advice. I knew I wanted to go into the helping profession and was exploring which avenue to take. She was able to sit down with me and tell me about her education to career, helping me make an informed decision about college and beyond. Our school counselor wore khaki shorts and a Hawaiian shirt everyday. When it was cold, he wore a school branded sweatshirt. Having a college counselor available full time allowed me to foster a relationship where he knew me by name, was aware of my educational growth, and had followed me from ninth to twelfth grade. I was able to hang out in the tiny office and access everything I needed to prepare for college applications and scholarships.
It is hard to imagine my high school experience without this support. I predict that I would have been unenthused, not challenged, and treated as a number (my high school had 3000+ students).
Today, Los Angeles has a special election for Measure EE — a parcel tax of 0.16 increasing funding to $500,000,000 annually for 12 years to offer support services (counseling/nursing/library services, arts, music, science, math, preschool, vocational/career education, safe/well-maintained schools, adequate instructional materials/supplies; support disadvantaged/homeless student) to local schools.
There are approximately 60,000 black students in LAUSD who would benefit from increased supportive services. While my high school seemed to have an adequate number of support services 15 years ago, I can also remember not having enough desks or books for each student in my US history class. I recall my school counselor not paying that much attention to me in our semester sessions because she had a long list of students to assist. While my school counselor should have been ensuring I accessed the Advanced Placement and Honors classes, she didn’t. My college counselor gave me the push and recommendations.
There is a lack of basic supports for honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses in South Los Angeles schools where a number of Black students reside. I was identified as gifted (showing the potential to perform at remarkably high levels of accomplishment) by middle school. My talents were promoted by access and engagement in honors and AP courses. If Black students who are identified as gifted do not have the ability to access certain supports, we are doing them a dis-service. We are not allowing them to be competitive when it comes to applying to college.
According to the 2018 California African American Policy Priorities (CAAPPS) Survey, nearly 4-in-5 Black voters (78%) identify public education as an “extremely high” priority for their elected officials to address.
This past weekend I braved through the mini-series, When They See Us, by Ava Duvernay. While hard to stomach, the state of NY public schools arose as one of the Central Park Five, Korey Wise, was on trial. It was insinuated that he frequently skipped class. He also mentioned his trouble reading. In one scene, he was even caught ditching school by his sister. The viewer can hypothesize a combination of scenarios that led to Korey being disinterested in attending school. On one hand the public school system had failed him; not only via his educational path but his school support system as well. He was falling through the cracks.
It is because of my school support system that I excelled. I want the same to be true for the Black students in LAUSD. It is important to vote today to help students gain the necessary resources to be competitive in this global economy.