The diversity of California’s students is an invaluable asset that enables our communities to thrive. State leaders have a responsibility to ensure all students have the opportunity to learn and achieve their goals.
Yet, many California students of color face persistent challenges. To address these challenges, Governor Newsom’s “Equity Multiplier” proposal would increase funding to schools with large shares of students from low-income families. However, the proposal is unlikely to be effective without doing more to address students’ needs outside the classroom, which are critical factors in their educational success.
The history of racism and its impact on communities is at the core of stagnant outcomes for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students. These negative outcomes are inextricably connected to inequities in employment and income, housing, health, and other factors unaffected by school spending. Exemplifying this connection are the increasing rates of chronic absenteeism. Statewide, the rate of students missing out on learning time has increased to alarming levels in recent years, and students of color — especially those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged — are disproportionately more likely to miss class time. Ensuring that students attend class and benefit from all the support schools offer involves addressing several challenges. For example, research shows that fostering safe communities and housing security are critical to get students to show up to school.
No doubt, increasing investments in schools, such as strengthening the education workforce, is essential to improve students’ educational outcomes and opportunities. However, addressing racial disparities in educational outcomes requires a comprehensive strategy that includes policies that broaden the economic security of families with school-age children. For instance, students’ families should be able to cover their rent because with stable housing students are more likely to attend school.
In other words, improving students’ educational outcomes must be addressed comprehensively in a way that addresses the interconnection between school, home, and community environments.
Ensuring educational opportunities for BIPOC students requires investments beyond the classroom that improve their well-being and that of their families. Increasing funding for schools with larger shares of students from low-income families should be a piece of a comprehensive strategy, but this policy proposal alone will not achieve desired goals without strengthening policies — such as food assistance, affordable housing, and refundable tax credits — that help students’ families meet their basic needs. Rethinking how to approach educational challenges by prioritizing investments outside the classroom is crucial to expand opportunities for all California students to learn and achieve their goals.