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Groups publish toolkit to guide parents through LAUSD

LOS ANGELES — A network of more than 60 nonprofit organizations gathered Jan. 19 at the United Way of Greater Los Angeles for the launch of a Parent Engagement Toolkit aimed at helping parents navigate the Los Angeles Unified School District system, and determine if their school is adequately supporting their child toward graduation, college and career.

The focus of the toolkit, designed by United Way and the Communities for Los Angeles Student Success Coalition, is to help strengthen and support parent-principal partnerships, create a system-wide conversation about inadequate funding for high-need student populations and encourage school sites to rethink budget allocations.

The free printed and downloadable guide is available in English and Spanish.

In the coming months, the network comprised of community partners including Families in Schools, Educators 4 Excellence, Community Coalition, Center for Powerful Public Schools, Central American Resource Center, InnerCity Struggle, Alliance for a Better Community, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Los Angeles Urban League, Parent Institute for Quality Education, Promesa Boyle Heights and others will help disseminate the toolkit to parents and parent leaders.

“United Way is committed to helping communities become active — knowledgeable — participants in the education of our children,” said Elise Buik, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles. “This is why we’re continuously working with partners to identify the best ways to present helpful tips and information to parents, in a linguistically and culturally sensitive way, that can make a real impact in their children’s education. We are driving change in our communities by empowering parents with the tools they need to advocate on behalf of their children.”

With the toolkit, parents can understand their children’s academic progress, monitor school investments and help steer them toward student academic success and learn how to ask questions that will enable them to access needed resources for their children.

In addition, the toolkit provides information on how parents can learn more about their school’s budget under the new state funding system, called the local control funding formula, and how to evaluate whether or not school investments are aligned with student needs.

More importantly, the toolkit encourages parents and principals to connect school budgets and investments to student success, Buik said.

“The Parent Engagement Toolkit is the resource guide that has been missing from previous parent engagement efforts,” said Maria Elena Meraz, executive director of Parent Institute for Quality Education, a nonprofit that builds partnerships between parents, students and educators to improve educational outcomes. “Since California announced in 2013 the distribution of school funds through the [local control funding formula] as a way to create a more equitably funded education system, we’ve worked with United Way to inform communities about the impact of these monies in our schools.

“Although we’ve made progress, there is still much work that needs to be done in order to ensure that low-income and foster care children, and English Language Learners receive proper funding resources. This is why this work is so critical,” Meraz added.

The United Way of Greater Los Angeles is committed to creating education pathways that help children and their families break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, and equipping communities with the tools necessary to succeed in school, Buik said.

The toolkit is one in a series of efforts over the course of 15 years that have sought to support students so that they can become college and career ready. It will serve as a launch pad for informed conversations between parents, students and educators, leading to stronger partnerships that ensure student progress.