This just has to be said and it’s not pretty.

Why on earth does LAUSD refuse to fund schools of 40-49% poverty concentration?  The charade about leeching a critical “$5 dollars” from a “truly poor” child who simply cannot afford its loss, the absence of which a privileged person (such as myself) could never understand due to exclusion from the club-of-the-oppressed, just doesn’t hold water.

First, as board member Monica Ratliff pointed out during Tuesday’s 11/12/13 LAUSD board meeting, that $5 per capita does not make or break a school’s supplemental anti-poverty funding.  It just doesn’t.  And conversely, the absence of the allocation, lower because of the funding formula that gives less for kids attending schools of middling poverty concentration (pc), and fewer dollars needed as there are fewer such kids present – the monies on the line for the schools in the 40-49% pc category, absolutely and undeniably WILL make-or-break those schools.  It is a matter of life-or-death for those schools, not in the sense that without these monies the schools will close (since after all these funds are mandated for supplemental, and never core institutional needs), but in the crucial sense that:  that which characterizes those schools — vitality, functionality, exciting prospects, a safe-haven for learning that really, truly, actually happens — this is what is on the line.  This is what will die.  So in this sense, without anti-poverty funds, these schools will be broken because their essence will drain away.

Diversity is the key to raising people out of poverty.  Everyone’s boat must float, and as those waters rise, they bring one and all along with it.  In a community handicapped by an overwhelming concentration of challenges, the scrabbling that must take place to keep one’s head above the surface is fierce.  There is an undeniable need for intensive resources there, inside these communities of exceptionally-high poverty concentration.  No one denies this, everyone deserves this.

But another way to efficiently raise the bar of academic achievement, is to unpack the challenge across the district and allow buoyancy to do its thing in communities of middling poverty concentration.  It is in these special, high diversity-middling pc communities that schools which really work are found in large numbers. LAUSD has a large number of such schools and we should all be BLUSHING WITH PRIDE AT THEIR ACHIEVEMENTS.  Not a few of them are represented among the schools that have or may yet soon lose Title I funds as a result of setting a draconian Title I threshold.  By and large, these schools of middling poverty concentration boast exceptional achievement statistics:  They are schools that work!  And in addition to being proud as can be about our city which supports a school district harboring pockets of such concentrated excellence, we should be falling all over ourselves to figure out (a) what it is that these schools are doing that works so well and (b) how can we further support them, proliferate the model of excellence, expand it and do everything in our power to keep it happening:  replicate it!!!!

Does this then sound like a sensible strategy, to diminish funds to these high-performing, high diversity-middling pc schools?  To deny what the schools’ denizens are screaming from the rooftops are a rank-bottom critical need?  No.  It does not.  When everyone from such communities is thoroughly united around the proposition that supplemental funds for its economically disadvantaged constituents is essential to foster academic excellence, then that should be something everyone across this school district should be falling all over themselves to ensure.

Because this is a school model that works.  We can do this; we are doing it.  We have many, many school communities of high diversity and middling poverty concentration that work incredibly well – starving them of the constituent pieces that precipitate this success – i.e. supplemental anti-poverty funds — is the death-knell of their excellence.

Why-why-why would we want to do this.  Why?  We have a system that has worked.  We can demonstrate that its decimation is resulting in the system not working.  We can afford to revert to the system that was working – and we can afford to do so with no material disadvantage to another — critically, by drawing these funds from the bloated 34% of the Title I budget that does not ever go to kids directly.  And if not from this quarter then even, if absolutely forced as a last resort, via the $5-shortfall-that-isn’t-because-the-true-figure-is-actually-closer-to-$3.50-per-kid.

So let me answer that question.  Let me hazard a guess that is the only one that registers with the data and historical facts:  There is no obvious reason not to fund schools to a poverty threshold of 40%; we can afford it and the funds are demonstrably critical to these schools.  The funds will not appreciably undercut any other school or the children that attend it.   With demonstrated need, ability and unequivocal desirability, the only explanation for not eliminating a pernicious funding structure, is its corollary, that retaining the funding structure that encourages segregated pockets of high poverty concentration is deliberate, directed and explicit.

LAUSD does not wish to support schools of high diversity.  Within LAUSD is an explicit plan to systematize “pockets of high poverty concentration”.  The rules LAUSD sanctions are devised because, and only because, these enforce and reward the maintenance of “high poverty pockets”.

Absurd?  I’ll allow it sounds harsh.  What is the alternate explanation for this tenacious refusal to support schools that work and are in jeopardy of ceasing to do so for want of funds?  The supposition that funds can be raised privately or individually to supplant missing Title I funds is not only offensive in its expectations and presumptions, but impossible.  What remains are thousands of disenfranchised children whose wrongdoing has been simply to follow the federal government’s prescription for combating segregation: to utilize the magnet system.

LAUSD’s insistence on retaining a Title I threshold that is artificially high condemns thousands to hardship for want of services that their counterparts in schools of higher poverty concentration are not denied.  Recognizing this in advance, numerous students opt never to enter the magnet system, reinforcing this ever-tightening spiral of poverty and deprivation, scarce Title I funds notwithstanding.

If this is not a deliberate attempt to isolate and concentrate the poor, then the practice of –- hopefully inadvertently – subsidizing segregation should stop right away.

Which is it, LAUSD?  Are schools of high diversity and middling poverty concentration being inexorably forced into a negative feedback loop of insufficient resources that inhibit academic success?  Or has the higher Title I threshold just been a confused mistake that accidentally reinforces onerous socioeconomic patterns that with raised consciousness will be reversed … say, at next months’ board meeting?

I call on LAUSD board members to reverse the lamentable hung jury of last Tuesday that consigns thousands of needy children to insufficient resources, which though present within our district thanks to the federal government, are not being harnessed to maximal affect for all the deserving.