But what is it? Like pornography, it seems to be something folks “know” when they see, but aren’t very comfortable defining.

For one thing, there’s the question of what kind of diversity we’re talking about. It’s used commonly as a proper noun, without explanation as to what particular sort of diversity is alluded to. Not nailing down a definition means there’s always room to squirt the other direction when challenged: “No, I meant ethnic diversity not racial”….

Socioeconomic diversity is often conflated with racial diversity, entwining racism and prejudice and all manner of unexamined presumptions. But the federal government provides a tolerably good way to quantify a school’s socioeconomic diversity. By using their surrogate measure of poverty, qualification for the free-or-reduced-price-meal-program (FRPM), schools in LAUSD are ranked by the proportion of their students who are Title I-eligible, or “poor”. This proportion though subject to considerable measurement error and bias, becomes a rough measure of the school’s poverty concentration. Title I is the federal program that supplements the budget of schools serving highly concentrated populations of impoverished children.

A school where more than 3 in 4 children are Title 1-Eligible (T1 > 75%) is in such high need that the federal government mandates these “T1” schools receive T1 monies first. Schools with a high T1 ranking can be understood to be “segregated” by socioeconomic status because so comparatively few children attend who are not low-income.

Conversely, as the proportion of T1-eligible kids drops in a student body, the “diversity” of the school goes up, by definition. Schools of middling T1 concentration are “diverse” socioeconomically. By definition.

The list of such schools noted the LATimes’ education reporter Howard Blume, “… reads like an honor roll of academic excellence”. Schools of middling T1 status are schools of high diversity and high achievement; they are schools that work. And when then-superintendent Deasy summarily disenfranchised Title 1 schools of 40% – 50% poverty concentration in 2012, there was an uproar of financial pain from these diverse, popular and high functioning schools. Of necessity, 24 of them – all located in the Valley ­– converted to “financially dependent” (aka “affiliated”; these terms are equivalent and contrast with “independent”) charters in order to qualify for per capita funding through a block grant since depleted, from the state directly.

Do not be fooled into imaging these schools of middling diversity from 50% to 75% or 80% are “country club schools”, as deceased board member LaMotte once facetiously referred to them. When more than half the students in a schools’ community are FRPM/Title I-eligible, there is a lot of real need among them individually, even if comparatively the community need is less intense. Accordingly T1-eligible students are mandated by the federal government to receive significant supplemental funds, only at a lesser rate. Nevertheless, this entitlement is mandated. Entitlements belong to the student by right, and should not be contingent on whether a student has chosen to attend a highly segregated rather than a relatively diverse school.


Budgeting impacts school diversity

California will suffer another round of Title I cutbacks and shrinkage analagous to termination of the temporary financial relief of Obama’s federal stimulus; changes to ESSA, carryover rules, a Hold-harmless clause that makes up missing revenue and increasing administrative costs are to blame. In deference to these disappearances and in an abundance of caution related to the uncertainty of estimation, LAUSD severely cut Title I distributions evenly across the district for next year, 2017-18 – by an agonizing 16.5%.

The board member from East LA, Monica García is arguing that the high-poverty concentration schools of her district are disproportionately hurt by this cutback. Using this crisis to force a redistribution of Title I funds would permanently disenfranchise the entitlement of poor children simply for exercising their prerogative of School Choice: these are children who chose to attend more diverse, yet nevertheless undeniably needy schools.

A resolution under consideration at Tuesday’s board meeting would drain Title I funds from schools of 50%- 80% poverty concentration and deposit those funds instead with LAUSD’s most socioeconomically segregated schools.

The problem is not that the need is not tremendous in these high poverty schools. The problem is that the need is also tremendous at schools of high poverty and high socioeconomic diversity. “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” denies Peter his entitlement and rebrands Paul the agent of Peter’s misfortunes. It is divisive, ignoring the need and humanity of constituent individuals within the system. It forces crippling hardship upon schools disproportionately, with large, secondary traditional public schools (TPS) absorbing more of the pain than smaller schools, and magnets and charters more than TPS in that order (see table).

Effect by school type


Resolution 42 imposes hardship on poor children who have the temerity to choose diverse schools over segregated schools. And it seems likely to recapitulate the calamity of 2012’s Title I disenfranchisements that forced an exodus of so many popular schools from the system. When an affiliated charter is denied their student’s entitlement, is it not logical they would look to the state to fulfill that mandate? If these 17 schools serving 23K students fully privatize their charters to become fiscally independent, would the lost ADA system-wide make up for such funds the resolution might redistribute into sponsoring board member’s districts?

The bottom line is that in schools of high diversity, poor individuals remain poor no matter the school’s poverty concentration, and they are entitled to the supplemental funds that buttress their school’s success. Under García’s proposal schools of 80%-100% poverty concentration gain $28/eligible student while diverse schools of 50%-79% poverty concentration lose 3.3x that: -$92/eligible student, across a very uneven landscape.


How much will your school lose?

Listed below by board district are the dollar figures that Title I schools stand to gain or more likely lose. Because this estimation game is a moving target it is hard to know how best to compare García’s “Proposal 1b” (see sketch tracking word of this Title I budget crisis and the unfolding of various responses to it), (a) the current allocation (“Proposal 0”) which is already an across-the-board 16.5% less than what (b) the steady-state (“Hold harmless” which functions here as a baseline) allocation would have provided. The final three columns of each district’s loss-list explore both comparisons. It’s bad enough what this proposed distribution will do in comparison with the current, 2017-18 cuts (“Proposal 0”), but in contrast with the baseline depauperized budgets of last year (“Hold-harmless”), the future may be tricky to operationalize for schools of diversity.

Overall effect of garcia proposal between districts


Is this a sustainable way to run a school district?

Springing this complex, divisive budgetary quagmire onto the agenda of two nearly-retired board members is sneaky and inappropriate. The new board will have to live with the long-term consequences of biasing allocations in this proposed manner, and the matter won’t even be implemented until next year. Why is it anything but precipitous and duplicitous to further this resolution now, in the midst of summer break when none of the affected stakeholders can hope to express the significant loss this proposal will bring?

Resolution 42 (the text is below) should be rejected at Tuesday’s meeting, or at the very least tabled until such time as the advisory body that will preside over this perverse scheme to resegregate us can own it. It is the next board that should take charge of this modern-day formula to hold fast the new separate-and-fundamentally-unequal.


Please sign this bilingual petition to urge NO ON RESOLUTION 42!

English– and Spanish-language versions of the petition are linked at the end of it. Please urge all your Title I friends to sign especially.


Here is the Resolution, scheduled to be discussed during Tuesday, 6/13/17’s board meeting, at 2:30pm.

Resolution 42, 06-13-17RegBdOBdPost2