By Hannah Esqueda
Image courtesy of Faith in Merced
MERCED, Calif. — Merced County residents concerned over school funding, health care and safety issues will have their chance to engage directly with public officials during a special forum this week hosted by Faith in the Valley, Merced (formerly known as MOP) and Building Healthy Communities Merced (BHC).
Organized in collaboration with partner organizations like Cultiva La Salud, Health Equity Project and PIQUE, the April 20th event aims to “lift up community concerns” and share residents’ ideas on a how local officials can create an “inclusive and just Merced.”
Key topics include health care access, protection of local families and educational equity within Merced County school districts. The latter idea builds upon an ongoing campaign among BHC and its partner nonprofits which have spent the last few years studying the Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs) drafted by area school districts.
Updated each year, LCAPs are a requirement of the state of California under its Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The school-funding model offers base-level dollars to school district for every student enrolled and additional money for “high-need” students like low-income and foster youth as well as English-language learners.
While each LCAP is meant to include parental input and reflect community ideas on how best to serve each of the three high-need student populations, Merced residents say their voices have traditionally been ignored.
According to event organizers, this week’s forum will serve as a platform for concerned parents to share testimony directly with school board members and ask for support in key recommendations from BHC’s LCAP campaign, including more specific dedication of funds to high priority students at individual school sites.
District representatives have been invited to Thursday’s action and both Adam Cox, school board president of Merced City School District (MCSD), and Richard Lopez, school board president of Merced Union High School District (MUHSD), are expected to attend.
Organizers say they’re hopeful that public testimony from the community will convince school officials to exercise more responsibility in the LCAPs, as both MCSD and MUHSD’s plans currently allocate few dollars specifically for students in need.
MCSD received more than $16 million in LCFF for high-priority students this year, however 90 percent of those funds are being spent district-wide, regardless of individual campus needs. A similar story has unfolded at MUHSD, with the district receiving just over $15 million specifically for foster youth, English-language learners and low-income students, but 82 percent of those funds currently go towards all-students, regardless of need.
The #1People1Fight United for Action event in Merced coincides with community forums planned throughout the region, the majority of which will be hosted by Faith in the Valley and focus on similar issues of sanctuary for families, education equity and health care for all.
The Merced forum is free and will include light refreshments and childcare services. Doors open at 5:30, with the program scheduled to start at 6 p.m. at the Italo-American Lodge in Merced. Spanish interpretation will be available.