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Local mom files lawsuit against Bakersfield City School District

Posted: 6:52 PM, May 01, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-02 01:52:34Z

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — A mother of two English language learning students is suing the Bakersfield City School District (BCSD) after the district decided to make changes to its summer school program for disadvantaged students.

The parent, who is not named in the suit, claims the district did not follow the legal process when they decided to eliminate the current summer school program. However, BCSD officials said they followed proper protocol.

Back in January, many angry parents and community members packed the BCSD hall in response to the district's decision in December to cancel summer school this year.

Now the local mom is challenging the district on its new decision.

"Our clients two children both attended summer school in the summer of 2018, they did very well, it helped them actually advance academically and put her daughter in particular in a much better position than she had been in the prior year," California Rural Legal Assistance Attorney representing the local mother, Cynthia Rice said.

Rice said the district did not follow protocol when they decided to make the changes to the summer school program for K-8 students within BCSD.

"The district decided unilaterally without consulting parents or the advisory committees that are required by law to cancel summer school for 2019," Rice said.

The Local Control and Accountability plan, also known as the LCAP process requires the district to develop a three-year budget and allocation plan for the funds it receives from the state for students.

According to BCSD, the LCAP is first drafted by district officials, then it is presented to stakeholder groups made up of teachers, staff, parents and community members. In early spring the draft returns to administrators for updates, it is then presented to the board for feedback. After that the second round of stakeholder meetings is held in late spring.

From there it is presented back to the board for feedback, then multiple public meetings take place before it is approved by the board and sent to Kern County Superintendent of Schools (KCSOS) for approval. After KCSOS approves the plan it is sent off to the state.

"The LCAP requires that this specific money it's called supplemental and concentration grant money, is specifically funded for districts to provide services for foster youth, English learners, and students who are eligible for reduced-price school meals," Rice said.

Even though the LCAP funds many programs in the district, according to Rice and BCSD, $1.6 million was initially set aside for summer school in 2017. BCSD, who declined to go on camera because of the chances of getting formally served with this lawsuit today, told 23ABC News they were seeing issues in summer school attendance and academic improvement among students.

In light of the issues they were seeing, BCSD said they decided to apply for a separate state grant to fund a downsized version of summer school at four low performing school sites in the district. This is aimed to help target the groups of students in need of extra help.

However, Rice said when they made the change to the original plan in 2018 they didn't get input from parents and committee members before submitting it for approval at the local level, which she said is required by law.

"Then after they made that decision they decided to convene some meetings to explain to people that they were changing the program, and why they wanted to change the program but they never bothered to tell them where the money was going to go," Rice said.

BCSD said they held nine separate meetings, where very few voiced concern over the new changes to the summer school program. BCSD also told 23ABC News that because they are using outside state grant funding and not state funding from the LCAP budget, BCSD does not need outside vetting surrounding the funds before submitting it for approval to the County Offices of Education and the state.

The County Offices of Education is required to ensure the BCSD LCAP budget is compliant with the education code requirements and the County officials said as of now, BCSD has met that obligation.

According to Rice, the new summer school program is also invitation only for students attending school outside of the four low performing schools.

BCSD said in the next meeting, they will discuss where the $1.6 million is going. They said it may go toward revamping after-school science, technology, engineering arts and mathematics programs, instead of allocating it towards summer school this year. That plan will also have to receive community input before it's approved.

Meanwhile, BCSD said discussions are still ongoing about year-round school. Officials said that plan is on hold for now, while they wait to see what the results are from this new summer school program.