Tanya Ortiz Franklin, District 7
Candidate for the LAUSD School Board - District 7
Focusing on Early Intervention:
The results and benefits of early intervention are proven. Yet, challenges persist in identifying and serving young students with disabilities. What would you do to improve the District’s early identification and intervention initiatives?
First, District staff need to stop telling school sites that they’re “over-assessing.” I appreciate the intention on reducing disproportionality for certain communities and ethnicities, but the message must never be about avoiding identification, placement or services for any student who might qualify. Second, the District’s revised Student Support and Progress Team (SSPT) process is an improved way of looking holistically at individual student strengths and needs related to skills and abilities in academics, language, behavior and social-emotional skills. School site teams need to meet early each year to establish routines, meet often throughout the year to be responsive to referrals, and also meet for a variety of purposes, including discussing universal and targeted support for groups of students, not solely for intensive and individual support (which is often the case). Having worked closely with SSP teams at several schools in District 7, I know that to be able to do this well, school teams need training in data analysis and intervention techniques, dedicated time to discuss student needs and make decisions, and the resources to implement the determined strategies, including observation and feedback to improve practice.
Given our teacher shortage, recent scholarship has suggested that states alter credentialing regulations to create universal teacher credentials. Teachers will then prepare and acquire certification for both general and special education. Do you think changing the credential requirements would combat the shortage and facilitate inclusion of special education students in general classrooms, or would these credentials have little practical effect on special education programming? Would changing the credentialing process train ALL teachers to work with and educate students with disabilities? https://edpolicyinca.org/publications/special-education-california
As a former general education teacher in LAUSD who always had students with IEPs in my classes - as most teachers do - I always felt that there was more to learn and more to do for my students with disabilities and other diverse needs. While additional credential program coursework in learning about disabilities, accommodations and modifications or field work in special education programs could absolutely help incoming teachers, we know that continuous learning on the job is an important part of professional growth and impact on student learning. As the district is moving toward more inclusive practices, we will have to plan for additional time for all current educators to learn new skills and participate in non-evaluative coaching cycles to improve their craft to meet the needs of all students.
As state and federal funding for special education decline, districts have redirected money from their general fund to cover the costs. Would you support decreasing funding for school police to cover the costs of special education, increased mental health support, and other supportive measures?
Absolutely yes. While school police officers have been helpful in emergencies and protecting student safety from threats outside of the school building, I don’t believe uniformed officers posted daily on secondary campuses is an effective use of funds nor of building healthy school culture. I have been in coalition with community partners elevating the voices of students demanding more mental health support, college counseling and restorative justice, and we have to think creatively about how to fund these critical supports. Though special education is a federal requirement paired with a commitment of 40% funding from the federal government, that promise has never been fulfilled and we must demand our fair share from Sacramento and Washington, D.C. A good first step is passing Schools & Communities First in November to increase revenue for much-needed services in our district.
The IDEA requires school districts to engage in transition planning for students as they approach graduation and adulthood. These services and supports can be essential for students with disabilities who are college bound, career bound, and those pursuing independent living skills. Too often, however, transition assessments and planning are skipped over and treated like a formality. What would you do to address this often-neglected area to improve the post-K-12 outcomes of LAUSD students with disabilities?
Transition plans should be treated similarly to individual graduation plans and middle school culmination plans - on-going conversations with students and their counselors (or DOTS teacher for transition plans) about goals, progress, and next steps as students matriculate through and beyond their secondary schooling. Part of the challenge to having deeply personalized and on-going counseling conversations with students is the counselor/teacher to student ratio, especially in some of our more impacted and historically marginalized communities. While a family with greater financial resources can consult with a private college counselor or possibly lean on their own college experiences, other families rely exclusively on district resources for academic and career counseling. To meet the needs of our highest-need students, as a board member I would advocate - as I have been for the last three years - for more resources to be distributed through the Student Equity Needs Index (SENI). SENI ranks our schools based on holistic student need (e.g. incoming academic performance, attendance and neighborhood health conditions among others) and allocates funding through a formula that results in greater resources going to schools with greater need.