The LCAP as Opportunity

When the State of California required Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs) as part of adoption of LCFF in 2013, the local commitment to student voice, leadership, and participation already existed within ESUHSD in large part due to its work with CFJ.

Therefore, at ESUHSD, the LCFF’s stipulation that districts engage their stakeholders as key contributors when constructing their local plans (California Department of Education, 2021) was not perceived as a new “requirement” to be implemented. Instead, it was seen as an opportunity to deepen their commitment to the work they had already begun. 

Californians for Justice, already actively involved in the larger struggle for stakeholder engagement long before LCFF, had already been organizing in San Jose to ensure the voices of diverse stakeholders were considered once the law was passed. As exemplified by one of the student statements shared by CFJ’s briefs during those early years:

“We want districts to take our voices into account when developing the LCAP, because who knows more about students’ problems than the students themselves?”

Karanvir Sadhu, former Student Leader

The results of this work were clearly reflected in The District’s priorities. “A long time before LCFF, we were already talking about empowering students”, shared Teresa Marquez. The District’s efforts were not motivated by the establishment of new policy, but to improve educational outcomes for students. As Glenn Van Der Zee shared, ESUHSD had long been striving to include student voices in decision-making processes:

“We have been intentional about including student voice, not just for the compliance part… but because we believe that in the [effort to] achieve the outcomes schools and districts have been trying to achieve for years and decades, we were missing the input from that group, and when speaking to [students] we discovered they had meaningful, measured, and purposeful things to say. That voice needed to be valued as a participant in this process.” 

Glenn Vander Zee, District Superintendent

After years of struggling to find effective solutions to long-standing educational issues, including deep inequities in outcomes and experiences, the positive impacts of centering student voice, power, and participation were beginning to pay off. In addition, the LCAP emerged as a mechanism that could augment the authentic engagement and voices of The District’s most important stakeholders: students.

The ability to affect this change was furthered by the shift from Economic Impact Aid (EIA) funds (California Department of Education, 2020) to LCAP funds, and the increased focus that the LCAP places on outcomes for certain groups of students, particularly foster youth, English learners, and low-income students. With the statewide implementation of LCFF and the LCAP process, stakeholder engagement shifted from a possibility to an expectation, giving district leadership further leverage in implementing systemic change while centering student voice, power, and participation at multiple levels. However, for youth to become effective participants within mainstream institutional spheres like the school system requires both a system of comprehensive and mutual accountability and support (Bishop & Noguera, 2019), as well as supportive ties to institutional agents (Stanton-Salazar, 2011). Furthermore, achieving long-term sustainable change would require a shift in both culture and structure (Schilling, 1992).