By Simone Cranston-Rhodes
For too long, our community and educators have not kept an attentive eye on what is happening with the superintendent or the board at the Fresno Unified School District (FUSD). Amid controversy and an FBI investigation, more eyes are turning to the FUSD as we begin to question where the true values of this district lie. Is it in improving education for its students?
The FUSD is the largest employer in the city of Fresno with more than 10,000 employees. It t3,700 educators teach 73,000 students on a daily basis. This is an institution that everyone in our community should care about and be invested in.
Now is an important time in the FUSD’s history. A new funding format has begun to take place across the state. This new formula funds all districts equally (instead of based on test scores) and provides increased funds to districts that have children living in poverty who are English learners or are foster youth. Because the FUSD has a high concentration (87%) of these students, it will receive even more funding.
Over the next few years, the FUSD will have an increase of $280 million a year on an ongoing basis. Last year alone, it got an increase of $71 million and an additional $123 million this year, with an additional $28 million coming in that was announced this month. With an increase in funding to this degree, it is critical that the community is watching to ensure these funds are spent to improve education for students.
The language of the new funding states it is critical that students, teachers and parents be a part of the process in deciding how to spend these new funds. As a part of this process, the Fresno Teachers Association last year hosted a series of meetings called Stand with Students. The attendees, including teachers, parents, students and community members, were asked what would improve education in the FUSD. The more than 500 attendees came up with these top priorities:
- Smaller class sizes
- More social/emotional help for students
- Increased campus security
As these new funds begin to be implemented into the FUSD there is no reason that we can’t provide these improvements to our schools. We need a cap system for our classroom sizes, which means hiring more teachers. Schools need to have more personnel for children who need social and emotional help, and increased staff to provide campus security. We as a community need to keep the pressure on the school board and the district to make sure these important changes are made.
The Fresno Teachers Association will host the next Stand with Students meeting on Nov. 16 at 5:30 p.m. at the Hope Lutheran Church (364 E. Barstow Ave.). All community members, teachers, students and parents are encouraged to come and discuss the next steps in transforming public education in the FUSD. Fresno will not improve until we work together as a community, raise our collective voice and hold our school leaders accountable.
Simone Cranston-Rhodes is the political organizer at the Fresno Teachers Association. Contact her at simonecranstonrhodesfta@ outlook.com.