Budgeting for Educational Equity

1 – Introduction: Getting Our Resource and Educational Equity Bearings

August 03, 2021 CASBO and WestEd Episode 1
Budgeting for Educational Equity
1 – Introduction: Getting Our Resource and Educational Equity Bearings
Chapters
Budgeting for Educational Equity
1 – Introduction: Getting Our Resource and Educational Equity Bearings
Aug 03, 2021 Episode 1
CASBO and WestEd

Advancing equity continues to be a major focus for California public education at all levels of the system. Yet, as education leaders and school business officials, it's not always easy to press your way forward into the noisy, bustling, sometimes uncomfortable intersection where equity meets educational resources.
 
In our first episode,  host Jason Willis, director of strategic resource planning and implementation for WestEd and a former chief business official in several California school districts, invites several guest policy experts, advocates and school district leaders to share how they think about and define resource equity in education. It's our way to help you get your "resource equity bearings."

This also helps set the context for a core question we'll be exploring throughout this series: How can dedicated teams of educators, administrators, school business officials and entire school communities allocate resources — resources like time, money and our most valuable asset, people — to better meet the needs of all their students? Especially at this watershed moment, coming out of the pandemic, when student needs have never been greater and an influx of additional federal and state dollars offer opportunities for transformative change.
 
Guests in this episode:

  • Christopher Edley, Jr., J.D., interim dean, U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Education; co-founder and president emeritus of The Opportunity Institute; professor and dean emeritus, U.C. Berkeley School of Law; former professor, Harvard Law School; and co-chair, National Commission on K-12 Excellence & Equity
  • Maria Echaveste, J.D., president and CEO, The Opportunity Institute; and former White House deputy chief of staff
  • Jayne Christakos, former chief business officer, San Bernardino City Unified School District
  • Marguerite Williams, Ed.D., assistant superintendent of educational services, Adelanto Elementary School District; and former senior director of equity and diversity, Association of California School Administrators
  • Adela Madrigal Jones, superintendent, Sanger Unified School District
  • Michael Kirst, Ph.D., professor emeritus, Graduate School of Education, Stanford University; and past president, California State Board of Education

Budgeting for Educational Equity is presented by the California Association of School Business Official (CASBO), the premier resource for professional development and best practices for more than 24,000 California school business leaders, in partnership with WestEd, a national nonprofit research development and service agency that works to promote excellence and equity in education.

We are grateful to the Sobrato Family Foundation for providing additional support.

Engage With Us!

Follow us on Twitter at @Budget4EdEquity to keep up to date on the series; find additional resource recommendations; and share your thoughts, ideas, questions and feedback.


Budgeting for Educational Equity is written and produced by Paul Richman and Jason Willis. Original music, mixing and sound by Tommy Dunbar. John Diaz at WestEd serves as an advisor and develops the written materials that go along with each episode.

Show Notes Transcript

Advancing equity continues to be a major focus for California public education at all levels of the system. Yet, as education leaders and school business officials, it's not always easy to press your way forward into the noisy, bustling, sometimes uncomfortable intersection where equity meets educational resources.
 
In our first episode,  host Jason Willis, director of strategic resource planning and implementation for WestEd and a former chief business official in several California school districts, invites several guest policy experts, advocates and school district leaders to share how they think about and define resource equity in education. It's our way to help you get your "resource equity bearings."

This also helps set the context for a core question we'll be exploring throughout this series: How can dedicated teams of educators, administrators, school business officials and entire school communities allocate resources — resources like time, money and our most valuable asset, people — to better meet the needs of all their students? Especially at this watershed moment, coming out of the pandemic, when student needs have never been greater and an influx of additional federal and state dollars offer opportunities for transformative change.
 
Guests in this episode:

  • Christopher Edley, Jr., J.D., interim dean, U.C. Berkeley Graduate School of Education; co-founder and president emeritus of The Opportunity Institute; professor and dean emeritus, U.C. Berkeley School of Law; former professor, Harvard Law School; and co-chair, National Commission on K-12 Excellence & Equity
  • Maria Echaveste, J.D., president and CEO, The Opportunity Institute; and former White House deputy chief of staff
  • Jayne Christakos, former chief business officer, San Bernardino City Unified School District
  • Marguerite Williams, Ed.D., assistant superintendent of educational services, Adelanto Elementary School District; and former senior director of equity and diversity, Association of California School Administrators
  • Adela Madrigal Jones, superintendent, Sanger Unified School District
  • Michael Kirst, Ph.D., professor emeritus, Graduate School of Education, Stanford University; and past president, California State Board of Education

Budgeting for Educational Equity is presented by the California Association of School Business Official (CASBO), the premier resource for professional development and best practices for more than 24,000 California school business leaders, in partnership with WestEd, a national nonprofit research development and service agency that works to promote excellence and equity in education.

We are grateful to the Sobrato Family Foundation for providing additional support.

Engage With Us!

Follow us on Twitter at @Budget4EdEquity to keep up to date on the series; find additional resource recommendations; and share your thoughts, ideas, questions and feedback.


Budgeting for Educational Equity is written and produced by Paul Richman and Jason Willis. Original music, mixing and sound by Tommy Dunbar. John Diaz at WestEd serves as an advisor and develops the written materials that go along with each episode.

Budgeting for Educational Equity
Episode 1: Introduction

Opening music and montage of voices:

"Equity refers to subgroup disparities"
"Well, we know that there are great disparities that we have a lot of needs…"
"...To make sure that all of our students have everything that they need"
"...What we call whole child equity…"
"These are hard problems, because equity is a hard issue…" 
"And so how do you come up with a way to allocate funds equitably?"
"Leaning in -- that's how we get to equity" 

Jason Willis, host:

You’ve probably heard a lot about educational equity. Maybe you live or work in a community where the public schools help many students achieve great things – and that should be celebrated. But you also know there’s a pervasive, urgent challenge. 

It might be only a handful of students in a single class or a group of kids at a particular school. Maybe it’s the majority of students at a school, or within a district. But the data tells us, undeniably: Our current public education system is not working for all students. Here’s the thing, though: It doesn’t have to stay like that. How can dedicated teams of leaders, school business officials, educators, and entire school communities allocate resources – resources like time, money and our most valuable asset, people – to better meet the needs of all their students? 

That’s the story I’m here to share. It's a story we’re calling, Budgeting for Educational Equity.  My name is Jason Willis, and I'm so glad you're here with me.  

Music ends.

Jason (continued):

When it comes to equity, it’s not always easy to locate yourself on the map. Equity is multi-dimensional. Many concepts connect in and out with it. And things can get confusing, especially the more you keep pressing your way forward into the noisy, bustling, sometimes uncomfortable intersection where equity…meets educational resources. So, I thought the ideal place to start would be to ask several really smart, thoughtful people how they think about and define equity in education, just to give us our bearings.

The very first call I made was to Chris Edley. Chris is a former law professor at UC Berkeley and at Harvard, and soon to be the new Dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Education. He also co-founded the Opportunity Institute. When California conducted a sweeping round of policy and budget research a few years ago, Chris was the go-to person for analysis of the state's work around equity. 

 [2:50]
Chris Edley:

I've actually thought about this quite a lot in the last couple of years, because II chaired a committee of the National Academy of Sciences that has produced recommendations on how to create a national system of educational equity indicators. And the notion that we adopted was that equity refers to subgroup disparities in both outcomes on the one hand and opportunities or inputs on the other. You have to look at both sides of the equation. It’s a question of measuring the right things, looking at the subgroup differences and asking the question of what's driving those differences and how can we do better? 

Jason:

Mmmm.

Chris:

…So that's the, that's the way I think of it, perhaps informed by being a lawyer, being a law professor, and thinking about the way discrimination laws and regulations are framed. But equity is not really about discrimination. I think it's about patterns at the population level, at the subgroup level. And it doesn't require identifying somebody who is the villain in creating inequity. It simply requires identifying the disparities that we believe are unacceptable and deciding that something must be done.

Jason:

Yeah, I think that’s such a substantial differential you’re pointing out there, Chris – especially the way you just shifted the responsibility from a single individual to the collective. And, say more about how this plays out in our schools?

Chris:

Well, it's actually kind of simple. It's a notion that each and every child deserves the opportunities they need in order to succeed, to fulfill their potential. I think in particular it looks to the responsibility of the adults in the system, whether it's state legislators or budget makers or superintendents or principals. That's really the ultimate question is whether the opportunities and the attendant supports and interventions are given to the people, the kids who need them, and that we hold ourselves accountable if we don't provide those opportunities.

Jayne Christakos:

So I'll tell you what I one-hundred percent agree with, one-thousand percent agree with, is that we hold ourselves accountable if we don't provide those opportunities. Every adult in the system should feel the urgency -- a hundred percent, thousand percent agree with that.

Jason:

That’s Jayne Christakos. She's a veteran school business leader who has served in several school districts over the years, most recently as the Chief Business Official in San Bernardino City Unified, a district of nearly 50,000 students. Where applying equity practices in school budgeting becomes more complex, Jayne says, is as schools and communities grapple with identifying expenditures and supports specifically for groups of students -- especially when extra funding from the state and federal government is generated by those student populations. 

Jayne:

The ultimate question is whether the opportunities and the attendant support and interventions are given to the kids who need them. I think that's where people have differing opinions. I've heard from some very compliance-based people that it's "just Jason, and nobody else should get whatever this is," right? And I would say that if all kids can benefit from an improvement in the system, then why not? If Jason and Paul and Jayne can all benefit from professional development that improves that first instruction, then let's do it. Now if Jayne needs extra support, and, you know, if we can layer that support and it's a very specific need that a student has so that they can be successful, certainly you want that directed to the students that are generating those funds. So, it's complicated…

Jason:

What I think is so powerful about what Jayne is saying here is that she's really pointing out the complex dimensions of the system – that this notion of resource equity is not straightforward, not single-sided -- that one way to think about achieving equity is really about investing resources to ensure first, all boats rise – and that this first happens through high quality first instruction in every single classroom. But what she's also saying is that some of those resources do need to be directed towards students who need them, and need to be able to have access to those opportunities as a result. And, this isn't a concept that’s just now coming to the education sector. Here’s Mike Kirst, a former State Board of Education President, Stanford education professor emeritus and a key figure in shaping state and federal policies for more than seven decades now. 

Mike Kirst:

When we originally did standards in the eighties and nineties, we talked about the curricular standards and assessments standards. And then we had a term that you've heard called "Opportunity to learn," and that really measured whether the teachers were teaching what was intended in the high standards in the classroom, whether there were the materials to teach it, whether there were trained teachers, whether the coverage was there, whether they were teaching problem solving and not just memorization. So, I think that the, equity to me, really is, like everything else, it happens in classrooms through instruction…

Jason:

Mmmm.


Mike:

…But that to me is really what it's all about.  

 
Music.

Jason:

Educational equity and what it’s about – that’s what we’re exploring in this first episode of our new series. And I’ll be back with even more thoughts and definitions from our guests to help you get your equity bearings -- in just one minute…


Tatia Davenport:

Hi, I'm Tatia Davenport, CEO and executive director of CASBO, the California Association of School Business Officials. CASBO is the premier resource for professional development and best practices for California's tens of thousands of school business leaders. We're excited to present this series to you in partnership with WestEd, a national nonprofit research development and service agency that works to promote excellence and equity in education. Our goal with this series is to raise understanding about resource equity, and to help you think about and apply tangible strategies to achieve success for all students. 

And now it's my pleasure to turn it back to our series host Jason Willis, former chief business officer in several California school districts and currently the director of strategic resource planning and performance for WestEd.  

[10:04]

Jason:

Thanks, Tatia.

Yet another important dimension to the educational equity conversation has to do with removing barriers -- barriers that are both visible and invisible to the adults in the system. 

Adela Madrigal Jones:

I always will use, I still use, year to year the, the graphic, you know, to describe equity…but then also that one that removes the barriers, so…

Jason:

That's Adela Madrigal Jones, Superintendent in Sanger Unified School District.

Adela:

So instead of having to get over the fence, I think everybody mostly has seen that graphic where they put the boxes up and -- but instead of just giving them resources to look over the fence, at the same time, we have to look at ways for how are we going to remove the fence? How do we remove the barriers for these kids so that equitable access is something that they automatically [have], it's just embedded into their day, into their experience here at the school. 

Jason:

As Chris Edley described, educational equity is about looking at where disparities exist among groups of students, including, critically, racial groups. These disparities in education have traditionally been measured by state assessments in English Language Arts and math. But, says Margeurite Williams, we also need to look through a wider lens. 

Margeurite Williams:

I think sometimes we feel that educators think that equity is only about race, but equity is more than just race. Race plays a huge part in the inequities that we see in our society and in our educational system today, but there are other areas that deal with the poverty level of our students...

Jason:

Margeurite currently serves as Assistant Superintendent for Academic Services with Adelanto School District. She's also served as a site leader in Los Angeles Unified School District and as senior director of equity and diversity with ACSA, the statewide school administrators association. 

Margeurite:

…You know, and even going into my role for ACSA, I was like, okay, focusing on race as definitely being an inequity -- but there's so much more. And I think as an educational community, we have to look at all the areas where our students may be coming to our classroom with not everything that they need. 

Jason:

Looking at all of a student’s needs, both inside and outside of the classroom, is as Margeurite emphasizes, another key dimension to resource equity. And it has never been more relevant than now, when we find ourselves coming out of a devastating pandemic that has pulled the curtain back on stark inequities among students.

Maria Echaveste:

Those of us in the education and equity field understood there were inequities, but the rest of the country came to see because there were reports and stories of who had access to broadband, who had to be at the parking lot of a Starbucks in order to do their school work? So those images of who got to work at home, who had to risk their lives; what students in high school suddenly weren't showing up because they had to take a job because their father had been fired? I mean, yeah, the images are right now. Right now. 

Jason:

That’s Maria Echaveste. She serves as the President and CEO for the Opportunity Institute. She's also an attorney, and formerly served in many pivotal public service positions, including as White House Deputy chief of staff. Maria joined the conversation when I reached out to Chris Edley.

Chris:

I think some of the detailed stories about the way inequity is evident in the pandemic have educated a lot of people about some of the nuances of disadvantage in the country. And that's all to the good. But for many of us, this is old news. And how many new stories, how many think tank reports do we have to have to keep repeating the fact that the have-nots are hurt the most and the pattern of have-nots seems all but immutable in our American system? That's the tragedy. We don't see nearly as many news stories or think tank reports about what to do about it. What changes will get at the root causes of inequity? And that, of course also brings us back to the budgeting question. Are you spending resources on the right things that will make a difference in narrowing these disparities and breaking the vicious cycles that we see caused by poverty, by structural racism, by local property tax funding -- all of the things that we know contribute to these patterns of misfortune?

Jason:

Yeah, Chris, I really appreciate the way that both you and Maria are navigating this tension between where is the solution set to ultimately advance systems that are not only distributing resources more equitably, but creating those opportunities and achieving those outcomes for those populations. And I mean, there's a lot in there, right? There's a lot of commentary in there. So I want to take us a little bit deeper. What do you see as some of the common resource equities showing up at the school district level, as you think about differences in resources that show up between schools? What kind of comes to mind for you? Is it just flatly that all schools are under-resourced and that's the problem? Is it an issue of re-segregation in our schools? Is it an issue of having not enough resources going to students of most need? Is it all those? None of those?

Maria:

Yeah. It's all of those. But I think that we need to be able to talk about education resources in recognizing the dotted lines with all those other things like housing segregation and economic inequity. And the Opportunity Institute along with others has spent the last few years working on what we call "whole child equity." But it is basically, neuroscience tells us that the impact of adversity, poverty and trauma affects children's ability to learn. It also tells us that the brain is malleable and with the right interventions, children can learn -- and every child learns differently, right? So when we talk about resource equity, the pandemic particularly gives me some hope that we are going to connect the mental health department and the social services bureaucracies to address the needs of children outside the classroom, while still improving the teaching and learning, right? When you look at it that way you start to see, yes, it starts with what the investments are directly for the school, but then it has to be more than just what that budget is. So it's a both/and -- it's like, look at what's being invested by the local, by the state, by the feds, but then look at what else is or isn't available for those students that allow them to be able to focus on their education.

Chris:

You know, at one level, the problem is that, uh, here's a kid, the kid’s facing lots of challenges, um, family, community, at school, the broader society, the images, the signals...Do we nurture that kid's dreams so they have them? Do we discount that kid's dreams or do we embrace them, support them and hold ourselves accountable for creating possibilities? We often have a positive rhetorical response to those kinds of questions, but is it reflected in budgets? Is it reflected in programs? Is it reflected in outcomes? It's got to move from the realm of rhetoric into the realm of, of implementation. 

[19:20]

Jason:

As you survey the landscape in California, do you have examples of communities that are on the road to putting some of these pieces in place where they are reframing or rethinking the way that they're thinking about supporting students from a resource perspective?

Maria:

You raise something dear to my heart, which is the landscape -- whether it's California or frankly across the country -- is replete with examples of really good practices, really good policies, jewels of schools, right? The challenge is how do you make that systemic? How do you take it to scale? So there's just, there's an urgency -- you can hear it in my voice right now -- to take those examples, to try to point to that and say, this is what we should be doing here, especially right now, when there's money coming from the states, from the feds, here's how you could spend your money differently and have a greater impact. 

Music.

Jason:

How we respond, not just as individuals, but as a community of professionals to address resource inequities among our students – that is the watershed moment we face. How can we act with urgency, but also take thoughtful steps to transform our systems. That and more, coming up, when our series continues….

 Music and end-of-show credits.

Jason:

Budgeting for Educational Equity is presented by CASBO and WestEd. This series is also made possible by the generous support of the Sobrato Family Foundation. We’re grateful to all of the hard-working, dedicated education and policy leaders who graciously shared their time and expertise with us – and we’ll be hearing more from many of them in the upcoming episodes. 

Our series is written and produced by Paul Richman and by me, Jason Willis. Sound, mixing and original music are by Tommy Dunbar. John Diaz develops our related written materials. Be sure to check those out online and in our show notes. 

And please, if you find this podcast valuable, help spread the word.

We’ll see you out there.