Latino/a Parents’ Priorities for their Children’s Education

On May 12th, Superintendent Christy Perry presented her pre-Covid-19 budget.

She decided it would be counter-productive to spend her energy making detailed cuts with no information on the economy and state school funding. Instead, she continues to look for resources, savings, reserves and grants, and is preparing for multiple scenarios in the next few years. We won’t know the extent of the cuts until later in the summer.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Oregon’s economy was good and education funding was plentiful. We at SKCE and Latino/a parents were all excited about the new Student Investment Account (SIA) funds from the state that we planned on using to close the achievement Gap.

Now we are facing the unknown.

SKCE leadership, staff and parent leaders wrote a public letter to the school board and budget committee, to outline our four main priorities.

View the full letter In English

View the full letter In Spanish

Salem Reporter coverage of our parent leaders’ priorities

English language proficiency – English language proficiency was the highest priority in all the focus groups with Latino/a parents. They want their children to be bilingual, but they know that their children must be proficient in academic English vocabulary and comprehension. In this district, lack of English proficiency affects the educational success, graduation, and college-readiness of literally thousands of students. The district must continue designing the program as they planned in the SIA process. The new model is about doing things differently. We must also prioritize the “catching up” of hundreds of children currently behind due to lack of academic English.

Mental and emotional health and safety – Stress, trauma and the emotional condition of children and families affects discipline, behavior issues and school safety, which in turn, significantly impact school success. We need more Spanish-speaking specialists of color that understand how race, ethnicity, language and poverty interact with adults’ perceptions of behavior. We also need teachers and staff trained in culturally responsive practices and brain development so they can recognize an emotional or mental health crisis as more than just challenging behavior. Especially during the coronavirus crisis, we need to be aware of the increased potential for behavior issues that can reduce school success, lead to discipline problems, and can feed the School to Prison Pipeline.

Teachers that reflect students’ language and experience – This means doing a better job of recruiting, interviewing, hiring and retaining bilingual, bicultural, Spanish-speaking teachers, as well as teaching all staff to be culturally responsive. We must continue to fully fund the Human Resources Department programs, and their focus on representing the student population. We must retain newer diverse and bilingual teachers who may be at risk of first layoffs, and prioritize principals’ training in the Equity Lens and implicit bias in the interview process. We must continue to strengthen teacher training in cultural responsiveness, brain development, mental health, and challenging behavior. Teachers must apply the Equity Lens in their classrooms.

Meaningful parent, youth and community Involvement – Parent involvement is critical to student success. Community partners are needed to support education, especially in times like these. Youth must also be included as partners and critical stakeholders in their own education. Healthy relationships between youth and adults must be a priority and SKCE staff and parent leaders want to see district leaders, the school board, and staff help to make healthy adult/youth relationships at the center of education. Relationships with parents and youth can overcome a certain amount of prejudice and increase cultural responsiveness–a highly successful alternative to expensive training. The district also must prioritize involving parents as co-teachers and community organizations as essential partners.

That’s why SKCE is concentrating more than ever on investing in parents by providing the tools, resources, skills and support they need to work with their children in their education and relationships, and to work with schools and teachers to advance their child’s success.

We are currently working with 115 parents on the phone and on videoconferencing to mentor and coach them as they do the important work of parenting and homeschooling. We are prepared to continue this model for the next year, in addition to any in-person work that may be doable or effective.

Meanwhile, it is, and will be, a constant effort to keep funds flowing so that mentoring and coaching of parents continues uninterrupted. As a result, hundreds of parents will know how to teach reading at home, will connect frequently with schools and resources, will receive deliveries of books and learning materials from SKCE, and will be connected to technology resources. And they will have easy access to emotional support and mental health first aid through relationships with our talented Spanish speaking staff who are parents and whose culture and experiences are the same as the parents they are supporting.

View the May 12 Budget Message on YouTube.

View the May 26 Budget Committee with SKCE Parent Leaders’ Testimonies also on YouTube.

View the Bill of Rights for Children and Youth

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