Governor spotlights California’s embrace of local control, parental engagement

Gov. Gavin Newsom addressed reporters at an elementary school in the Elk Grove Unified School District on Aug. 14 to highlight the state’s “family agenda” centered around efforts to enrich and empower kids and parents in schools.

Newsom discussed the billions of dollars being invested by the state through multi-year funds to expand after-school and summer school learning opportunities, develop community schools, recruit and retain teachers, promote arts education, improve literacy instruction, provide high-dose tutoring, universal school meals, mental and behavioral health supports, renovate nutrition facilities and increase college going rates through college savings accounts, dual enrollment, additional higher education funding and more.

Amid these various investments, the Governor noted that parental engagement is a foundational aspect, citing the Local Control Funding Formula and the Local Control and Accountability Plan process, which requires extensive parental engagement.

“It requires onsite parental advisory committees — those committees not only advise, they consent to what is presented in front of the school board, the LCAP plan that has to come in front of the school board,” he continued. “Which, with the budget last year, has to be certified in a process that is public and inclusive. No school system in America requires more parental engagement and local control than the state of California.”

Gov. Newsom told those in attendance that “right now, so much of our education is focused on the 10 percent,” or “the shiny object” — those protesting everything from inclusive curriculums and library materials to LGBTQ protections.

“Down in Temecula, they’re protesting parent engagement,” the Governor said. “They’re protesting the fact that for one year, 1,300 families engaged with the new social studies curriculum and 98.8 percent of them approved or were neutral about the adoption of that curriculum. And they wanted to throw that all out at the last minute and change it.”

Prior to the Temecula Valley Unified School District board’s vote not to adopt the textbook Social Studies Alive! for students in first through fifth grades, and Board President Joseph Komrosky’s controversial statements over supplemental materials regarding Harvey Milk, board member Allison Barclay noted that 47 teachers and 1,300 parents in the district piloted the curriculum and recommended it be approved starting with the 2023–24 school year. The textbook was on display for the public to view for two weeks before it went to the board.

Following pressure from the state, the board reversed course and adopted the social studies textbook, while also voting to exclude a chapter that highlights civil rights, including the gay rights movement.