Family Engagement is an Education Priority for California

By Kathleen Fay, California State PTA Family Engagement Commission Consultant

Springtime brings warmer weather, a week off, and preparations for the future. As school districts tackle budget planning to get ready for the next school year, families are a critical part of that decision-making process.  

Thanks to legislation sponsored by California State PTA and included in California law in 2018,  districts are also required to report on their meaningful Family Engagement efforts as part of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). This article briefly explains what the LCFF is and how it obliges school districts to reach out to parents and families for their input in decision-making and to strengthen participation in the education process.

LCFF Overview

The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is hallmark legislation that fundamentally changed how all local educational agencies (LEAs – usually school districts) in the state are funded, how they are held accountable for the services and supports they provide to enable all students to succeed to their greatest potential, and the assistance they receive from the state of California to do so. At the state level, these are the key components and their function:

  • Inform:  The California Accountability Model and School Dashboard provides the community, including families, with information about how LEAs and schools are meeting the needs of California’s diverse student population based on a concise set of measures.
  • Assist:  LCFF Support and Assistance is offered to local educational agencies at the level that they need – either general resources and assistance, differentiated assistance, or intensive intervention.
  • Plan:  The Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) is a tool for LEAs to use to set goals, plan actions, and leverage resources to meet those goals to improve student outcomes. LEAs must explicitly address the needs of consistently low-performing student groups as well as low-performing schools within the LEA.
  • Fund:  Schools are funded through a combination of local property taxes and state funding. The  LCFF is the primary source of an LEA’s general-purpose funding. Funds are also allocated for   Special Education and several other programs. The “Principal Apportionment” is a series of calculations that adjust the flow of state funds throughout the fiscal year as further information becomes known. (Click here for more information.)

California’s Education Priorities 

The way that a school district plans to spend its funds to achieve its goals is documented in its Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). The governing board of each school district adopts their LCAP to be effective for three years, updated annually, to address these California education priorities:

  • Conditions of Learning – Basic Services, Implementation of State Standards, and Course Access
  • Pupil Outcomes – Student Achievement and Student Outcomes
  • Engagement – Parent Involvement, Student Engagement, and School Climate

Note:  County Offices of Education also address the needs of Expelled Pupils and Foster Youth.

(For further details, click here.)

Parent Involvement:  A State Priority 

Every school district’s local control and accountability plan (LCAP) must address Parent Involvement as a state priority. In California Law, Education Code (52060) states:

(3) (A) Parental involvement and family engagement, including efforts the school district makes to seek parent input in making decisions for the school district and each individual school site, and including how the school district will promote parental participation in programs for unduplicated pupils* and individuals with exceptional needs.

* “Unduplicated pupils” are counted only once (for purposes of additional funding) even if the pupil meets more than one of these criteria: English learner, foster youth, or qualifying for free- or reduced-price lunch.

(B) Family engagement may include, but need not be limited to, efforts by the school district and each individual school site to apply research-based practices, such as welcoming all families into the school community, engaging in effective two-way communication, supporting pupil success, and empowering families to advocate for equity and access. Family engagement may include, but need not be limited to, treating families as partners to inform, influence, and create practices and programs that support pupil success and collaboration with families and the broader community, expand pupil learning opportunities and community services, and promote civic participation.

Why is this a state priority?

Family and community engagement greatly increases the likelihood that students will learn and thrive.  Students are more prepared for school, more likely to achieve, and more likely to graduate when they are supported by schools, families, and communities working together in a coordinated manner. Schools will be more effective at engaging families and communities when they move toward systemic, integrated, and sustained engagement. Thus, school districts must undertake efforts to seek parent input in decision-making and promote family participation in the education process for all students.

(Click here for more information on the importance of Family Engagement to student success.)

During this important time of year, make sure that YOUR family’s input becomes part of your school district’s budget planning and LCAP development process!

PTA Knows Family Engagement! Learn more about the School Smarts Program

by School Smarts Committee

For nearly 125 years PTA has helped parents and caregivers make lasting connections to their school campus to benefit all children.  Over the last ten years our School Smarts family engagement program has helped over 10,000 parents understand the way the educational system works and how they can participate in it, make connections with staff and parents at their school sites, and shown them how to best support their child and their community.  

On August 24th from 10-11 a.m. our School Smarts Program Manager, Bianca De La Torre, will give a tour of the program for interested administrators, school districts and PTA leaders.  Come hear about how the program can increase family engagement on your campus and how this program can directly support student success. 

PTA Leaders – Invite your school principal to learn more about this amazing program and how families at your school can benefit from it. Join us on August 24th from 10-11 a.m.  Register here. 

Standard #1: Welcoming all families into the school community

By Heather Ippolito, VP for Family Engagement

Earlier this month we introduced the PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships on the blog. You can view that article by clicking here.  Today we are going to dig a little deeper into the first standard:  

Welcoming All Families Into the School Community

As your local unit begins to think about your back to school events consider these five tips for being as inclusive as possible in welcoming ALL families:

  1. On forms and paperwork remember to be inclusive in your language.  Instead of asking for names of “moms and dads” you can ask for names of parents, caregivers, or guardians.  Asking parents for their preferred pronouns is also a great idea!
  2. Create a “Welcome Packet” for new families.  Include coupons for local businesses, maps of the community, a copy of the school newsletter, how to find the school and PTA on social media, and a list of ways parents can get involved at your school including but not limited to:  
    • School Site Council (SSC), 
    • English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC), 
    • Parent Teacher Association (PTA), 
    • Parent Advisory Council (PAC) and other school or district committees.  
  3. Don’t forget to include a way to join your PTA!   Every time a new family enrolls the school office staff can give them the welcome packet.
  4. PTA volunteers call new families to personally invite them to the back-to-school events, offering to help them find transportation if they need it.
  5. Survey families (in their home language if possible) to see what kinds of programs they are interested in and what kinds of support they need from the school.

We want to hear from you!  What activities have you done to welcome families?  Share them with us and we might feature them here on the blog or on our social media channels– simply fill out this quick form and let us know what you’ve done to welcome schools to your campus.

To return to the blog homepage, click here.

Introduction to the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships

National PTA is focused on transformative family engagement which is defined as “a shared effort of families, schools, and community leaders to advance programs, practices, and policies that empower every parent to make their child’s potential a reality.” To that end, the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships will help your school evaluate where you are in your family engagement journey and give you ideas to be more inclusive in your practices.

There are six parts to the blueprint:

  1. Welcoming all families into the school community 
  2. Communicating effectively 
  3. Supporting student success 
  4. Speaking up for every child
  5. Sharing power 
  6. Collaborating with community

Throughout the year we will be sharing with you some examples and best practices in each of these areas, but we would also love to hear from you!  What are you doing to engage families in your school, council, or district PTA? Share your great ideas by completing this form or email

To learn more about National PTA’s Transformative Family Engagement work, visit the Center for Family Engagement and watch this video:  

Next steps: 

  • Download the complete Guide and begin to read through it or start with the briefer summary document as an introduction.
  • Select one area of focus for your PTA to discuss at your next meeting.  Brainstorm ideas and make a plan to put one of those ideas into action at the following meeting.
  • Show the Guide to your school principal and give it to your School Site Council President.

If you missed last week’s Family Engagement Friday blog post, you can check it out here.

To return to the blog homepage, click here.

Family Engagement: It’s the Law

As PTA members, we know how important family engagement is for student and school success. 

Did you know that family engagement is not just good practice? In California it’s the law! 

The California Department of Education’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) gives local school districts a lot of substantial power to make local decisions that affect their communities. Every local education authority (school district) in California has to submit a plan for how it will use the LCFF funding. 

Learn more about the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and the state’s required Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) here.

Part of your district’s LCAP includes a description of how the district engages families in decision-making and planning. In 2018, California PTA worked with other state Family Engagement partners to pass AB 2828, which requires school districts and charter schools to describe their family engagement strategies and outcomes in specific ways in their annual Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP).

What does this look like in your school district?

  • Does your district make every effort to seek parent input in making decisions for your school district and your school site? 
  • How does your district plan to increase participation for students with exceptional needs?
  • What is working and not working for your district?

Learn more about measuring and reporting family engagement at “Family Engagement: It’s the Law,” a Convention 2021 presentation, live Q&A and meet-up on May 12.

Next steps:

  1. Use the National PTA checklist to measure family engagement at your own school site;
  2. Check out the National Standards for family school partnerships to get ideas; 
  3. Attend your school site or district Local Control and Accountability Plan planning meetings;
  4. Find out if your district is using the California State Self-Reflection tool; and
  5. Ask your school and your district how they will engage all families in your community.


About Kari Gray: A San Francisco resident, public school parent, arts advocate and community engagement specialist, Kari Gray currently works as the Special Projects Manager at ODC/Dance and serves on the Boards of Youth Arts Exchange, the Second District of the California State PTA, and on the Family Engagement Commission and Art Committee for the California State PTA.

To return to the blog homepage, click here.

It’s Time for a Renewed Focus on the Old LCAP

This article was written by Kathleen Fay, member of the California State PTA Legislation Team.

A school district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) is an important tool that requires a district to identify goals, address priorities, allocate funds, implement actions, provide services, and measure results to improve student outcomes. The annual LCAP review should provide opportunities for robust parent involvement as a fundamental part of the planning process.  However, this LCAP process was turned on its head last year with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Quarantines and school closures necessitated changes in the usual LCAP planning process. First, an Executive Order extended LCAP deadlines, then legislation eliminated the annual LCAP update altogether. Taking its place was the Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan – by no coincidence also abbreviated as LCAP – to be used as a planning tool to address issues of distance learning, live student interactions, and attendance. The “new LCAP” included strategies to ensure a full curriculum, train staff, and address resources and technical support during the crisis. And it was all to have been put together with parent input and reported publicly.

As California now looks (hopefully) towards a post-pandemic school year, districts must return to the original LCAP model to examine how students were supported throughout the pandemic, what was done to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, and consider the effects of issues such as pupil learning loss; student and staff mental health and social-emotional well-being; pupil engagement and outreach; nutrition; learning continuity; attendance; infrastructure needs; and any ongoing response to COVID-19.

In short, it’s time for school districts to take an honest look at the results of the last year and then make practical plans on how to repair any damage. This is something that PTAs should strongly encourage members to take part in – through multiple public input opportunities. These meetings should be open to input from all parents and community members. It is up to us to speak for every child with one voice.

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