As a parent, I’ve learned a few effective strategies over the years for those moments when chaos reigns in my house. Now, however, I would like to apply one of the old “effective parenting techniques” to the political circles of both Molly Munger and Gov. Jerry Brown: “TIME OUT!”
Please stop poking holes in each other’s efforts! Have you forgotten for whom you are advocating? Have you forgotten who loses if you both lose? Let me remind you: our kids! As the November election nears, I am absolutely appalled and heartbroken as I watch the teams behind Ms. Munger’s Proposition 38 and Gov. Brown’s Proposition 30 campaigns continue to take aim at each other in print and on television.
I wish they would focus on the very important fact that if neither of these measures passes, the result will be that everyone loses, with devastating cuts to the budgets, programs, and campuses of every school in California. I will admit that I am not as politically “seasoned” as these campaigns; perhaps that explains why I am able to allow common sense to rule when I say that the two campaigns – both aimed at helping to better fund schools and improve our children’s education – should work in partnership, hand in hand, to do better by our kids.
Parents get it. From one end of California to the other, parents and concerned citizens working with Educate Our State have been setting up tables at farmers markets, weekend fairs, town hall meetings, and in front of their schools to explain that voting Yes on both 30 and 38 is the best option for our children. These dedicated volunteers (mostly parents and students) lay the truth bare: either measure will be difficult to pass, so a yes vote on both is critical; and if both measures do pass – it would take a miracle – the one with the most votes will prevail. (For more detailed information about the initiatives, click here. Fran Shimp, a leader and board member with Educate Our State, created this compelling video, “Why You Should Vote Yes on 30 and 38,” to drive the point home. The California School Boards Association has also endorsed a Yes on 30/Yes on 38 position, which is good news for California.)
So, as I watch two very powerful, influential, and progressive campaign teams attacking each other with our children’s future on the line, I wonder: Have the two sides forgotten their real competition? If so, let me remind them: There is a very vocal, and often powerful and wealthy, group of Californians who believe that our schools are OK, and because of this are opposed to any new taxes. They believe if the doors are open, education must be going on just as it has for decades.
Well, as a mother of three school-age children in an urban public school district, I can tell you this is absolutely not the case. Not even close. Since my oldest daughter, now 11, began elementary school, budget cuts have been severe, and our school has lost programs like art and music, days of school, dedicated teachers, funding for field trips, the PE program, and our school nurse – and this has happened despite the fact that parent-driven financial support has increased to hundreds of thousands of dollars and parent volunteer hours are now measured in the thousands (perhaps even tens of thousands).
When I hear the “waste, fraud, and abuse” argument, my blood boils. Of course there are always going to be tales of mismanagement – as is the case almost every day in almost every company, program, and institution in our country; but that does not begin to justify the hundreds, thousands, and millions of dollars and volunteer hours that parents (those who are in the lucky position to do so) pour into their schools to make up the deficit. Nor does it begin to discuss the $10 billion in deferrals that our state owes to schools, or the resulting interest (never reimbursed) that our school districts have to pay on money they now have to borrow to pay their bills each year.
Here’s an eye-opening statistic that puts the issue into proper perspective: 180 school districts in our state are on the watch list for insolvency (in districts that have already declared “bankruptcy,” class sizes have ballooned above 40 as financial decisions dramatically outweigh educational decisions).
So, please, I beg you, Gov. Brown and Ms. Munger: Put down your shovels and your pails (and your heavy artillery), and play nice in the sandbox. If you don’t, every citizen in this state who cares about education will be putting you in a “Time Out!”
Crystal Brown is a founding member and President of the Board of Directors of Educate Our State, a grassroots, parent-led organization working to improve funding, resources, and educational quality for all California students. She has three daughters attending San Francisco public schools, has been an active PTA member, and has worked on numerous civic engagement projects. Crystal is a recipient of the 2011 Women Making History award.