Historical legacies of racism, gender discrimination, and severe disinvestment in California public schools as our young people become increasingly diverse, has put California at the bottom in the nation for per-pupil spending before the pandemic. To match our bloated prison system, we entrusted bloated classrooms to underpaid, overworked, and indebted teachers. It’s no wonder teachers leave the profession after two or three years, and we have what researchers call a “school to prison pipeline.” Now, parents with the means are pulling their students out of the public education system and placing them into privately run “learning pods” while working parents are struggling to teach their children at home. Some parents are risking their own safety and health working essential jobs to keep a roof over their head and food on the table, being forced to leave their children at home or in the care of someone else, risking exposure to COVID. To top it all off, low-income students of all ages are struggling with distance learning due to a lack of reliable and free technology or challenging living circumstances such as a lack of solitude and space to focus at home, or the trauma of sheltering-in-place for months on end. Special needs students, most of all, are entirely left out of conversations regarding distance learning. This entire crisis has put into perspective the urgency with which we need to save public education and reverse inequalities in our institutions of learning. We can only do this if we have elected officials at the state level who have the sense and conscience to ask the wealthiest individuals and corporations in our society to pay their fair share.
As State Senator, I will fight to:
✔ Defend and re-invest in public schools. To remedy the unprecedented deficit in our state’s budget, the state’s leaders have put funding for K-12, community colleges, CSU’s, and UC’s on the chopping block. Instead of imposing austerity on our schools, we need to ask more of those who can afford to give more, such as the state’s 175 billionaires, and our bloated corrections system. California public schools—once a beacon for the rest of the country—ranks among the bottom in the nation for per-pupil spending. With the fifth largest economy in the world, this can no longer be acceptable. We need to implement the Prop 13 reform Schools & Communities First to bring billions in revenue back into our schools, and distribute resources according to needs, not performance. We also need to expand taxes on the wealthy to remedy the decades of disinvestment and ensure our public school system is the best in the country.
✔ Fund universal public WiFi and ensure technology for all students. Not all families have access to enough quality WiFi, computers, or tablets to participate in distance learning, and some families are having to ask children to share. I will fight to ensure that all students are equipped with sufficient resources to effectively engage in distance learning.
✔ Expand public education to include universal pre-kindergarten and childcare. By ensuring early education to all families regardless of income or residence, we can build the foundation for our children to enter kindergarten prepared to thrive from day one in the classroom. The Coronavirus pandemic has also highlighted the need for childcare as parents return to essential jobs, and is threatening the collapse of this vital industry to the rest of our economy.
✔ Prepare, recruit, and retain educators in underserved schools by creating more equitable state funding systems to provide underserved schools with social workers, paraeducators, English-Language-Learners (ELL) educators, extra-curriculars, educator mentorship programs, principal training, and general improved working and learning conditions in schools with high-needs students.
✔ Index educator pay to the cost of living. Educators and paraeducators need to be fairly paid for the extraordinary work they perform, especially as some are feeling economic pressures enough to consider teaching private learning pods of wealthier families. Educators shouldn’t have to make that choice -- we should pay them a competitive, living wage. Among the most significant factors in educator turnover pre-pandemic is the cost of living. As our affordable housing crisis continues to squeeze educators of their meager salaries, they need to be paid enough to live in the communities in which they work. Otherwise, our students will continue to suffer the effects of high teacher turnover and large classroom sizes. As well, schools need an adequate number of counselors, social workers, and nurses to help students navigate their traumas so they can focus on school.
✔ Cancel student debt to alleviate one of the many contributing factors of high teacher turnover rates and barriers to recruitment.
✔ Put the “community” back in community colleges. Revise the community college student success funding formula to shift away from performance-based assessments and towards more support for ESL programs, recreation, arts, ethnic & gender studies, and adult education.
✔ Dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. The Promise Neighborhood community schools model has seen incredible results in only seven years: improving math and literacy skills at all levels and increasing graduation rates by over 20%. By working in partnership with community organizations in building critical wraparound support systems for our underserved schools and communities from early childhood to the beginnings of their careers, we can create a healthy academic and social environment for all students to succeed. Mandates cannot be made, however, without adequate funds. We must fund implicit racial and gender bias training for professionals to replace the often harmful practice of exclusionary discipline and police in schools with models guided by principles of equity and restorative justice. This involves taking law enforcement personnel out of schools as well as reallocating funding from our bloated prison and law enforcement institutions to provide students with support staff including nurses, counselors, social workers, and more.
✔ Increase the levels of transparency and accountability for the charter school industry. Further privatizing our education system isn’t the solution to improving our schools. Tax revenues should be invested in a truly equitable public school system rather than letting our elected leaders siphon funds for charter schools with no mechanism for oversight or transparency. No longer are charter schools a space for creative and innovative education, but rather increasingly exclusionary institutions operating as private schools, accountable to no one, at the cost of taxpayers and our public education system. In order to begin building a more just educational environment, we need to expand state laws that provide stronger local oversight, allowing local school boards to approve, oversee, and evaluate charter schools. Instead of allowing charter schools to continue operating independently of any oversight, it’s imperative that California’s education standards be applied universally, ensuring open and transparent governance just as with any other public institution.
✔ Develop an inclusive curriculum that reflects the diversity of our state. For too long, schools’ curriculum has excluded the tapestry of histories among communities of color, LGBTQ+ communities, women, gender non-conforming people, and working class people. To expand on this, I will support Ethnic Studies electives and the full funding of Ethnic, LGBTQ+, Women’s, and Labor Studies.
✔ Revive trade and apprenticeship programs to meet climate and housing goals. In an increasingly knowledge-based labor market, higher education is just as much a necessity as primary education. With expanding investment in STEM, we must also mobilize a gigantic workforce to meet the state’s climate goals, transition to a green economy, and relieve our housing crisis. This will require reviving trade and apprenticeship programs to prepare people of all backgrounds with the skills they need to build affordable homes and renewable energy infrastructure. These kinds of Career Technical Education programs should cover everything from arts to architecture to entrepreneurship, so all students retain the right to choose the best fit for themselves.