Local Los Angeles mom and blogger Cynthia Liu is passionate about public education. She is the woman behind a new site called the K12 News Network to give parents and educators an easy way to follow the latest political and financial trends that affect our public schools.
And the latest trends are not good — especially here in California, where a budget deficit of $25 billion is threatening public school districts all over the state.
When Governor Brown took office, he mapped out a plan to close the gap with equal cuts in services and an extension of current fees and taxes that are scheduled to expire this year.
The first half of the plan was enacted fairly easily: $12.5 billion of the deficit has been wiped out, along with essential services to some of our neediest residents.
But the second half of Brown’s plan is being held up by a minority of state legislators, who have pledged NEVER to vote for more taxes — even if that vote is just to keep CURRENT taxes… no matter how badly our state needs that revenue.
Unlike the Federal government, individual states are required by law to balance their budgets each year, so the Governor says he has no recourse but to go to his “Plan B”: Close the rest of the deficit through another $13 billion in cuts… with the majority of those being borne by our school districts.
I confess that I have a hard time wrapping my mind around figures in multiples of a billion. It’s not easy to extrapolate what that means to my own child.
That’s where Cynthia and her K12 News Network come in. She has created an online tool that shows you simply and easily how an “all cuts” budget affects YOUR child’s classroom.
By clicking on my neighborhood on the map, I learned that LAUSD stands to lose $764 per student… which extrapolates out to $22,920 to a classroom of 30.
If you have children in California public schools, you’ve been feeling the sting of slashed funding for several years. Items and services you took for granted when you were growing up are no longer a given.
Parents are asked to donate paper, pencils, sharpeners… even tissue for the rest rooms — not that students actually use those rest rooms, if they can help it.
My daughter goes without most days at her high school, because only one is open during the day… which makes it a very unpleasant place to visit.
I was surprised to learn that students weren’t being locked out of the rest rooms for lack of janitorial services, but security. With fewer people to police smoking in the bathroom, the only way to manage is to allow entry into just a few on the 33-acre campus.
School nurses? Too expensive — when my kid was in elementary school, they were lucky to have one on staff one day a week. The rest of the time, medical emergencies were handled by office clerks, who had to be trained to administer an epipen.
And then, there are the teachers. School districts up and down the state have already notified thousands of teachers of layoffs that will occur if Brown has to go to his Plan B.
Do you love your LAUSD Magnet school? Without the tax extensions, the magnet program may lose as much as 90 percent of its funding.
What’s a mother to do?
The budget is voted on by people elected by us. If you have children attending public school or believe that raising an educated citizenry is beneficial to us all, you need to let your state representatives know.
Cynthia’s public education funding tool shows me exactly who I need to telephone to convey my feelings about this: the state Senator and Assembly members who represent my district. I’ve done this — but unfortunately, my reps are some of the most vocal advocates of the “No Tax At All Ever for Any Purpose” line of reason.
The only way to get through to politicians like that is through a show of citizen force. Teacher protests are already occurring this week in Sacramento and throughout the state — but I don’t think that’s enough to get their attention.
They need to see support from voters in their constituencies. That’s the rationale behind Wake Up California, a statewide rally that will take place on Tuesday, May 24.
The page referenced above also has a map tool that will allow you to see what’s being planned that day in your area.
I’ll be there. If you are a public school parent, I hope you’ll be there, too.