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Kids to California Lawmakers: Spend a Day in a Public School

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It is now the Dark Ages for California public schools. While some wealthy districts in the state can choose to spend close to $23,000 per child, the majority of those relying on state funding are limited to a paltry $5,000 per-child allotment. And so in most places, classrooms are overflowing, exceeding 40 kids in a room in secondary schools and 30 kids in grades K-5. For this reason, a group of children, parents, teachers and administrators is calling upon all California state lawmakers to spend a day in a public school. We would like the people making decisions about educational spending to see the devastating impact of their choices firsthand.

Some will say that the economic crisis has had an impact on all aspects of California's economy, so schools should take a hit along with other sectors and state workers. But public education is to our society what research and development are to any company. Regardless of how difficult the economic climate is, companies continue to fund research and development so they can remain competitive. If we systemically shortchange a generation of kids in California, then California's economy will drop to second-rate status, crippling the state for decades to come. Think about it: Why are we choosing to spend more money on prisoners than on the future of California?

What affects California affects all of the United States. California's output stands at $1.9 trillion annually; it has by far the nation's most dominant state economy. Past investment in public schools yielded the brainpower and skills that powered this success. Conversely, California's diminishing commitment to the schools will have a negative impact on the entire country. This will be irreparable for at least a generation.

I believe in free-market competition within public education. The cornerstone for the future of the public schools will be innovation and an entrepreneurial approach to operations. But we can't make public education successful if California's lawmakers don't have a clear understanding of what is taking place in the schools every day. This is why May 15- 17, students, parents, teachers and supporters of the San Carlos Charter Learning Center, a public school that was the state's first charter, and the John Gill School, a public school in Redwood City, Calif., will run a relay 150 miles non-stop from San Carlos to Sacramento. We will carry invitations handwritten by the children that ask each California state senator and assemblyman to spend one full day in a public school his or her district.

As one who will be among the runners, I can tell you that we are taking to the streets because we want California's lawmakers to leave their offices and experience firsthand the dilapidated school buildings with leaking roofs and nonfunctioning bathrooms, and the classrooms so overflowing with students that effective learning is impossible. With funds dwindling, athletics, language, phys-ed, music, art and after-school programs have fallen under the axe. Now districts can't even pay for repairs or textbooks and paper.

If you live in California or do business in the state, please write your state senator and assemblyman. Tell them to accept this invitation to spend a day in a public school. If you'd like more information or wish to get involved with this effort, please e-mail getinvolved@scclc.net and visit www.spend1day.com.