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Yes on Measure E, Steve Lopez and This Great Kid Named Eli

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LA Times columnist Steve Lopez
did something pretty brave recently, especially given today's fear-driven,
layoff weary media climate. He went against his paper's editorial
board and
stood
up
for LA's public
schools. He lent his support for a struggling ballot initiative, Measure
E, which if passed, would be a good start to helping repair the damage
from the state budget cuts that have devastated our city's public
schools.

Lopez, besides being an award-winning
journalist, has always been one of the city's most direct and honest
personalities. He is a very visceral writer-- a guy who writes what
he sees and feels rather than what he thinks people want to hear. And
Lopez, as a parent with kids in public school, sees the same thing I
see as a parent with kids in public schools-- the same thing all parents
see-- our schools need help now.

We are facing a very grave
education crisis-- one that will only worsen in the fall-- one that
could turn into a public safety crisis if we do not immediately take
action. Good teachers are being laid off. Programs are being cut--
arts, music, P.E. and library programs have all been eliminated at schools
that can't fundraise enough to keep them. Services, staff and supplies
are often at levels below most developed countries. There are barely
enough bodies to properly monitor the hallways and schoolyards.

Measure E reverses that trend
by empowering the District to retain more teachers and restore vital
programs like art and music. Most importantly, and in my opinion, the
best thing about this Measure, the majority of the funds are given
to individual schools so they can spend the money based on their individual
immediate needs. So, if a school needs to pay for an extra teacher,
teacher aides, a nurse, a counselor, custodians, paper, or their computer
science program-- they can.

A couple of parents from Wonderland
Avenue Elementary School were inspired by Lopez's column and his call
for more "passionate voices" on the Measure that we pooled our resources
and called in favors (notably, director Jesse Selwyn) to shoot a :30
second spot in support of Measure E. We're some of the same parents
who brought you the
Megan
Fox/Brian Austin Green video
,
along with Funny or Die back in April, which took aim at the Governor's
budget (in our opinion, the root of California's education crisis.)

With a little help from The
Coalition for Safe and Healthy Neighborhood Schools, who like us parents,
want to see Measure E passed, we were able to create the rarest of political
ads--an honest one. That's because it's shot from the point of
view of a real kid, an eleven year old, named Eli.

After the Megan Fox/Funny or
Die video, our school was deluged with media requests, and many of the
students did on-air interviews alongside the parents, the principal,
the PTA president and Brian Austin Green. Eli spoke eloquently to local
news crews about the pain the proposed layoffs cause teachers. He approached
us parents about wanting to do more to help LA's schools from failing.
Eli understands the struggles of LAUSD first hand-- as his mom, Devra,
worked in the District for years as a counselor until budget cuts eliminated
her position.

In this new, "E Stands For
..." spot Eli walks through various academic settings facing extinction
in many schools if the Measure doesn't pass: music classes, art classes,
P.E., libraries. The students in the background are all real students,
and who like Eli and Steve Lopez, want to see LA's schools thrive.
They believe education, as Eli says, "establishes a foundation for
our future."

Opponents of the Measure, like
the LA Times, believe the Measure could lead to "the
schools
themselves (deciding) to spend on whatever they consider most important"
and that might include "field trips"--
as if "field trips" were suddenly some extravagant luxury like a
night out in Vegas. There are, in fact, two audits a year to monitor
the spending of the individual schools. And anyone who has spent anytime
in a public school lately knows they are fighting for their lives. Principals
are forced to watch every dime and scrimp, pinch and save to keep their
doors open. Think of your family budget. Now add 600 kids to it. At
Wonderland Avenue Elementary School last year, where there are about
550 kids, the operating budget for the year, not including teacher salaries
or booster fundraising, was around $50,000. Less than $100 per kid,
for everything the school does: supplies, aides, computers, and upkeep.

Measure E is paid for by a
$100 a year tax on certain parcels of land in LA. So if you own a home,
you'll pay an extra $100 a year in taxes, which will raise $90 million
a year for schools. That's $8.33 a month, a small price to pay to,
as Eli says, "enrich our communities" and "encourage a love of
learning."

Now is the time for heroes
to rise in support of public schools. The riveting new documentary,

Waiting for Superman, by Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth)
is being released later this year, and God willing, it will do for education
reform what his last film did for the climate crisis-- and help bring
education to the forefront of American consciousness. In the meantime,
you don't have to make a movie, shoot a commercial or write a column
to help our schools, simply voting "yes" on Measure E next Tuesday,
June 8th could make all the difference in a child's (and
our city's) future.