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Josephine Kao Headshot

California Students Can't Afford To Be Left Out of the Equation

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With over 6.3 million students in 9,000 schools, California has one of the most diverse student populations in the entire nation. In such a diverse educational system, it is vital that students --the future of California -- are well-equipped with the skills they need to enter the workforce and ultimately be successful. However, funding cuts to education have recently compromised the quality of the academic experience. In just the past four years our public schools have been hit by a whopping $20 billion in cuts and over 30,000 educators have been laid off. School districts like mine are already facing a substantial number of furlough days, and even when students are in class, large class sizes prevent many from receiving the attention they need. My fellow California students and I need a solution: we need the measures outlined by Proposition 30.

As a high school senior, I often find myself thinking about my future. My natural concerns are echoed by many of my classmates. We worry about becoming independent, what we will end up becoming when we grow up, and of course, who will get asked to the next high school dance. But these worries have recently become overshadowed by the daunting price of a college education. With UC and CSU tuition among the fastest-growing in the entire nation, the cost of post-secondary education in California is already a burden for many students and their families. Further tuition hikes would only continue to unsettle families who are currently putting students through college in California and adversely affect the outlook of prospective UC and CSU students.

Investing in education is not simply investing in the notion of a 'brighter tomorrow' -- it is the first step to building a tangibly improved future. California cannot expect to have a healthy economy and an engaged constituency in the future if it does not focus on providing quality education to its students. California students simply cannot afford to face the additional $6 billion in cuts to education that will take place if Prop 30 does not pass. These cuts would compromise not only the resources available to students, but the amount of time spent in school. They would also affect teachers, who are crucial contributors to our educational experiences. How can we as students expect our teachers to maintain their focus on our academic success when there is the looming potential for them to be laid off?

I recently had a conversation with a classmate of mine who expressed frustration at the fact that he couldn't pursue his interest in music at school because there simply wasn't enough funding to support the class he had signed up for. But the ramifications of budget cuts extend beyond high school music classes. If class sizes remain large and counseling staff are cut, many students will not receive the support they need to meet graduation requirements.

As student member on the State Board of Education, I realize that it is important to be realistic when approaching solutions to educational issues. While it's clear that Prop 30 is not a panacea for California's educational problems, it is a definitive response to many of the deficiencies we currently face.

On November 6, I hope that Californians consider the long-term future of our state. Though I am not old enough to vote in the California General Election this November, I encourage those who can vote to support Prop 30, which directly affects me and my fellow 6.3 million public school students.