By Jeanette Marrone
As Californians head to the polls this Tuesday and make a choice about Proposition 30, we face a monumental decision: Will we choose to ensure our children get the education they deserve and invest in California's economic future? Or will we retreat from our commitment to each other and allow the worst cuts to education that our state has ever seen?
As a public school teacher at a charter school in the Atwater Village neighborhood of L.A., I set high expectations for my students and work very hard to help them meet those expectations. Our community of students, parents and educators is committed to ensuring that our children are prepared to be successful citizens who have the skills to give back to the community as adults. One way my school does this is by having an extended school year: our students are in class for 190 days per year, compared to 175 currently in LAUSD. We strongly believe that the amount of time spent in school is directly related to a student's ability to succeed beyond high school. When the state fails to deliver money that schools have already budgeted, the quality of instructional programing is compromised, which is precisely what is at stake with Proposition 30. If Proposition 30 fails, time in school will be lost for students who need it.
If Proposition 30 does not pass, the outlook is bleaker than most Californians realize. Proposition 30 isn't about buying more computers or hiring more staff. It is about addressing our schools' basic needs to get through the coming years. For LAUSD, the failure of Proposition 30 would cause a loss of 15 additional school days this year and next year, on top of the five days that have already been slashed. Together, this amounts to an entire month of lost schooling.
The implications are staggering. In schools, a month amounts to roughly one unit of instruction. Imagine if the unit lost was one on the Civil War, or basic multiplication, or developing technology literacy. How much is this knowledge worth to us as a community? The loss of instructional time is detrimental to our students as individuals, but it is equally detrimental to the long-term strength of our state. If our students are less knowledgeable about the world and less prepared to go on to college, our economy will not have the workforce it needs down the line. On top of students losing out academically, the 500,000+ LAUSD children who rely on their schools for meals could be left hungry, with schools closed for additional days. Parents would be left searching for (and paying for) daycare for an entire extra month. Our communities are already struggling to get through this economic downturn, and without support from Proposition 30, our communities will suffer even more.
I have heard the arguments against Proposition 30 and I sympathize with them. No one welcomes higher taxes, especially not in a time of economic hardship. In addition, I share concerns about mismanagement of the budget in Sacramento. The lack of leadership by our legislators in using education funds for other parts of the budget is compromising the future for countless students.
Our students can't wait for the economy to improve or for Sacramento to get its act together. They need a quality education now, and they won't get a second chance. It is wrong to ask these kids to pay the price. When we decide yes or no on 30, the question we ask is whether or not we as a state are willing to put the needs of our children before our adult concerns. On Election Day, please join me in choosing to invest in California's future economy and most of all, in honoring our children's right to an excellent education. Vote YES on Proposition 30.
Jeanette Marrone teaches at the Environmental Science and Technology High School in Los Angeles and is a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow.