California at a crossroads: my generation’s future hangs in balance
Today I’m traveling to Sacramento, along with hundreds of student and parent leaders from across California, to deliver an urgent but simple message to the State Legislature and the Governor: It’s time to upgrade California’s education system.
We’re coming to our state’s capitol as part of the Campaign for Quality Education, a statewide coalition of grassroots, civil rights, policy, and research organizations committed to educational equity for all communities in California’s public schools. We travel from the gritty grassroots to the halls of power, as mothers, fathers, students, brothers, sisters, and community leaders.
We’re here because California is at a crossroads. Our state’s economic future depends on the brainpower of the rising generation — my generation.
Over the past two years, $17 billion has been cut from education in California. According to the California Budget Project, in 2009-2010 California’s K-12 per-pupil spending ranked 45th in the country. And we are last in students-per-teacher ratio.
I’m angry about it. I think we should move in a direction that strengthens the California Dream, not one that jeopardizes our economic future. An educated society is a better society.
So today we are presenting our ideas for “Education 2.0” and a new “OS (Our Schools) 2011 device.” Our device contains four “apps”: 1) Which Way CA? 2) Kids Count, 3) Teacher Ready, and 4) 100% Prepared.
Which Way CA? It’s time to decide whether our state will prioritize the requests of special interests or invest in our future by revamping our education finance system to reflect 21st century realities. Which way will California go? Are we going to continue with deeper budget cuts? Or will lawmakers have the courage to recognize that kids like me need them to raise more money so we can invest in education and in our future?
Kids Count: We need to upgrade California’s school finance system to one that distributes funding based on what it takes to prepare all students for both college and careers. That means moving to a system that funds schools adequately and also targets students who need the most help, such as English learners and low-income students.
I don’t want to be just another statistic we see on paper, or part of the 50% dropout rate everyone talks about. California is a place where I can write my own destiny, but no one succeeds alone. All I want is a chance to get the best so I can give my best.
Teacher Ready: My teacher, Ms. Aguilar, is an unsung hero. Every day she comes to class ready to challenge us to learn, and she inspires me to reach for my dreams. We know that thousands of teachers across the state have received layoff notices, but one thing is clear: teachers make a difference. We need to make sure that all our teachers are qualified when they start teaching, but once they’re in the classroom they need our support to be the best they can be. I have learned from Ms. Aguilar that the only limit to the height of my achievement is the reach of my dreams and the willingness to work for them.
100 Percent Prepared: I want to have practical skills I can use in real-world situations, but also an academic foundation that allows me to innovate and use my creativity. Being 100% prepared means I can reach higher because I am prepared for both college and career. Watering down high school requirements creates low expectations for students; instead, we want to be ready to pursue our dreams and be prepared for pursuing both college and a trade.
When I meet with my elected representatives today, I want to look them in the eye and tell them they need to invest in my future, the future of my classmates, and the future of students across California. We’re worth it.
Miriam Hernandez is a Junior at Roosevelt High School in Fresno and a student campaign chair with Californians for Justice (CFJ), which is part of the Campaign for Quality Education.