It’s time for lawmakers to call ‘Olly Olly Oxen Free’ and pass the budget
California’s Legislature is playing children’s games with unbelievably high stakes – the very future of our state. The players, adults who really should know better, have turned the budget process into a game of “Hot Potato,” tossing decisions back and forth, avoiding the tough choices that must be made.
The apparent goal of the game is simple: escaping being held responsible for the decisions we elected the players – our legislators – to make. The immediate losers of this game are our children, who have already had to endure the effects of many cuts in service: health care, child care, and the more than $18 billion cut from education over the last three years. The long-term losers will be all of us, as the cuts shortchange our state’s chances of growing the well-educated workforce we need to prosper in the future. The nearly 1 million PTA members across California have said loudly and clearly: adequate funding for education is a top priority. PTA is deeply troubled that some of our elected representatives in Sacramento still do not seem to be listening.
Public education is a fundamental responsibility of the state — and our children cannot be asked to bear the brunt of any more budget cuts. Endless budget cuts break our promise to provide a free public education to all our children, to provide to all of them the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Breaking our promise to provide a quality public education has heartbreaking consequences that stand to cheat children out of the opportunity to contribute as much as their talents allow. For instance, the state and the PTA have both singled out closing the achievement gap as a priority. Research has clearly shown that the gap widens during long breaks from school. Budget cuts have already shortened the instructional year at many schools, and threaten to shorten it even more. The reality reduces the state’s oft-repeated priority of closing the achievement gap to an empty statement.
We know that children learn best when they are healthy, yet we cut crucial services that help them to stay healthy. Our budgets reflect our values more faithfully than our words – and we must insist on a budget that invests in the future by investing in our children. We won’t win in the global game of economic prosperity without a well-educated workforce.
It’s time for all of us to call out “olly, olly, oxen free,” and ask our legislators to come out of hiding. They must stand up, and put one foot in front of the other until they are all in the middle of the aisle, so they can do their job to protect the more than 9 million children in California!
We cannot postpone our call for action, just as our children cannot postpone their childhoods. This is not a partisan effort or a political strategy. This is a call to our legislators to fulfill their basic responsibility to do the best for all the citizens who elected them.
Anyone who has ever played games with children quickly comes to appreciate the way even very young children insist on playing by the rules. They are great enforcers of fairness and truth-telling.
It’s time for the grown-ups in Sacramento to remember what they knew as children. It’s time to stop playing games with the budget and with our future.
Jo A.S. Loss is president of the California State PTA, a nonprofit, nonsectarian, and noncommercial organization with nearly 1 million members throughout the state, including more than 250,000 in the Los Angeles area. Loss lives in Castro Valley and serves on the Castro Valley Unified School District Board of Education. For more information about the California State PTA, visit www.capta.org.