Students must summon our inner superheroes for educational justice
When I was a young child, every Saturday morning I would watch cartoons, especially Batman. Although people may think it’s a cliché for children to be inspired by superheroes, the feeling children get from watching people who can change the world into a better place touches a true emotion. I don’t have superpowers, but I do have the power to speak out for my community, to tell my story as an inner-city young woman of color in a public school.
On Thursday, I will head out to Sacramento with students and parents from different cities and different backgrounds from all over California to fight for a better education for all students in California. I don’t want to be just another statistic on a piece of paper. I want to write my own destiny.
I will board the bus to Sacramento as a part of the Campaign for Quality Education, a statewide alliance of grassroots, civil rights, policy, and research organizations committed to educational equity for all communities in California’s public schools. I will join the Our Future Can’t Wait rally to to demand that lawmakers fix
California’s school funding system.
I have committed to making my voice heard and creating an impact on the people around me. Education is very important, not just because it is a part of my everyday life, but because it molds my future.
What inspires me about Batman is that he isn’t privileged with innate superpowers like the other superheroes. He taught himself how to effectively fight back against crime and injustice. He dedicated his own time and will to expand his mind and to train himself physically to fight crime so that innocent people don’t have to go through what he did – losing something or someone very close to his heart.
Low-income students and English language learners are the victims of injustice in our school finance system. We are not privileged with luxuries economically, nor do we do grow up in safe neighborhoods. In spite of these challenges, we become the heroes of our own stories. We train our minds and bodies every day to be able to make it through without these advantages. When I look at privilege in some schools, I can’t help but ask, Why is it that some of us have to try so little and why do so many of us have to try much harder?
Over the past three years, California has cut more than $2 million per day from our schools. The time to change our school funding system is now, with Gov. Brown’s proposal for a “weighted student formula” to give every student in California a fair shot at a good education.
I support the general idea of the Governor’s new student funding formula, because it will direct much needed funding to students like me who live in poverty or need extra support to learn English. What I do not support in his proposal is giving total flexibility to districts on how to spend those funds.
Total flexibility has hurt students in the past because of the lack of accountability. Giving district administrators the option to spend the funding as they deem necessary does not guarantee that those funds will be spent on the students the money is intended for: English language learners and low-income students. We simply cannot get this policy wrong. We need “targeted flexibility” to ensure that low-income students and English learners will directly benefit from additional money. Let districts decide on which programs and services to spend flexible funds, but require that those services benefit the intended students. We should build in accountability measures to make sure we see where the money is being spent.
Even though some people argue that now is not the time to pass a new weighted student formula, why isn’t it? How much longer do we disadvantaged, unprivileged students have to wait?
We are done waiting for someone to help us and have taken it upon ourselves to become the Dark Knight of Educational Justice. Today, together with hundreds of students and parents, we descend upon the State Capitol to bring justice to an inequitable school finance system that has deferred our dreams for too long. Today, we become the heroes of our own story.
Citlali Hernandez is a sophomore at Wilson High School in Long Beach and a student leader with Californians for Justice (CFJ), which spearheads the Campaign for Quality Education.