Parents and grandparents often say when they were in school, they had art, music, a librarian, school nurse. It was normal. Now, it's normal not to have them. The only way we can start getting more is by expecting more, because our kids are worth it!
Smaller Class Size
When I was teaching high school, most of my classes had over thirty students per class. It was difficult to give each student the attention they needed. Imagine reducing a class of thirty students to twenty-five or twenty. Smaller classroom sizes would mean more attention to the social and academic needs of students. Studies show that smaller classes correlated with higher graduation rates, student engagement and self-esteem and that the positive effects of smaller classes were twice as large for poor and minority students.
More Teachers, a Librarian, Nurse, Custodian, Counselor in Every School
Salaries of teachers and staff make up over 80% of the district's unrestricted funding. That's why teachers and staff are the first to be cut in order to address budget shortfalls. But teachers and staff are critical in providing a well-rounded and fundamental supports for a quality education. Especially with additional safety costs due to COVID-19, we can no longer compromise on nurses and custodians. We need them to carry out the safety and cleaning required to combat COVID-19. Counselors are needed to address stress, anxiety and additional economic pressures on families as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
Highest Safety Standards for Reopening Schools
During the COVID-19 crisis, ensuring safety at PUSD schools will help to ensure the safety of the community at large. Especially when state, county safety guidelines are not mandates, the district should enforce its own higher safety rules, including providing face masks for employees and students, define physical spacing requirements specific to each indoor and outdoor space, and provide a plan and funding to implement COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.
Let's Expect More, Because Our Kids Are Worth It
As other constituents have experienced, when I was growing up my school had everything: music, art, a librarian, school nurse, physical education. They were just there. The extent of my mom helping out at school was being an occasional chaperone for a field trip. It was normal for schools to have everything it needed. Today's normal is public schools do not have those basic components of education. Individual schools are left to raise money for classroom supplies and hiring staff. As a result, each school's funding relies on the time and financial resources of students' families. That is inequitable. Worst of all, we've come to accept this as normal.
Budgets are a statement of our values. Let's ensure our tax dollars make public education a priority. A majority of public school funding comes from the state government and a small portion from the federal government. Let's examine state budgets as well as state revenue. Ever since the passage of CA Prop 13 of 1978, California went from being world-class schools to ranking 41st in per pupil spending. We have a historic opportunity to bring billions of dollars to CA public schools with Prop 15 which would generate additional state revenue through commercial property tax that would affect 6% of commercial properties, specifically the largest corporations. Please join me in voting Yes on Prop 15 on the November 2020 ballot.
The federal government can do more as well, especially when it comes to special education funding. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975 requires states to serve children with disabilities. The cost of educating a student with disabilities averages $27,000 compared to the general education cost of about $10,000 per student. However, the federal government contributes a small percentage to special education funding. According to an article in Education Week published on January 10, 2020, federal funds cover about $1.2 billion of the state's $13 billion special education costs.
I look forward to a time where it's normal to have more money, not less, when the difficult decision is not which teacher to cut, but which teacher to hire. The only way we can start getting more funding for public education is by expecting more, because our kids are worth it.