By Carol Kocivar in Thoughts on Public Education/ToPED | http://bit.ly/uclE7s
Posted on 11/06/11 • It’s time now to unite for next November.
Yes, November 2012. It may seem like a long way off, but it’s not. In just a year, our state will have a potential opportunity our children can’t afford for us to miss.
Carol Kocivar | KQED >
That’s when millions of Californians will go to the polls, where they could have a chance to do what our legislators have so far been unable to do: reverse the chronic underfunding of our public schools.
So far, several well-regarded organizations have been exploring potential ballot measures. Some deal exclusively with education funding, some with broader tax increases or school reforms, and some with larger state budget reforms.
California State PTA is calling for a united effort to qualify and pass a state ballot measure that focuses – first and foremost – on restoring funding for educational programs that have been cut or eliminated.
Along with other groups, we’re raising awareness about the importance of this effort, and urging state leaders, organizations, businesses, and individuals to come together around a plan that meets the needs of students.
In our most recent annual survey, PTA members and leaders from throughout the state singled out adequate state funding for education as a resounding priority: 89.2 percent said it is extremely important; 98.6 percent said it was important or extremely important.
No other issue came close to this level of support.
In addition, our survey showed that parents are most interested in making sure students have access to a full range of programs and services. In response to a list of nine specific education topics, the five top-rated responses were:
- Access to a full curriculum that includes the arts for every student;
- Smaller class sizes;
- More science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM);
- Strengthening teacher and administrator effectiveness; and
- Reducing the dropout rate.
In another section of the survey, access to physical education also rated extremely high with parents.
Parents and family members know that what matters most is what happens on the ground in our schools and in our children’s classrooms each day. While talk in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., often centers on the reform of the week, our members have spoken loudly and clearly: Schools need adequate funding so that every child has access to a complete educational program that includes physical education, arts, and STEM (science technology, engineering, and math), as well as counselors, libraries, and smaller class sizes. We think other systemic reforms to the education system that frequently are discussed in Sacramento are important as well, but they may be better addressed through legislation, instead of a ballot measure.
In PTA we’re passionate, but we’re also realistic. We understand it typically takes a lot of money to qualify a statewide ballot initiative, especially in this polarized political climate. But that doesn’t mean we won’t put all of our energy toward working with others to try. While we are not an organization that can write a big check to get a measure on the ballot, we have something even more valuable: our members.
Together we are nearly 1 million parents, educators, grandparents, aunts, uncles, students, and others who care deeply about the damage inflicted by year after year of budget cuts. We will fight for every child, and we can help to create the broad public support and true grassroots engagement that will be needed to work with others and help qualify and pass a ballot measure.
Of course, any successful ballot measure must include new revenues. But we know that public education is our collective responsibility and that we must all step up to restore its promise.
Passing a measure won’t be easy, but we think the majority of Californians are up for the challenge.
Now, more than ever, we must act to secure the financing for public schools that will allow us to fulfill our promise of providing a quality education for all students. We look forward to forging a united effort focused on this goal. Please visit our website to find out how you can help and keep up to date on our progress.
Carol Kocivar of San Francisco is president of the California State PTA. She has served as president-elect, vice president for communications, an education commission member, and on numerous committees with the California State PTA. A past president of the San Francisco Second District PTA, Kocivar has worked as a journalist, attorney, and ombudsperson for special education. The California State PTA has nearly 1 million members throughout the state volunteering on behalf of public schools, children, and families, with the motto “Every child, one voice.” The PTA also advocates at national, state, and local levels for education and family issues.