In the educational and social justice community, we hope the 2010 election results will bring literal and figurative climate change to Sacramento and California. Key election results present new hopes and opportunities for the communities we represent: low-income families, immigrants, and students of color.
In contrast to the general lack of response from the current administration, we hope to work closely with Governor-elect Jerry Brown on a number of key education issues, especially towards equitable funding for schools in low-income communities of color. Before the election, Brown responded to Californians for Justice and our allies in the Campaign for Quality Education, answering our members’ questions about education issues, such as teacher quality, the dropout rate, and counselor ratios. Brown and his campaign staff were receptive to our needs and stressed their commitment to education and education reform. We hope that Brown will continue to include the voices of students and parents – key players and education experts in their own right – in conversations about school reform.
This year, the California budget was 100 days late, a state record. The passage of Proposition 25, which reduces the vote requirement to pass a budget from two-thirds of the Legislature to a simple majority and brings California in-line with the rest of the states in the union, will go a long way towards California and our schools having an on-time budget. Although Prop 25 will not increase revenue or balance the budget, it will hopefully lessen the deadlock and partisanship in the budget process. More importantly, we hope it will give school districts, administrators, principals, teachers, and thus students and parents, a clearer picture on upcoming school years. Will a favorite teacher return? Will AP Calculus be offered? How many students will be in my classes?
At first glance, our efforts to help ensure Proposition 23’s defeat, which would have overturned a voter approved mandate and returned California to 1990 emission levels, seems out of the province of our work to improve public schools. But as movements coincide, we see a direct connection between educational and environmental justice. How does protecting the “Global Warming Act of 2006” and air quality affect education? Many of our schools are located in industrial areas, surrounded by ports, freeways, factories, refineries, and railways, where asthma and lung disease disproportionately affect low-income students of color. Just as important as access to qualified teachers, college counselors, up-to-date textbooks, and open libraries, students of color need to be in healthy environments, where the food is nutritious, the walk home is safe, and the air is clean.
In 2011, we’re working towards equitable funding, so that the diverse educational needs of each individual student are considered and so all students can graduate high school prepared for college and career. We are hopeful that a new administration in Sacramento, a new budget process, and a greener, cleaner environment will help us get there.
Paul Tran is the Communications Director at Californians for Justice (CFJ), a statewide grassroots organization that works for racial and educational justice in low-income and immigrant communities of color. Before coming to CFJ, he coordinated leadership training program for Coro Northern California and worked as a legislative aide in the City of Oakland.