Let’s be clear about something: There is an education crisis in California. An inequitable education system is creating a lost generation of students. Soon the rest of California will feel this loss, as it ripples across an economy and civil society that needs a more skilled labor force, better educated and engaged residents, and a social safety network that will be stressed into bankruptcy.
Californians for Justice Education Fund (CFJ) is a statewide grassroots organization working for racial and educational justice by building the power of youth, communities of color, immigrants, low-income families, and LGBTQ communities. For the students and families with whom we organize, there is a great deal at stake in the upcoming election––namely the future prosperity and health of our communities and subsequently, our state. We have a keen focus on expanding equitable educational opportunities, resources, and pathways for K-12 and community college students from low-income communities of color.
Elected state leaders play a central role in promoting or impeding efforts to increase access to high-quality education. Just last week, our State leaders approved a record-breaking overdue budget that was balanced in large part on an estimated $4 billion cut to public education and the suspension of Proposition 98––California’s voter-approved guarantee for minimum funding to K-12 schools and community colleges. This decision––to cut even deeper into public school funding, which has endured $17 billion in cuts over the previous two years––will jettison the dreams and aspirations of thousands of students across the state and threaten the future of California’s economy, workforce, and an engaged, educated democracy.
CFJ student leaders, parent allies, and community supporters in Fresno, Long Beach, San Jose, and Oakland, along with our partner organizations in the statewide Campaign for Quality Education (CQE) alliance, have taken an active role in raising awareness of what’s at stake for education in this election. To engage candidates for the Governor’s office and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction in the public debate about education and other critical issues, student and parent leaders from CFJ and CQE organizations generated questions for a non-partisan candidates’ questionnaire. These leaders, who have organized tirelessly to improve educational policies and promote equity and access over the past ten years, brainstormed dozens of sharp, significant questions. We compiled the questions into a range of topics, including college and career readiness, school funding, the dropout issue, healthy schools, employment, and immigration policies.
This is the first time CFJ and the CQE alliance have worked together to create a non-partisan education voters’ guide and candidates’ questionnaire. Back in late 2009, we collectively decided that there was too much at stake in the November 2010 elections to focus on our efforts only on regional policy campaigns and legislative advocacy at the state level. We created the voters’ guide to help deepen the debate about critical issues at this crossroads in California’s political landscape. We also researched key ballot initiatives and developed collective positions that we feel will best advance educational equity, not only the interests of our low-income communities and communities of color, but the majority of Californians.
We count our first voters’ guide and candidates’ questionnaire as a resounding success. We received responses from both candidates for the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and five of six gubernatorial candidates. We invite you to download the Non-Partisan Voters’ Guide.
Print it out. Read it over.
Share it with your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and the students next door.
Use it to help you decide what’s at stake for you and your community in this critical upcoming election.
The future is now, and it is in your hands.
As Executive Director of the Californians for Justice Education Fund (CFJ), Jeremy Lahoud, provides support, vision, and leadership for CFJ to live out its mission and achieve its strategic goals. Since joining the CFJ staff in 2004, Jeremy has served as Long Beach Lead Organizer, Organizing Co-Director, and Interim Co-Director. He serves on the Coordinating Committee of California’s statewide Campaign for Quality Education alliance and the Strategy Team for the national Alliance for Educational Justice. Prior to joinin CFJ, he spent ten years organizing for racial and educational justice with African American, Latino, and Arab American youth at the Southwest Youth Collaborative in Chicago.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog by our guest elections columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of California Forward or our Leadership Council.