By Steven Piper
According to Educate Our State, a nonprofit organization composed of parents concerned about education in the budget-cut-ridden state of California, the state currently ranks last in teacher-to-student ratio, librarian-to-student ratio, and guidance-counselor-to-student ratio. Also, more than 30 percent of California students do not graduate from high school.
In order to address the obstacles facing the status of education, 20-plus education rallies were organized last Tuesday by Educate our State, parents and community members. Locally, a rally named “Wake Up California!” was hosted at Longfellow Elementary School in Bixby Knolls.
“The goal [of the rally was] to increase awareness of the crisis facing California public schools and the need for our legislators to pass the revenue extension measures to secure school funding,” said event organizer Lisa Lindsay. Another goal of “Wake Up California!,” according to Lindsay, is to showcase the parental and community support for education across the state.
At Tuesday’s rally, Megan Kerr, the emcee for the event, said, “This rally is completely independent…It was dreamed up by parents that want their voices heard…This is about all children in California.” According to Kerr, one in eight children in the country are educated by the state of California. Coincidentally, California also has the eighth largest economy in the world. “Our own Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) is the third largest district in California,” Kerr said. “It is the largest employer in the city. We want adequate funding for our schools now.”
Teachers Association of Long Beach President Michael Day said there have been $20 billion in cuts to the California education system in the last three years. “Stop cuts to our schools and classrooms. Stand together today and say enough is enough,” Day said. Marking the hard times that educators are currently facing, Day referred to 6-year-old Long Beach student Jonathan Mendoza-Anguiano, who recently donated his life’s savings– totaling about $10– to his teacher so that she could keep her job.
Also taking the microphone at the rally was former California State Assemblymember and Senator Betty Karnette, a former teacher, who stressed the fundamental importance of obtaining more funding. “Always have a positive attitude and be strong,” Karnette said. “Get them to agree with you that you need funding. Find an area of agreement.”
Following Karnette’s message, LBUSD Superintendent Chris Steinhauser said that amid the budget cuts and current obstacles, teachers and teaching remain a highly satisfying and absolutely necessary function of society. “People ask me, ‘Chris, why did you let your child become a teacher?’” Steinhauser said. “And I say ‘because it is the best profession in the world.’ It is an issue of democracy.”