By CTA President David A. Sanchez
In this issue of California Educator, we wanted to give members and students an opportunity to tell firsthand stories of the hardships they face due to the recent budget cuts. They talked from the heart about how football programs are being closed, about favorite art classes disappearing, about bloated classrooms with 40-plus students. One 13-year-old boy named Johnny spoke about the music class he loves and how his math grades have gotten better since he started playing the trumpet.
Going to primary school in El Paso, Texas, I recall having to bring in my own supplies because the school I attended was so poorly funded. We brought our own pencils, paper, crayons - everything except for textbooks. Still, in that underfunded school, we always had art and PE and music classes. They never took away those vital programs. Somehow they understood the importance of those classes and how they added to a well-rounded person, to a balanced education.
One of my most memorable school experiences during those years in El Paso was my sixth-grade class with Mr. Smith. He was an incredible teacher. He knew how to engage us by bringing the lesson to life. One week I remember well. We were in the midst of a science lesson studying the solar system, and Mr. Smith decided that we would create a song about all the planets. He said that if it went well, we would present the song at a performance that was scheduled later that month for our parents. So we all banded together and came up with this song about our solar system. In this typical elementary school science class - that was once a bit boring for me - Mr. Smith managed to combine art, drama, music and the solar system. It truly brought the wonders of our universe to life. What kid wouldn't swallow that hook? Everyone in class was engaged and invested in the project, and the performance was a success.
Today, when I look at the condition of California's schools, I think about how hard our members work to give our students a well-rounded education and what little the state does to help. How can our students feel truly invested in school if we don't offer them a diverse education? We shortchange our students by not giving them a broad spectrum of experiences similar to what they will one day experience in the world outside of school. Classes like art and music encourage kids to do better in school. Our students rely on us to teach them the skills they'll need to be productive in their personal and professional lives. In many ways, their future success and happiness are in our hands.
It's why we need to vote YES on Propositions 1A-1F in the special election on May 19. It is clear that all these measures are inextricably tied together. Props. 1A and 1B work together to start restoring some of the cuts politicians have made to education. Prop. 1A creates the funding mechanism. Prop. 1B corrects the attempted unlawful manipulation of the state's minimum school funding law - Proposition 98 - and repays $9.3 billion that is owed to education.
With just about a week to go, this election is about who gets out to vote. If we don't pass all of these initiatives, the budget agreement falls apart and politicians will have to start all over again. Failing to pass these measures will mean more layoffs across the state and will cost California $23 billion over the next four years, resulting in even deeper cuts to children's health care, public safety and programs for seniors and the disabled - and another $11.5 billion cut to education.
Continue to get the word out about how important this election is. Remember, there are more than 9 million students counting on us to vote YES on Props. 1A-1F. We need to help all of them to succeed.
¡Sí Se Puede!
¿Por Qué No?
[It can be done! Why not?], words inspired by César Chávez, encourage us to remember that, together, we can achieve great things.