By CTA President Dean E. Vogel
The students we teach do not live at school. They live in communities where people understand that all of us working together can help ensure that all members of society are treated with dignity and respect. Public schools are often the center of the community, where adults once attended classes themselves, where their sons and daughters now attend, where people gather to watch the local high school football team compete on Friday nights. Reaching out and connecting with those community members is of major importance.
The very nature of “community outreach” demands that we meet our community partners on their own turf and make a commitment to be a good partner in all pursuits that lead to supporting their basic infrastructure needs. Those needs include public education, police and fire protection, emergency services, health and human services, and transportation. It is critical that we team up with local communities, both to lend a helping hand and to ask for their support of public education.
Communities come together for a reason: to provide safety and support for one another as they engage in meaningful, relevant work that keeps their citizens whole and thriving. Our communities have seen more than $20 billion cut from schools and colleges in the last three years; they’ve watched California sink to 46th in per-pupil spending and lose roughly 40,000 educators and support staff in recent years. And now, due to state budget triggers that were designed to go off if state revenues fell substantially below the estimates used in the state spending plan for 2011-12, they’re seeing further midyear cuts of $100 million each to UC, CSU, and the community college system, and up to $248 million in home-to-school transportation. Those new cuts will endanger our young, poor and neediest students if they can no longer ride a bus to school and have to walk through unsafe conditions to get to class.
Our need to bring communities together to properly fund public education is more urgent than ever. Changes must be made to the tax structure in California. Putting a funding initiative on the ballot to promote a more equitable tax system and getting it passed by voters will add billions of dollars in new revenue to a state that has been forced to slash public education and other essential services. With support from local communities, we can build a very large, inclusive community to mount a campaign that resonates with a broad constituency.
A community of public education supporters can wield considerable influence over all forms of policy decisions at the state and local levels. Energized community members will come together to support local schools when they feel connected to, and validated by, the work going on in our schools. They will stand with us, and we will stand with them. We, as educators, can play an important role in making that happen by reaching out to the community and building the interpers
onal relationships necessary to do effective work.
The latest state budget cuts show more than ever why the state needs new sources of stable revenue and more corporations paying their fair share of taxes if we’re going to provide students with the kind of future they all deserve. The students we serve are depending on us to build the cohesiveness necessary to garner widespread support for this funding initiative. It can be done. It must be done. And we can all be part of the team to help do it.