Why Aren't More Parents Furious?

I was at the rally for public education funding at the Federal Building on Tuesday and can't understand why more people didn't join me.

It’s near the end of the school year and parents are exhausted. News of impending cuts to education has school booster clubs scrambling to raise money to help keep teachers who received pink slips this spring. Class size will likely go up and teachers will have to do even more with less and less.

“I think it’s sad that they keep cutting our future,” my friend Christina said to me Tuesday. “And children are our future.”

She should know. She has one child in a West LA public school and teaches at a drastically underfunded school in Inglewood. After a long day teaching and then volunteering to help with her school’s end-of-the-year play, she brought her 3- and 5-year old boys to the Federal Building in Westwood to join in the Educate Our State rally Tuesday afternoon.

The goal of the rally, one of 10 across California that day, was to send a strong message to state legislators, said Teri Levy, one of Educate Our State’s co-founders.

“We need funding that is predictable every year,” she told the gathering of about 150.

Educate Our State was formed by a group of parents who want high quality public education for every child in the state. They want parents to speak up and demand that California get its act together and stop cutting funding to schools.

Unless Gov. Jerry Brown can get an extension of the 2009 temporary tax hikes, schools are looking at a worse time than they had this past year, when the school year was cut and services reduced. California is already near the bottom in per pupil spending in the country.

I don’t understand why people aren’t taking to the streets in droves at the possibility of what could happen to public schools over the next few years. Thirteen teachers at my son’s school got pink slips this year. The school’s booster club pays for a P.E. teacher, art teacher, music teacher, librarian, and teachers aides. At schools without this powerful force of parents (mostly moms, of course), they go without. The booster club has been working around the clock to raise money, but it’s difficult to sustain that level of commitment year after year.

During the rally, writer and public radio host Sandra Tsing Loh led the crowd in her rewriting of the song "Proud Mary” called “Proud Mamas” with part of the chorus saying “burning 'bout the budget.”

But are we burning about the budget and the effect cuts will have on schools? Why weren’t there more parents at the rally at the Federal Building? Or at the rally held downtown two weeks ago? I know a rally at 4 p.m. on the Westside isn’t doable for a lot of people, but there are those who could have come, but didn’t.

As we stood on Wilshire holding up signs, another friend, Angelike, and I talked about parent apathy as the cars drove by the demonstration.

“What’s really sad is that people can’t even be bothered to honk,” she said.

She organized a demonstration at the school our kids go to a few weeks ago. Many parents picked up their kids and went home instead of picking up a sign and joining in the demonstration.

But now is the time. It’s time to fight for our public schools and show legislators that there is nothing more important than our children.

Parents, if we don’t stand up for our kids, who will?

jj May 25, 2011 at 10:42 PM
When the rallies take place in Sacramento or surrounding the local offices of elected officials you may get the attention of those who were elected to represent us. Seems like there was very little mainstream reporting about these statewide rallies. It is a first step, though, toward demanding a consistent and reliable level of funding but there is a very long way to go, particularly when Republican legislators don't seem to share in our frustration. One other thing: this may be about the worst budget crisis in state history but it isn't the only one - parents have lived through somewhat similar budget cycles that decimated programs at public schools a few times in the last ten years. Look at the pattern of budget cutting in LAUSD, for example. Serious questions that are just as important may be not how do we get more money but what the hell are we doing with the money that we DO get? Who is monitoring expenditures and programs for effectiveness or for meeting expected outcomes...who is evaluating programs and personnel and why don't parents have an authentic role in policy, planning and decision-making in our public schools?
JB May 26, 2011 at 11:47 PM
I truly believe that if these rallies were held on a weekend, you would see a significant difference in the amount of parents in attendance. At least 60% of parents are dual income and can't take the day off or leave early to participate in a weekday event. I am a working mom and even though I wasn't able to make it to the rally, I signed the Educate Our State's online petition and posted information on the rally on various message boards. While it is true that there is parent apathy, please recognize that there are those of us who try to help in other ways to make up for not being able to be on-site. I look forward to articles addressing the ways how all parents can make a difference to help protest cuts to education.
Heather Austin May 27, 2011 at 02:01 PM
Unfortunately some parents still don't know just how bad things are in California. For example, do you know... CA’s national rank in per-pupil spending? 47th! CA’s national rank in ratio of staff to students? 50th! CA’s national rank in fourth grade reading? 43rd! CA’s national rank in eighth grade math? 41st! CA per-pupil state funding in 2009-2010? $7,444 Difference in CA state-funding vs. national average? -$2,856 The CA per-pupil state funding is even more disheartening when you compare it to the amount each CA prisoner costs the state every year, $58,000! Our tax dollars allow privatized prison companies to profit while our public schools fail. There is something fundamentally wrong with this system. Let’s wake up and do something about it!
Heather Austin May 27, 2011 at 02:22 PM
What can you do to help? You can start by signing this petition in support of public education: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/wakeupcalifornia/ "Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean." - Satoro Come on California, let's make some waves!!! Children can participate also: http://freepdfhosting.com/cf293135d1.pdf You can buy a shirt to support and PROMOTE the cause: http://www.educateourstate.org/shop-and-share.php (Be sure to where it often as a conversation starter. Be prepared to share some startling facts and action steps.) Whether you have three minutes, three hours, three days or more, there are many other ways you can help. Find out how by visiting: http://www.educateourstate.org/what-you-can-do.php "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead
Yvonne Condes May 27, 2011 at 10:13 PM
Thank you for the information, Heather!


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