Over a year ago I found myself changing careers, going from non profit management to education and it has most definitely opened my eyes to the politics that goes on behind the scenes so to speak. Now, my undergrad degree was in political science, so I have a tendency to look at the world through a political science lens, but having two kids who have attended public schools K-12, and a third kid who is now in 4th grade, from my humble opinion, politics is at the heart of so much that is wrong with our educational system. The folks who are in decision making positions too often have agendas that are more political and self serving than student centered. From what I see, the notion of equity, quality and student outcomes, seems to be more of an afterthought.
Just imagine if state wide there was a shared vision of public schools founded on the principles of providing a high quality equitable education, with a focus on physical and mental wellness. A vision that was not lost in the political discourse that creates opportunities and pathways based on the neighborhood’s wealth and ethnic demographics, which leaves a large percentage of Black and Brown kids at a disadvantage and with no clear pathway to the same opportunities I just mentioned.
Education is arguably the most important investment society can make. The truth is every problem we face, from joblessness and crime to racism, homophobia, can be better addressed by creating an educational system that ensures students will leave the school with the capability of engaging in these type of dialogues and will feel empowered to advocate for the issues that directly impact their future.
The fact is public school funding has been cut all over the country after excessive and reckless tax cuts. And if you consider that we should all be looking at education through a social justice lens, then the focus would be on the distribution of resources in a fair and equitable manner, ensuring that all students feel safe and secure and are receiving a high quality education.
But the reality is the students who suffer the most from budget cuts here in California, are Black and Brown students living in working class neighborhoods that are labeled “urban”. These schools are feeling the brunt of the cuts because they receive the lowest funding, fewest supplies, too often the least rigorous curriculum, and the oldest facilities and equipment, according to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
So what does this say about the future of our public school education here in California? What responsibility do we as educators have in response to this crisis that we are in? Although I am not a teacher, I am an educator and have been working with children in various capacities for over 20 years, from teaching dance and gymnastics, facilitating know your rights workshops and restorative justice circles, to directing a youth program.
I believe that if you work with youth in any capacity, you must be held to a higher standard, and you must take advantage of opportunities to highlight the disparities and force much needed dialogues. It’s on us to help cultivate healthy, quality, equitable schools for our kids, and to hold administrators and lawmakers accountable when they don’t provide the resources we need to make this happen. We owe it to our children.