Teachers, administrators, classified employees, school board members, students, parents and elected officials gathered Wednesday, April 3, on the steps of the state Capitol to rally for one thing: full and fair funding for education.
Wearing red and hoisting signs that read “Our Students Deserve More,” the East Bay Coalition for Public Education descended on Sacramento to demand that California invest more in its students and its future.
“We’re tired of fighting for crumbs,” said Dan Bellino, chief of staff, Alameda County Office of Education. “This is not a teacher thing, a superintendent thing or a classified thing — all of us are saying we’ve got to fund our schools.”
While some politicians like to position the state as a leader, California sits in the bottom 10 when it comes to school funding and staffing.
“A lot of people in this building behind me like to say that the budget is a reflection of our values,” Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi told the crowd on the south steps of the Capitol. “I believe that there’s nothing more important, there’s no greater priority than investing in our children and investing in our schools.”
Muratsuchi has authored Assembly Bill 39, which is supported by ACSA, that would increase LCFF target base grant amounts starting in the 2020-21 school year. The new funding targets would put California in the top 10 in per-pupil spending and make our state’s education system a home for equity and innovation.
Other speakers — including superintendents and ACSA leaders — described the effect inadequate funding is having on their schools: teachers that can’t afford to live in the districts where they teach; nutrition employees working two or three jobs to make ends meet; lack of individualized attention in the classroom; and failing buildings and outdated technology.
The East Bay Coalition for Public Education is a group of educators, parents and students representing all 21 school districts in Alameda County, which serves more than 225,000 students.
Coalition member and ACSA Board Member Parvin Ahmadi, superintendent of Castro Valley USD, said her work with ACSA has been instrumental in helping the coalition reach state policymakers.
“For me, it’s about making those connections,” she said. “Not only is it good for the whole movement but it’s also really important for all the different groups to see the benefit of ACSA and all of us coming together.”
Kim Wallace, ACSA member and superintendent with the Fremont USD, said for her district the major funding issues are pension contributions, which have eaten into the district’s general fund, and providing adequate special education funding, which only covers a third of the district’s costs.
“We need to work together to approach the state and reduce deficit spending. We need to unite to send the message that full and fair funding is what’s required,” she said.
Dozens of students took the day off from class to advocate at the Capitol. Castro Valley High School students Audrey Fung and Genevieve Hodge attended the rally, holding signs that read, “Textbooks don’t grow on trees” and “Where did you learn how to defund education?” The students said parents at their school are regularly asked to donate basic supplies like tissue.
“Education is important for everyone in order to advance,” said Audrey, when asked why she supports fair school funding.