Crystal Brown, president of Educate Our State

Crystal Brown

As a parent, I’ve learned a few effective strategies over the years for those moments when chaos reigns in my house. 

Now, however, I would like to apply one of the old “effective parenting techniques” to the political circles of both Molly Munger and Gov. Jerry Brown: “TIME OUT!”

Please stop poking holes in each other’s efforts! Have you forgotten for whom you are advocating? Have you forgotten who loses if you both lose? Let me remind you: our kids! 

As the November election nears, I am absolutely appalled and heartbroken as I watch the teams behind Ms. Munger’s Proposition 38 and Gov. Brown’s Proposition 30 campaigns continue to take aim at each other in print  and on television.

I wish they would focus on the very important fact that if neither of these measures passes, the result will be that everyone loses, with devastating cuts to the budgets, programs, and campuses of every school in California. 

I will admit that I am not as politically “seasoned” as these campaigns; perhaps that explains why I am able to allow common sense to rule when I say that the two campaigns – both aimed at helping to better fund schools and improve our children’s education – should work in partnership, hand in hand, to do better by our kids.

Parents get it. From one end of California to the other, parents and concerned citizens working with Educate Our State have been setting up tables at farmers markets, weekend fairs, town hall meetings, and in front of their schools to explain that voting Yes on both 30 and 38 is the best option for our children. These dedicated volunteers (mostly parents and students) lay the truth bare: either measure will be difficult to pass, so a yes vote on both is critical; and if both measures do pass – it would take a miracle – the one with the most votes will prevail. Fran Shimp, a leader and board member with Educate Our State, created this compelling video, “Why You Should Vote Yes on 30 and 38,” to drive the point home. The California School Boards Association has also endorsed a Yes on 30/Yes on 38 position, which is good news for California.)

So, as I watch two very powerful, influential, and progressive campaign teams attacking each other with our children’s future on the line, I wonder: Have the two sides forgotten their real competition? If so, let me remind them: There is a very vocal, and often powerful and wealthy, group of Californians who believe that our schools are OK, and because of this are opposed to any new taxes. They believe if the doors are open, education must be going on just as it has for decades.

Well, as a mother of three school-age children in an urban public school district, I can tell you this is absolutely not the case. Not even close. Since my oldest daughter, now 11, began elementary school, budget cuts have been severe, and our school has lost programs like art and music, days of school, dedicated teachers, funding for field trips, the PE program, and our school nurse – and this has happened despite the fact that parent-driven financial support has increased to hundreds of thousands of dollars and parent volunteer hours are now measured in the thousands (perhaps even tens of thousands).

When I hear the “waste, fraud, and abuse” argument, my blood boils. Of course there are always going to be tales of mismanagement – as is the case almost every day in almost every company, program, and institution in our country; but that does not begin to justify the hundreds, thousands, and millions of dollars and volunteer hours that parents (those who are in the lucky position to do so) pour into their schools to make up the deficit. Nor does it begin to discuss the $10 billion in deferrals that our state owes to schools, or the resulting interest (never reimbursed) that our school districts have to pay on money they now have to borrow to pay their bills each year.

Here’s an eye-opening statistic that puts the issue into proper perspective: 180 school districts in our state are on the watch list for insolvency (in districts that have already declared “bankruptcy,” class sizes have ballooned above 40 as financial decisions dramatically outweigh educational decisions).

So, please, I beg you, Gov. Brown and Ms. Munger: Put down your shovels and your pails (and your heavy artillery), and play nice in the sandbox. If you don’t, every citizen in this state who cares about education will be putting you in a “Time Out!”

Crystal Brown is a founding member and President of the Board of Directors of Educate Our State, a grassroots, parent-led organization working to improve funding, resources, and educational quality for all California students. She has three daughters attending San Francisco public schools, has been an active PTA member, and has worked on numerous civic engagement projects. Crystal is a recipient of the 2011 Women Making History award. 

 

 

 

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  1. Nettie 6 years ago6 years ago

    Well said Crystal and thank you and your team for all of your hard work.

  2. Manuel 6 years ago6 years ago

    Oh, boy... I have, until now, voted on every proposition that gave money to our schools. Unfortunately, over the last few years I have gotten an education on the politics of education. From funding to testing to teacher retention, it has been a wild ride. I have a tendency to not trust rosy scenarios and this "education" has made me even more suspicious. I've come to the conclusion that a lot of local control by ALL stakeholders is … Read More

    Oh, boy…

    I have, until now, voted on every proposition that gave money to our schools.

    Unfortunately, over the last few years I have gotten an education on the politics of education. From funding to testing to teacher retention, it has been a wild ride. I have a tendency to not trust rosy scenarios and this “education” has made me even more suspicious.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of local control by ALL stakeholders is the only solution, else someone is going to “profit” from “the system.”

    Looking at the budgets of LAUSD shows that there are way too many fuzzy categories that allow the dreaded “waste, fraud and abuse” to take place. I’ve seen perfectly good roofs replaced because otherwise they would “lose bond money.” I’ve seen claims of major funding losses only to find that they are due to decreases in enrollment. I’ve seen teachers spend their own money because there is none for supplies. I’ve seen janitorial staffs cut to the bone while continuing to fund questionable “projects.” And let’s not forget the RIF dance where excellent teachers are told one year that their skills will protect them only to be put through the grinder again and again.

    I’ve just simply had enough. That’s why I read the text of both propositions and made a pact with the Devil, excuse me, Governor Brown, and I have to vote for 30.

    Prop 38, as I’ve written before, allows the local educational agency to do whatever it wants with the funds WITHOUT serious local control. Plus it creates a trough, excuse me, a fund for early childhood without there being a state-run infrastructure in place. Besides, even if it passes, it won’t do anything about the $6 billion cliff that’s waiting for us in November. That’s why I am voting no on it.

    (You see, I learned my lesson with Prop. 39. Now many of those shining new schools are going to charter schools. Enough said.)

    Replies

    • navigio 6 years ago6 years ago

      "I’ve seen claims of major funding losses only to find that they are due to decreases in enrollment." for the record, I hate when districts do not make this distinction. It sets themselves up for being shot down. Of course, the converse, in which people make claims about increases in funding, without talking about whether they are also a function of enrollment might be part of why this happens. Or maybe the apathy of the general … Read More

      “I’ve seen claims of major funding losses only to find that they are due to decreases in enrollment.”

      for the record, I hate when districts do not make this distinction. It sets themselves up for being shot down. Of course, the converse, in which people make claims about increases in funding, without talking about whether they are also a function of enrollment might be part of why this happens. Or maybe the apathy of the general public.. ?

      Anyway, I appreciate that you studied the issues and made your choice based on that.

  3. mcdez 6 years ago6 years ago

    Prop 38 is the only initiative that helps restore funding after $20 billion cut from education over the last four years. CA is currently 47th in the nation in what we spend per pupil. The governor’s budget will make us dead last.

    Replies

    • el 6 years ago6 years ago

      Both these measures bring money in – real money that would make a difference to our kids in December vs. the alternative of both failing – and even if both pass we’ll still be abysmal in funding compared to where we were in 2008. We need to pass at least one measure and then we need to keep fighting for education priorities.

    • Care About Kids 6 years ago6 years ago

      If we choose, kids lose. Neither one can get over the finish line unless most vote for both and let polarized people fight it out.

  4. CarolineSF 6 years ago6 years ago

    Great commentary, Crystal. I would say that some of those forces actually believe our schools are such a mess that they are beyond salvaging (they believe this because they see brown and black children going into those schools), and they just don't care anyway. So the message that I try to convey is that our schools are struggling but are still functioning -- and are functioning amazingly well when they aren't overwhelmed by the needs of a … Read More

    Great commentary, Crystal.

    I would say that some of those forces actually believe our schools are such a mess that they are beyond salvaging (they believe this because they see brown and black children going into those schools), and they just don’t care anyway.

    So the message that I try to convey is that our schools are struggling but are still functioning — and are functioning amazingly well when they aren’t overwhelmed by the needs of a critical mass of high-need, impoverished, at-risk students. That’s why I sometimes object to what I see as overly negative portrayals of our schools.

    I think the big picture is that our communities and society need to decide: are we a caring, compassionate “we’re in this together” society, or a cold, heartless “you’re on your own” society? I view both these measures together as a place to make that statement.

  5. Ken 6 years ago6 years ago

    This gist of this article, which is claimed to be "common sense" is that the propositions must be passed because they are "for the children." That is the typical lament of the politician. The entire California, government-run public education system is a disaster precisely because it is government run. No amount of money is going to save it. The state already spends, per child, 5 times as much as it did in 1960 (after adjusting … Read More

    This gist of this article, which is claimed to be “common sense” is that the propositions must be passed because they are “for the children.” That is the typical lament of the politician. The entire California, government-run public education system is a disaster precisely because it is government run. No amount of money is going to save it. The state already spends, per child, 5 times as much as it did in 1960 (after adjusting for inflation) and yet cannot manage to remain solvent. Did the kids in 1960 not have art and music and sports and other programs? How did they manage when the state can barely manage to pay for textbooks on 5 times the expenditure? As everything in the private sector becomes more efficient and more luxurious for less cost, schools go entirely the opposite direction. More money isn’t going to change that direction.

    The powerful and wealthy, and anyone else with an ounce of *real* common sense, don’t believe that “schools are OK.” They just don’t believe that throwing more money at them is the solution. They don’t believe that those holding the reins of government will get it right if they get more money to spend.

    What will happen, if these propositions pass, is that bureaucrats will create more programs and more obligations and create more long-term liabilities and when things downturn again, come wailing that more money needs to be spent or critical programs will have to be cut. It’s the same tune over and over again, and the “common sense” of Crystal Brown is to ignore history and be doomed to repeat it.

    I know that I am taking my business out of California next year. The taxation and regulation is already stifling and I have no faith that the government, nor the people who keep supporting more of the same, will be able to do anything to fix the problems of the state simply by throwing more money at it. They are committed to a failed process and demand that everyone else pay more money for more failure.

    Replies

    • el 6 years ago6 years ago

      How much more does your health insurance cost than it did in 1960? How much more does a California house cost than it did in 1960? Not coincidentally, neither is included in the numbers that calculate inflation, but they certainly influence salaries in every single sector of employment... which have also increased by more than a factor of 5. I think e In 1960, schools were not obligated to provide an education for disabled children, and … Read More

      How much more does your health insurance cost than it did in 1960? How much more does a California house cost than it did in 1960? Not coincidentally, neither is included in the numbers that calculate inflation, but they certainly influence salaries in every single sector of employment… which have also increased by more than a factor of 5. I think e

      In 1960, schools were not obligated to provide an education for disabled children, and certainly not profoundly disabled kids. In 1960 it was perfectly okay with everyone to have a high dropout rate from high school… and no one required algebra for high school graduation. Our academic standards are substantially higher, and we are expecting high levels of achievement from every child, even kids who come in with significant physical or mental disability. When I was in high school in the 1980’s, 8th grade algebra was for the most elite kids – about 8% – and it was proud to offer 4 AP classes to a handful of the most elite of the honor students.

      Our schools today – even now, after all the cuts – are doing much more with kids and much better for kids than they did when I attended, which was very much a sink-or-swim environment. Kids who naturally did well had opportunities (though less than my daughter has today); kids who didn’t were tracked into basic consumer math and expected to get decent manufacturing jobs with or without a diploma.

      • Ken 6 years ago6 years ago

        That factor of 5 included the rate of inflation. After adjusting for inflation, per pupil spending is 5 times what it was in 1960. Houses, teachers, salaries in other employment sectors, food, etc. have not increased by a factor of 500% after adjusting for inflation. Housing is the only sector that has seen such a dramatic increase, and that only by 300% since 1960, again after adjusting for inflation. Was it "perfectly ok" to have a … Read More

        That factor of 5 included the rate of inflation. After adjusting for inflation, per pupil spending is 5 times what it was in 1960. Houses, teachers, salaries in other employment sectors, food, etc. have not increased by a factor of 500% after adjusting for inflation. Housing is the only sector that has seen such a dramatic increase, and that only by 300% since 1960, again after adjusting for inflation.

        Was it “perfectly ok” to have a high dropout rate in 1960? The overall US graduation rate peaked at 77 percent in 1969. In California, it’s about 65% today. However, I’m not sure what that has to do with the higher per capita spending. Perhaps you can explain why the correlation is causation. I would think that it’s just as valid to argue that because a high school education is considered more valuable in today’s market that students look to finishing high school. Still, the expenditure *per student* is a link you would have to show makes one more likely to graduate.

        Are the academic standards substantially higher than they were in the 60’s? Can you explain why it costs 5 times more to teach algebra to more students? Looking at salaries for teachers, it doesn’t seem like secondary school teachers are earning a great deal more for teaching 8th graders algebra versus history.

        Granted, teachers are being paid more per hour than in 1960, after adjusting for inflation, but it’s not 5 times as much. In 1960, the average teacher earned $5,500 in California. Adjusting for inflation, that’s $41,000. The average teacher’s salary today is $67k. So, while that is nearly 60% more, it’s not 500% more.

        Education should be getting less expensive, not more expensive.

        • navigio 6 years ago6 years ago

          I never understand why people just throw out factors of increase without taking into account the differences in those comparison years. Yes, it was perfectly acceptable to have high dropout rates 50 or 60 years ago. At the turn of the century the rate of high school completion was only about 5%. Was that acceptable? It fit right in with our society at the time, so yes, I expect so. Now everyone is expected (probably mistakenly so) … Read More

          I never understand why people just throw out factors of increase without taking into account the differences in those comparison years.
          Yes, it was perfectly acceptable to have high dropout rates 50 or 60 years ago. At the turn of the century the rate of high school completion was only about 5%. Was that acceptable? It fit right in with our society at the time, so yes, I expect so.
          Now everyone is expected (probably mistakenly so) to go to college, and we have a much more technologically centric society, so yes, clearly standards have changed.
          It was also ‘perfectly acceptable’ to deny people access to educational resources based on the color of their skin. Something that I expect has changed the level of education funding as an attempt has been made to correct that.
          The way we have changed how we pay women is also something that is probably relevant.
          In our district, 33% of our special education budget comes from our unrestricted general fund revenue. Although that does not impact the overall per-pupil averages, it should be clear that what is left to fund general education is less than what it is ‘designed to be’ (and more importantly, than what people think it is).
          it is not uncommon in urban districts to have the amount of per-pupil money that makes it to a school be between a half and a third of district level, per-pupil revenue. Not because it is being stolen, or used for bloated admin, but because demographics change from school to school, and per-pupil funding can be extremely high in some schools and only a fraction of that overall average in other schools. When people speak of ‘per-pupil’ spending or funding, they like to think this is somehow distributed equally among all students and schools.
          Health insurance costs are well into double digit yearly inflation recently.
          I could go on.
          While I agree that looking at costs over years is a valid concern, I think its important to understand the reasons those things are changing.
          And lastly, if money didnt make a difference, rich districts would not be passing parcel taxes hand over fist. Nor would they be raising hundreds of thousands of dollars per school per year from private donations. The reality is that money does matter, but people only want it to matter when they get to spend it on their own kids.

        • el 6 years ago6 years ago

          When I was a high school student in the 1980's, my math classes had 45 kids and were 45 minutes long. There was no aide of any kind. Students like me, who had a natural aptitude and had parents at home who could tutor me through anything that gave me difficulty, did OK. But at one minute per kid per day, I'm not sure how my math teacher could have given individual help to more … Read More

          When I was a high school student in the 1980’s, my math classes had 45 kids and were 45 minutes long. There was no aide of any kind. Students like me, who had a natural aptitude and had parents at home who could tutor me through anything that gave me difficulty, did OK. But at one minute per kid per day, I’m not sure how my math teacher could have given individual help to more than a handful of struggling students, even if they stayed after school. And for the most part, the kids who didn’t have that kind of support at home were never even enrolled in algebra.

    • Care About Kids 6 years ago6 years ago

      Do you have children in public school? Have you seen what has happened? There is no education going on because of budget cuts – that is why we are a leader in prisoner expenses — since Jerry Brown was Governor the first time, we built one UC campus…..and 19 prisons.

      • el 6 years ago6 years ago

        I do have a child in public school, and as one might guess from my prolific comments here, I am deeply involved in it. I see what happens there on a weekly basis, not just for my relatively privileged child, but for the children of farmworkers and the children who are effectively homeless. I've chaperoned these kids on overnight field trips and I've seen them OOOOH over their first trip over the Golden Gate Bridge. … Read More

        I do have a child in public school, and as one might guess from my prolific comments here, I am deeply involved in it. I see what happens there on a weekly basis, not just for my relatively privileged child, but for the children of farmworkers and the children who are effectively homeless. I’ve chaperoned these kids on overnight field trips and I’ve seen them OOOOH over their first trip over the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve seen the successes of the studious ones and I’ve seen the successes of the goofy, impulsive ones. And I’ve had my heart broken when I’ve seen kids who obviously are struggling with huge issues in their home life. I’ve watched bright, dedicated teachers go all out to engage the kids with everyday curriculum and special projects.

        And so you’re thinking, Oh sure, YOUR school is awesome, but it’s one of the few exceptions out there.

        Maybe so. But this school has a Similar Schools Ranking from the state of 3, meaning that by the State’s judgement, 70% of schools are better than this one. So either this school, wonderful as it is, is less good than the median, or the state’s numbers are ridiculous. (My estimation is that it’s probably a little of both.)

        The cuts have been draconian. They are not sustainable. If the trigger cuts are to be the new normal, this district will have to seriously retrench and lower its goals and expectations for what education will be. But to say there is “no education going on” is flat wrong.

      • Ken 6 years ago6 years ago

        Perhaps ending the drug war would free up money that's being funneled into the justice system to warehouse prisoners and could be spent on schools. But no, we have to put people into cages, where they can't be productive taxpayers but instead cost more than the average high school student to be maintained in that cage. Let's suck more money from the few people left in California that actually produce anything rather than fix a … Read More

        Perhaps ending the drug war would free up money that’s being funneled into the justice system to warehouse prisoners and could be spent on schools. But no, we have to put people into cages, where they can’t be productive taxpayers but instead cost more than the average high school student to be maintained in that cage. Let’s suck more money from the few people left in California that actually produce anything rather than fix a broken system. An added bonus is that drug dealers would no longer hang out near schools selling poison to children or worse, recruiting children to sell poison for them.

    • navigio 6 years ago6 years ago

      And btw, percentage of births to unmarried mothers was about 5% in 1960. Now its over 40%. (with an associated disproportionality by ethnicity). It (and an reduced expectation for graduation) is one reason why 40 kids in those days is much different than 40 kids today.

      • el 6 years ago6 years ago

        Probably more important than unmarried mothers is the percentage of households that have all the adults working full time (or worse, patching together multiple jobs) in order to pay the rent/mortgage and thus have no one home to help with homework, even if they have the skills.

        • navigio 6 years ago6 years ago

          Right. And even one parent working in a single-parent household is all parents working. 🙂

  6. el 6 years ago6 years ago

    Well said. Let it be a choice to the voters: do you prefer more support and more tax, or less support and less tax? Or whatever. This can be an amicable discussion. The situation with deferrals is making the underfunding so much worse. The actual ADA we're getting from the state in this fiscal year, not counting the IOU, appears to be a bit less than half of what we're supposed to be getting in total … Read More

    Well said. Let it be a choice to the voters: do you prefer more support and more tax, or less support and less tax? Or whatever. This can be an amicable discussion.

    The situation with deferrals is making the underfunding so much worse. The actual ADA we’re getting from the state in this fiscal year, not counting the IOU, appears to be a bit less than half of what we’re supposed to be getting in total if it were not for the budget crisis. The end result is that money that would otherwise be available for textbooks, etc, cannot be used because districts are borrowing against those funds to make payroll when the state is late with its payments.