Numbers are important to parents. We count down the days until our children enter our lives by gestational weeks. Doctors proclaim their overall initial health with Apgar scores. We even proudly announce their arrival with a slew of numbers representing pounds, ounces, inches and hours of labor. And as our children grow, the numbers continue to increase in importance. Parents in California particularly have been paying attention to some very important numbers. Numbers like 49, which represents our state's staff expenditure per pupil. (Only Arizon and Utah rank lower). Number 49 is also the ranking of overall teacher-pupil ratio. And $15.7 billion is the estimate for our state's budget gap—$6.5 billion is the latest estimate for additional educational budget cuts expected to be absorbed by the school system this year alone.
On May 15, Governor Jerry Brown offered revisions to his proposed 2012-2013 budget. He identifies the state's budget deficient is the result of many factors including "a lower than projected tax revenue, higher than expected school costs, and decisions by the courts and federal government to block previously approved budget cuts." Once again, it all comes down to money. But it is our children and their future that will ultimately pay the price.
Frustrated by the budget crisis that their schools were facing and in an effort to prevent a downward spiral in the overall public educational system, a group of six moms of elementary-age children in San Francisco held a town hall meeting in late 2009. More than 1,000 concerned parents attended and exchanged ideas with a distinguished panel that included state senators, assemblymen, the mayor of San Francisco, San Francisco's superintendent of schools, the heads of the local board of supervisors and the San Francisco board of education. While solutions were not easily found, the meeting did expose the urgent need for a larger, statewide effort.
That same night, Educate Our State was born. Educate Our State is a grassroots, parent-led statewide campaign established to demand real, systemic change in our children's education. No longer focused just in Northern California, Educate Our State is holding is first Southern California Town Hall meeting 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 30 at Flora Vista Elementary School. The event is hosted by all nine PTA units in the Encinitas Union School District and has the support of the EUSD Superintendent Tim Baird and board of directors. Co-founder and President of Educate Our State, Crystal Brown, will be the keynote speaker. A parent of three daughters attending public schools in San Francisco, she has been an active member of her local PTA and ambassador for Parents for Public Schools. The forum is not intended to dictate how parents should take action. Instead, she hopes to educate parents about the history of the current budget crisis and present a foundation for Encinitas parents to adopt ways of fixing our educational system together.
Once again, the solution is in the numbers. One parent by his or herself cannot make much of a difference when faced with multi-billion dollar budget gaps. But together, we can make our voices loud and clear. Every single one of our children deserves the best education possible. And together we can still make that a reality.