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May 26, 2009

Children of the Recession - The Education Blame Game

-5 Sacramento is a sinkhole.  The more tax dollars we contribute, the more our futures get sucked down into their soiled, political toilet.  Los Angeles' sales tax is at an astonishing 9.25%.  Parking meter rates have doubled.  Living in this city has become impossible if not downright imbecile.   The cost of living here is skyrocketing, while the quality of our social services, employment, the value of our homes, are plummeting.  And our children, by way of having their education budgets slashed and burned, are the most innocent victims in all this political infighting and incompetence. 

Both of my children go to public school.  We have an active and generous parent body, more so than many schools in the LAUSD, nevertheless, I still watch from the front lines as our most  promising new teachers are fired, as our Assistant Principal is let go, as our already parent--funded programs such as art, music, drama, and P.E. are threatened, because those monies have to be diverted to hire additional teachers to keep class size down and other necessities, that should be, and have previously been, funded by the government and district.

On May 15, I participated in a parent rally called The Lemonade Initiative.  The idea came to three moms while watching their sons' baseball game, and within two weeks time, they mobilized over 200 local parents to speak out against the budget atrocities.  The rally was covered by CNN, NPR, the LA TIMES and others.  With their voices, they urged the Superintendent of their school district to come out and hear their complaints about wasteful spending and demands for smarter, more long-term solutions.  (To see a full list of their complaints and demands, go to www.lemonadeinitiative.com).

One newscaster, while covering the budget crisis, the looming teacher's strike and the parent rally, had the nerve to pose this editorial question to the parents, on air,

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?

He proposed that the situation might never have become so dire, had we stepped up sooner?

I wanted to reach inside the television set and shake him.  How dare he now point the spinning bottle of blame at the parents.  I took a deep breath and thought, it's only one person. One stupid person.

But, the next day after the rally, a policeman assigned to keep the peace, congratulated us on having a civil protest.  Before the smile left our faces he added,

TOO BAD YOU DIDN'T DO IT SOONER.

If he weren't a cop, I would have slapped him.

Where have we been?   

   ▪    We've been at the scene of the crime - our schools -  breaking our backs to plug up the holes that decades of poor management and fiscal irresponsibility have left behind.
    ▪    We've been assisting teachers in classrooms because there are too many students and no full-time aids.
    ▪    We've been raising money by selling baked goods, magazines, gift wrap, chocolate, anything and everything so we can hire teachers for music, drama and P.E.
    ▪    We've been soliciting donations for and running fund raising events to pay for extra teachers to keep the classroom size manageable, to pay for full-time librarians, and nurses and psychological counselors who can spend more time on site and not go from school to school being responsible for the currently mandated 2500 students.
    ▪    We've been donning paint-splattered aprons to teach our kids about art.
    ▪    We've been chauffeuring kids to and from field trips,
    ▪    We've been in Staples purchasing toilet paper, tissues and ink cartridges for the classrooms.
    ▪    We've been busy giving our time, our energy, and our money, how ever it is needed, to make sure our children are the first priority.  Which is more more than we can say for the State, LAUSD or UTLA.

That is where we have been and where we are now - supporting the children. 

Why didn't we do it sooner?

Sadly, I think, it was because we had faith.  Faith in our government and our district officials that they would not let it get this desperate.  That they would see, as we do, how important it is to provide our children with a decent education.  But, as a result of the perfect storm caused by the recession, the poor fiscal planning, the wasteful spending of OUR tax dollars,  we are now barraged with never-ending waves of budget cuts - and our faith has been broken. 

We parents have now reached our tipping point.

We are sick of bailing the water out of the sinking ship California has the nerve to call education.

We are speaking out.

But we can only do so much.

We parents are doing our job.

It's time the politicians and the school administrators do theirs.

It is time they put aside the muck of bureaucracy and the mire of misplaced priorities and stop playing with our children's future.

Remember, the children are OUR future, too.


This is an original post to LA Moms Blog.


When Fran B. is not busy ranting about the decline of public education in California she is musing about more trivial things at www.merlotmom.com.

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