My father was given the opportunity of a free college education and used it to rise from some of the toughest neighborhoods in the South Bronx. He appreciated the ability to raise his family in the middle-class environment of the suburbs and made a point of donating to his public college throughout his life. “They helped me become who I am,” he told me in a very proud voice.
I am also appreciative of my public school background. As a member of the “baby bust” generation, my schools faced budgeting difficulties that came with a suddenly dwindling school-age population. Programs that were available to my older peers were cut but I still had access to enough AP and other college-level classes to skip almost a full year of college. Music and art were considered part of a well-rounded education as they encourage the creative thinking needed to be successful in business. Administrators were smart enough to recognize the upcoming computer revolution and found the funds to equip our schools with their first computer labs. This encouraged me to teach myself to code, study computer science in college and later take on the project of transferring an entire business from a manual based system to one that ran more efficiently with computers.
The students currently at my alma mater are not as fortunate. The East Ramapo school board in the suburbs of New York City has been taken over by people who believe that education should be a private function. They have diverted as much as they legally can to private schools and left the public ones with few resources. AP classes and marching band have been sacrificed and some students do not have access to enough classes to graduate on time.
I fear the same results for my adopted home district in Los Angeles. The number of charter schools has increased during the time that my local school board member has been in office and she sees this as a good thing. I believe that it represents her failure since parents who are happy with their board-controlled schools will not look elsewhere. Instead of promoting these schools, school boards should be focused on improving the public ones.
Schools should not have to become chartered to control their destiny. I believe in “community-based education” where all schools are integrated into the community and communities control the school’s budget, programs and policies.
I am fully vested in my district as four of my five children are still in school. However, one does not need to have school-age children to be affected by the issues raised by my campaign. We all depend on a well-educated workforce to keep our economy competitive in the global economy. People without critical thinking skills also make poor voters.
Education is the great equalizer. We should not let corporate interests steal that from our communities. It is time to demand real change instead of reform pushed by corporate profiteers.