Students must summon our inner superheroes for educational justice – by Citlali Hernandez

When I was a young child, every Saturday morning I would watch cartoons, especially Batman. Although people may think it’s a cliché for children to be inspired by superheroes, the feeling children get from watching people who can change the world into a better place touches a true emotion. I don’t have superpowers, but I [...]

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10 thoughts on “Students must summon our inner superheroes for educational justice – by Citlali Hernandez

  1. Regis

    Navagio, thank you for your thoughts on this.  You have valid points, but allow me to add a few points.  You are correct on the Third World population and what we’ve asked for.  The simple laws of Supply and Demand dominate this equation.  The huge supply of cheap labor, caused by a high birthrate, when put against the demand creates  cut-throat competition within that demographic.  Am I wrong?

    Clearly technology, the internet, automation and global outsourcing by American businesses have reduced the size of the job market permanently.  One has to ask what exactly are the implications of this?  Back in the day, 1960’s, it took three Los Angeles City workers to run a trash truck and now it only takes one.

    In no way do I want to punish anybody, but clearly our Education system is broken.  Everything from NCLB to the ugly question of pensions and the king-sized salaries of the UC and CSU administrators and leaders.  The emphasis on ‘everybody has to be prepared go to college’, in my opinion is a fallacy.  There has been many a discussion here on that very subject.

    My main source of discontent is again, the ‘victim’ card and the ‘injustice’ card, whether it’s for Educational Justice, Environmental Justice or whatever.  Don’t whine about it, deal with it.  I’ve worked as a junk yard dog, stripping out cars at Pick Your Part in Sun Valley, I was a motor transport mechanic in the Marines and yes, I do work on my own cars.  I was an electronics technician, computer repair, copier repair and also a Electrical bench assembler in Aerospace.  I’ve done Accounts Payable and Payroll and am now a Finance Analyst with a Fortune 100 company and no, I don’t have a degree.

     I’ve worked hard and used my talents to switch careers whenever the chips were down in whatever field I was in.  I never played the ‘victim’ or ‘injustice’ card.   I washed dishes at restaraunts for years as a teenager and bussed tables.  I’ve also worked for a gardner, so I’ve done all ‘those jobs that people don’t want to do’, thank you.  As kids, we scrubbed the sea gull crap off’ve the boats in McArthur Park on any Sunday morninand were rewarded for it with the use of a paddle boat all day long and that was good enough for us.

    I educated myself and own an extensive library.  Most of the books were free.  Thoreau, Montaigne, Frost and Baudelaire are my favorites.  I’m reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays and he’s right on about so many things, it’s not even funny.  Thoreau’s essay on Philanthropy is another ‘right on the money’ line of thinking.  In this life you and those around you are responsible for your own circumstances.  If you don’t like it, then change it.

    And about money.  Believe me, the crony capitalism that is going on with the 1% is near collapse.  The fraudulent asset-inflation of TBTF and numerous Federal interventions has wrecked our economy.   Government spending is at an all time high and we’re going to be forced to reduce it in unpleasant ways.  We will have to be creative and make do with what we have.

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  2. navigio

    Regis, actually you did ask for, what you call, a huge third-world population. And you asked for it in the most powerful way possible: money. Do you eat in restaurants? Do you buy gas? Do you drive on public roads? Do you buy coffee or produce or take your car to a mechanic? Do you have a gardner or do you have repair work done on your house? If you do any of those things (or hundreds of others) you are asking for the market-driven ’slave’ labor with every dollar you lay down in a society that has prioritized low cost over human rights and labor laws.  Until we as a people change that priority you are going to continue to be asking for cheap and exploitable labor with virtually every dollar you spend.
    As I pointed out in another thread, California has not had a majority in-state-born population for over 150 years, until 2010. I’m not sure why the influx of people is suddenly such a problem. Money makes this world go round, and our state has an almost $2 trillion GDP. Thats higher than all but 9 countries in the entire world.
    Our Republic was also founded on the concept of equality (even though it took us more than a hundred years to actually get there, and in some aspects we’re still working). It is current law that children have the right to an education in this country, regardless of where they were born or what color they are. If you dont like that feel free to try to do away with the 14th amendment, but punishing all kids, including those for whom you think your money should be reserved makes zero sense. In the end, education can be an investment. And the lack thereof, exactly the opposite. Anyone who truly cares about the future of this state, should happily invest in those kids who likely represent that future. By not doing so, we will be contributing directly to its ruin, and ironically, even more of all that entitlement nonsense..

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  3. Regis

    That’s right Navigio, we want to keep it for ourselves.  I earned it, not you.  I don’t want to subsidize a huge population with generous benefits, that they have voted themselves through ballot measures and elections.  Nor do I want to subsidize an oversize State Government that has beyond-belief retirement benefits for a heavily unionized Government workforce that has no problems endowning themselves at my expense.

    The original purpose of our Republic was to provide an infrastructure for people to freely choose their pursuits.  It was not intended for cradle-to-grave entitlements.  Citlali is free to pursue her dreams, but don’t make the real taxpaying population the villians because she lives in a poor neighborhood.  Did I ask for a huge third-world population to illegally cross the border and make this place their home?
    Playing the ‘victim’ card is really a despicable thing and demanding justice for the inequality of it all is wrong.  If you think throwing more taxpayer money at it is the solution, then good luck, because as Great Britain found out, you can only tax the productive population so much, before you get a negative return.

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  4. John Fensterwald - Educated Guess

    Regis and others: I should have replied sooner (distracted by the State Board meeting).
    This is one of the few spaces that gives students an opportunity to write on policy, and I look forward to hearing from them. To encourage dialogue, let’s not be patronizing, scolding and condemning, however much you disagree with the points. (I sure hated when adults wagged their fingers at me when I was Citlali’s age.)

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  5. Regis

    Both!  And I include California State Projections as well.

    The recent Wall Street Journal article was so spot on.
    Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus
    A leading U.S. demographer and ‘Truman Democrat’ talks about what is driving the middle class out of the Golden State:

    Nearly four million more people have left the Golden State in the last two decades than have come from other states.

    Mr. Kotkin also notes that demographic changes are playing a role. As progressive policies drive out moderate and conservative members of the middle class, California’s politics become even more left-wing. It’s a classic case of natural selection, and increasingly the only ones fit to survive in California are the very rich and those who rely on government spending. In a nutshell, “the state is run for the very rich, the very poor, and the public employees.”

    Governor Jerry Brown’s new budget may overestimate California (STOCA1) revenue by as much as $6.5 billion through June 2013 — even with a $2 billion gain from a Facebook Inc. share sale, the state Legislature’s policy analyst said.

    California will probably collect about $177.5 billion in general-fund revenue through the end of the next fiscal year, not $184 billion as Brown has forecast in a proposed budget that includes higher income and sales levies, the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office said yesterday. Brown and the analyst differ on how much the state will receive from capital gains.

    From the State Government Finance Office:

    “The highest income Californians pay for a disproportionate share of the state’s PIT taxes. Changes in the income of a relatively small group of taxpayers can have a significant impact on state revenues. 2009 tax return data reveal that taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) above $200,000 represented only 3.8 percent of total returns for that year, but accounted for 31.4 percent of total AGI.”

    Corporation Tax
    Corporation Tax revenues are expected to contribute 9.8 percent of all General Fund revenues and transfers in 2012?13. Corporation Tax revenues were $9.6 billion in 2010?11 and are expected to decline by 1.4 percent to $9.5 billion in 2011?12. In 2012?13, they are expected to decline another 1.5 percent to $9.3 billion.

    California (STOCA1) tax revenue trailed forecasts in February for the third consecutive month, coming in $146.3 million or 3.2 percent below projections in Governor Jerry Brown’s budget, the state controller’s office said.

    “Spectrum Locations Consultants recorded 254 California companies moved some or all of their work and jobs out of state in 2011, 26% more than in 2010 and five times as many as in 2009. According SLC President, Joe Vranich: the “top ten reasons companies are leaving California: 1) Poor rankings in surveys 2) More adversarial toward business 3) Uncontrollable public spending 4) Unfriendly business climate 5) Provable savings elsewhere 6) Most expensive business locations 7) Unfriendly legal environment for business 8) Worst regulatory burden 9) Severe tax treatment 10) Unprecedented energy costs.”

    “The more likely reason tax collections continue falling is that businesses and successful people are leaving California for the better tax rates available in more pro-business states.
    Derisively referred to as “Taxifornia” by the independent Pacific Research Institute, California wins the booby prize for the highest personal income taxes in the nation and higher sales tax rates than all but four other states. Though Californians benefit from Proposition 13 restrictions on how much their property tax can increase in one year, the state still has the worst state tax burden in the U.S.”

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  6. Tara

    Citlali, thank you for sharing your opinion on school finance reform in California and for traveling to Sacramento to speak directly with state legislators.  Speaking as a former high school teacher, the leadership you are showing is exactly the type of civic engagement that we hope all students will exhibit by the time they graduate from high school.  While blogs are a useful tool for public dialogue about important policy issues, the best dialogue comes from respectful exchanges, especially where we disagree.  Unfortunately, some of the adults entering this conversation haven’t been the best role models for this.  Don’t let the comments here discourage you from continuing to participate in this debate!

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  7. Jeremy Lahoud

    Yes, thank you, Citlali, for stepping up and sharing your perspective as a young woman and a student directly affected by the harsh debates on school finance reform in California.
    As someone who works directly with Citlali, I’d like to respond to ann’s contention that she “does not understand how much or where money is spent on education in California.”  Citlali’s perspective on the injustices in our school system is based on her lived experiences and backed up by research.  She attends a high school where she has experienced resources being unfairly taken from the students who need the most support and provided to students in “college prep tracks” who tend to include more middle- and upper-income students.  This past year, her high school stopped allowing students to take a seventh credit, often used for subjects like tutoring and AVID, except for students in the “Distinguished Scholars” program, who already have more access to accelerated and AP courses.
    Research demonstrates that California’s current school finance system is irrational and far from equitable.  (Let’s be clear that equitable funding does not mean you provide all districts and schools with an equal level of per pupil funding.  Equity means that you provide additional funding and resources based on student needs, sufficient enough to allow all students a fair chance to succeed.)
    In their April 2008 policy brief, Getting Beyond the Facts: Reforming California School Finance (upon which the Governor’s weighted student formula proposal is based), Alan Bersin, Michael Kirst, and Goodwin Liu argue that “high-poverty districts receive only slightly more revenue per ADA than low-poverty districts.”  This assertion is demonstrated by a comparison of two districts in Los Angeles County––Long Beach Unified, where Citlali attends school, and Redondo Beach Unified.
    During the 2010-2011 school year, 69.7% of the students in LBUSD were eligible for Free and Reduced Priced Meals (low-income) and 23.3% were classified as English Learners.  In contrast, only 21.7% of students in RBUSD were eligible for Free and Reduced Priced Meals and 7.7% were English Learners.
    Since the current debate focus on State funding for public schools, let’s look at the per pupil state revenue each district received in 2010-2011.  Redondo Beach actually had a slightly higher revenue limit fund level ($5,619) than Long Beach, which received $5,330 per student in revenue limit funds.  If you add other state revenue sources Long Beach only received a total of $433 more per pupil in state funds than Redondo Beach.  That’s an additional “weight” of about 6% for all students.  LBUSD is expected to provide additional supports and services to 59,118 low-income and 19,774 English Learner students with this low level of additional state funding. Due to it’s smaller size and lower poverty and EL enrollment, Redondo Beach only had 647 English Learners and 1,830 low-income students in 2010-2011.
    With regards to el’s comment that income level and English Learner status “are not necessarily the best ones we could choose,” I would argue that they are two measures that have a significant amount of research behind them and serve as “proxies” for many of the other measures you mentioned.  California does need a simpler, more transparent way to allocate funds more equitably and income and EL status are two appropriate measures.  (As a racial justice organizer, I would love to see a conversation about how to target additional funds to students of color based on current and historic structural racism, but that’s not about to happen with California’s Prop 209 ban on race-based factors in public education.)
    Again, to quote from Bersin, Kirst, and Liu on the use of income level in determining how to equitably allocate school funds, they state that the “negative relationship between poverty and achievement is one of the most well-documented findings in educational research.  In California, the highest API scores of high-poverty districts tend to be lower than the lowest API scores of low-poverty schools.”
    I’m not arguing that Brown’s plan is perfect.  But it is the best and biggest step towards equitable school finance reform we’ve seen in decades.
    Finally, in response to ann’s comment about “how little impact increased spending has on educational outcomes,” William Duncombe and John Yinger, in the 2007 state-commissioned Understanding the Incentives in California’s Education Finance System, argue that “districts with high concentrations of poor students or of English learners…do not currently receive enough funds to reach the same API targets as other districts.”  Until California provides adequate and equitable funding for all students to succeed and graduate prepared for college, career, and civic participation, arguing that resources don’t have an impact on outcomes is just a way to reinforce the inequities of the current system.
    If TOPEd readers are going to challenge a young woman and California public school student, I suggest you focus on the facts and not hyperbole.

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  8. Regis

    Sergio, the reality is that there is no more money.  

    “To put blame on young woman saying that she is part of the problem of Taking, when You my friend and your views are the reason we cannot tax people in this state to bring in more revenue!”

    Nope, totally and absolutely disagree.  The facts are that 85% of the Personal Income Tax in this state is paid by the top 15% of the population.  That means that 85% of the population isn’t paying state tax and don’t tell me that Sales Tax amounts to anything, because the demographics of the population as far as income goes, means that they’d have to pay their entire income and then some to pay for what they get out of the ’system’  and not just for education, but for CALWORKS, WIC, Healthy Families and numerous other programs.

    California is hands-down, the worst state in the Union to do business in.  We’ve lost over half our largest employers (1,000+ employees) in the last decade.  And the rich can and are moving.

    And let’s look at what some of our biggest industry is now?   Government and Service industries.  And what do they produce?  Nothing.

    Also, I didn’t need any additional funds for my assimiliation.  We did it on our own, like everybody else did before us.  We are Americans first, not French-Canadian Americans, nor any other hyphenated baloney. We dropped our culture and inherited what America offered us and prospered.

    I grew up in the shadows of the skyscrapers in Downtown Los Angeles.  Nobody paid anyone to babysit us or feed us, but my parents.  Don’t have kids you can’t afford to feed.  Period.  The Gravy Train is soon going to be over, count on it.  Revenues for the State of California are already falling many billions of dollars behind projections. 

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