Parents Unite in Grassroots Campaign for Education Funding

Special to Elk Grove News From Support California Kids Foundation Thousands of California parents are uniting to give a voice to Califor...

Special to Elk Grove News
From Support California Kids Foundation

Thousands of California parents are uniting to give a voice to California’s 6 million school children.

The membership of the Support California Kids Foundation (SupportCAKids) will be participating in a letter writing campaign next week asking legislators to make education a state funding priority as they prepare their response to the Governor’s state budget proposal. SupportCAKids has launched an aggressive grassroots effort in recent months to educate the public about the current crisis in education funding and to encourage active participation by parents and concerned community members in the political process.

The letter, available as a download from the Foundation website at will focus on the many state mandates, or requirements for schools to provide a higher level of service, that have gone unfunded by the state or had funding deferred until such time as the state could afford to pay. SupportCAKids founder Marie Correa explained, “The state owes school districts over $766 million for mandated programs and over $86 million in accrued interest, forcing districts to borrow from other programs to meet the state requirements.” In light of the current fiscal crisis, SupportCAKids will be asking the legislature to review all current mandates for relevance and efficacy and to eliminate those that are duplicative or which have not provided results commensurate with their costs.

According to Correa, the group will also be asking that mandates deemed necessary need to be prioritized by the state; and districts should not be required to implement mandated programs for which the state has not provided full funding in advance. Districts may spend years pursuing reimbursement for the expenses of implementing state mandates, adding to the district’s financial burdens. According to Correa, a claim filed in 2009 by school districts for reimbursements of the cost of implementing the revised statewide graduation requirements is $2.4 billion, and the state may defer payment indefinitely if legislators claim that the state is fiscally unable to pay the claim.

“We cannot continue to budget this way,” stated Correa. “We cannot keep mandating specific programs or achievement levels -- programs that we know will cost districts money to implement-- when we have no idea where the money is coming from or if it will come at all.” The SupportCAKids members will be asking legislators to suspend any proposals for new mandates, in addition to asking them to drop all mandate requirements that are not fully funded.

SupportCAKids was organized by Elk Grove parents last fall in response to the drastic budget cuts impacting area schools. It has since expanded west into the Bay Area and south into the San Joaquin Valley. Founder Marie Correa was an active member of the Carroll Elementary PTA in Elk Grove and a member of the Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Council but had never attended a school board meeting until September 2010, when the district budget projections led to a discussion of layoffs at an unprecedented level. Shocked, she and co-founder Catherine Goddard, a member of the Health and Wellness Advisory Council and parent of a Sheldon High School senior, met at a local coffee shop to complain. “The conversation started with us talking about how all these cuts were going to affect our kids,” Correa explained. “We soon realized that cuts this deep were going to have a profound effect on all California students later in life, and that ‘somebody’ needed to do something to help. The more we talked, the more it became clear that we had to be that somebody. Parent involvement was going to be the key.”

Starting with a core group of active members, SupportCAKids took advantage of technology, reaching out to parents across the state using their website and Facebook. “I am very encouraged by the enthusiastic response from parents who just want their kids to have a good education,” Correa stated. “Special interest groups are always in the Capitol, advocating for their agendas. But they cannot represent the needs of children like parents can. Kids don’t have representation in the legislative process. Our non-profit foundation empowers parents and families to be their own advocates.”

Correa admitted to being a little overwhelmed at first by the complexities of education policy and funding. Realizing that other parents felt the same way, the foundation decided to focus its efforts on providing the general public with current information about the status of district budgets and cuts and compiling news stories about education issues so that citizens could make informed decisions, then feel confident about contacting their legislators by letter, email, or phone. The website provides a mechanism for citizens to find their legislators by zip code and then directly link them to their legislators’ email, providing them a sample letter to personalize and send. The website also provides a translation tool to encourage participation by all California families.

SupportCAKids has united a broad spectrum of members who share a belief that education funding should be a State priority. Correa explained, “Education has been on a ‘diet’ for over a decade. Our own district, for example, has no more fat to cut. The continued failure to fund education at the state level means that districts must now begin removing the “critical organs” that are the major components of our students’ educational experience.” Elk Grove Unified School District board member Pollyanna Cooper-LeVangie, speaking at the April 6 board meeting, agreed, noting that every district in the state must now focus on “surviving” on what little money it has, rather than “looking at what’s educationally good for our kids.” Correa added that summer school programs, music and science electives, ROP opportunities, sports programs, reduced class sizes, libraries and counselors are all critical not only to keeping students engaged in school, but in some cases to keeping them enrolled at all. She stated, “Cutting all these programs takes us farther from our goal as a state to make our students successful and competitive in a global workplace.” At the end of this budget cycle, California is expected to place 50th in the nation in per pupil spending, or $2000 below the national average.

A recent forum on education funding hosted by SupportCAKids at Monterey Trail High School attracted over 100 participants, including Elk Grove Mayor Sophia Scherman and Councilmember Gary Davis, EGUSD Superintendent Steven Ladd, and State Assembly members Alyson Huber and Joan Buchanan. Mayor Scherman addressed the critical role local schools play in the economic health of their surrounding communities, and described how struggling schools affect real property values, the real estate market, and local businesses. Mass layoffs affect consumer spending, driving the economy down further. Assembly Member Buchanan agreed, noting that a recent Stanford study projected that California will be 1 million graduates short of filling higher level jobs in the workforce in only one generation unless education is given more priority.

For more information about Support California Kids, visit

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