When the Measure A ballot paper (the postal vote to assess a school’s revenue measure) arrived, my vote was easy and quick. It was back in the mail within minutes.
Without Measure A, Santa Monica schools will be an empty ghostly shell of what we see and expect today. And not in the distant future, this change is occurring now and will continue to occur in the follow weeks.
Schools make and define a community. Santa Monica schools are the community’s social glue. They hold together and create vast networks of students, parents, families, boosters, coaches, staff, alumni. They spread these enormous roots that anchor and develop social cohesion. At first unseen, you begin to feel and touch the impact everywhere.
The first thing many outsiders hear about Santa Monica is how it has a great school system. People come here for the schools and then stay. Seniors recall their best days at Roosevelt, fifty years ago.
So why is Measure A needed? Some want to argue it’s the current school board policies that are to blame or perhaps politics. But the current crisis is not of the district’s doing. Santa Monica schools are prudentially run. It is this recession, which struck so brutally hard at California, that destroyed Sacramento’s budget and revenue. Subsequently, the state Legislature slashed funding for schools from the state budget.
When California tanked, so did school funding. An enormous axe chopped revenue from the state to Santa Monica Schools. Tens of millions of funding dollars vanished. As a result, teachers bit the dust locally and programs went belly up. And that was just last year. It’s gotten worse in education this year and if Measure A fails, it will get even nastier.
Why would we want that? Why do we want one of the best music programs in the country decimated? Why do we want huge classes? Why would we want young fresh teachers fired? Or to lose athletic programs? Why lose the very things that make Santa Monica schools extraordinary? Why lose programs that change attendance into education?
Parents already carry too much of the weight, as PTAs coordinate bake sales, raffles, Pier Pleasures, market days, carnivals, direct requests and just about anything else that will keep their schools running as well as they can. Not luxuriously. Not in ivy covered brick walls. Just something. Some scream about things being done wrong. What? The evidence of parent eyes is so different. Parents are needed.
No one is getting rich in education. There is simply hard grafting work to keep our schools running with choice and diversity. Anyone perceptive knows, we all know really, that mom and dad involvement in schools here had go through the roof to deal with the decline from California in education funding and support.
Now we’ve reached the end because even that last ditch involvement just can’t keep saving our schools. Are we really turning to user fees for public schools, a core commitment of our public good? That’s never been our idea of community.
Santa Monica schools perform heroically. They turn out the Harvard and Berkley bound in record numbers. They send first-in-their families to college in record numbers. They graduate in record numbers. They educate. They teach diversity. They create character.
Our schools have produced astronauts, symphony conductors, Nobel prize winners, Oscar winners, and inspired leading business figures.
Yes, we know the real measure of our schools is not just the top person, it is how every single student is treated with respect and given the tools to be great. Our schools inculcate music from third grade, basics from kindergarten, and surround kids with adults to make a difference in reasoning and confidence and aptitude.
It may seem quaint but that’s what education is. That what happens in Santa Monica schools every single day. And that’s why I was at the mailbox within minutes. You should be too.
Mirror Guest Writeropinion@smmirror.com