It is that time of year again. Every day, everywhere we go, we see pleas to support our public schools from a need for school supplies to paying hundreds of dollars for participation in band, cheer-leading or going on a school sponsored field trip because our state is so poor. Yet, our teachers are paid the 4th highest of all States on Average yet our K-12 education results lag behind the majority of the Country according to US News.
Could it be that our public school administrators have too much power with no oversight or accountability? We believe this to be true, when year over year laws are not enforced, student's are harmed yet it is okay because it is what we have always done. However, the rules in California to provide a free public education system have been in place since 1879 and further emphasized and reinforced by law in 2012. Yet, public school leaders we have charged to empower our children 6-8 hours a day are not setting the examples we are expecting; they are not leading they are stealing from our Children.
At no more pupil fees, we reached out to those before us who dared to question and what we found was astounding and moving and inspired us to continue to ensure all Students matter, all Students' passions are real and all Students should have the ability to share their gifts regardless of their economic status in our society.
Wow. Thank you for your email, and thank you for your good work too!
Maybe I should start by telling you that my father went to UC Berkeley in the early 1930's when it was FREE. I went to free California elementary and Middle/Jr. High schools. From 1947 to 1949 I went to a school provided free by the Navy on Guam where my dad was stationed.
When I was a child, I knew and accepted that some people could afford more than others, but I was jealous when it came to specifics. My friend had money for ice cream at lunch time and went horseback riding with her dad. I didn't and couldn't. I was jealous of her! We had a budget and we made it meet our needs but it did not satisfy our wants.
In 1952, I went to John Phillip Sousa Jr. High School in SE Washington DC. It was a brand new state of the art Jr. High. I didn't notice at the time, but it was also a white only school, the very school where black parents came knocking at the door to get their children admitted because their schools were substandard. They were turned away and years later, they were part of the group that won Brown V the Board of Education. Recently, I saw my school in the movie "Waiting for Superman."
I went to an all white high school in VA until I graduated in 1957. During my last year, local parents were confronted with the fear that they would be forced to integrate. They were up in arms. Many of my friends were from military families and we couldn't see the big deal since the military had integrated long before. But after I left, the State of VA managed to close public schools to avoid integration.
I went to Michigan State which was mostly white but trying to integrate. In my freshman year my black girlfriend and I wanted to be roommates in the college dorm but we were turned down because they didn't want that much mixing. Dating a black man was just not seen. A black guy who was my friend and I used to occupy each other's segregated racial groups at the student union just for fun. My dream had been to go to Stanford, but my parents couldn't afford it.
After graduation, I came home to California again and soon began working at the welfare department where I got a higher education about poverty.
Later, after I too became a recipient of public assistance, I was called to this work because my children were being discriminated against. We simply did not have the money that was asked for by the school in order to make our children competitive, not that we wanted to compete, we would have preferred to cooperate, but the schools put us in the position of having to compete for success in education and we didn't have the money. I knew my children were as worthy as anyone else's. Why should they suffer? Why should they not be allowed to contribute their gifts to the world simply because I didn't have money? Why should other children like them and their parents suffer? This wasn't a matter of jealousy. It was about seeing the real value in my children and creating a path for them so they could become contributing adults.
Still, I wouldn't have done what I did if it weren't for another parent, Kathy. Kathy had been a paralegal and a volunteer at another school in our district. She had also fought the schools on another issue. She showed me how to use the law library and helped me find Hartzell v. Connell etc. I was so amazed to discover that the State of California also believed in free schools! What was more amazing was that I couldn't find a teacher or administrator who knew the law! Together, Kathy and I wrote a grievance to the Hayward Board of Education citing instances we or our friends had experienced and the laws and regulations that had been violated. The Board, of course, denied our grievance without discussion. Later I went to Legal Aid with Kathy and a small group of parents to ask for help and a suit was filed. Our local newspaper interviewed me and published an article with a picture of me that had the caption, "Welfare Mom sues..." I can't remember the rest, just that everyone knew now that we were on welfare. I was embarrassed. My children were embarrassed. Comments were made at school and in the newspaper. I remember one in the newspaper was "Get a job!" It was a very scary thing for me to do. Just writing this to you has made me realize again how hard that was for me to do.
My daughter, especially, suffered a great deal. She was in middle school and we went to the meeting for parents and students interested in "Project Close up", the trip to Washington. I had already told her that we couldn't afford that, but she told me that the money was going to come from fundraising. We were told the same thing at the meeting, but there were due dates and records were kept by student name. I got so angry, I lost sight of what was good for my daughter. I went to the board of education and they caved and arranged to pay her way just to shut me up. There were fundraisers too. My daughter was selling flowers and stuff too, but the fundraisers were really inadequate to meet the need. When the teacher sponsor found out my daughter's way was paid she became really angry and after I dropped my daughter at the airport in her care began to spread the word around to others. Other students picked up on it and began to give my daughter a hard time and did some really dangerous things which I won't get into now. I didn't hear about any of it until my daughter came home devastated. After that she was told she had to continue to sell flowers until she had made up the difference. No one else had to raise funds. Needless to say I put a stop to that too, but you cannot change a person's heart. The effects on my daughter were permanent.
Legal aid was fighting its own fight at that time. Ronald Reagan was trying to defund it altogether so the poor would have no voice at all. Our lawyer delayed action on our case for years until our children were out of school and the other parents had moved on. I had emphysema and a job. When the lawyer started asking us to do the research over again because what we had collected was too old, it was too much for me and I dropped it.
The fees issue came up for me again after I retired. I learned that our local elementary school was charging fees for after school violin lessons. I, with a small group of seniors, had contributed to their fundraiser, but the whole thing opened that old wound again. I connected with the school. I connected with Kathy whom I hadn't seen in years and I was delighted to find Sally online! I got to know some of the current Hayward board members and one of them became interested in educating the board about the law and made it his job to do just that. I watched from home on the TV. The board member brought a speaker in from The State DOE and still there was a lot of resistance.
when I see the advertising about back to school stuff on TV or in the news. People believe what they see and hear on the media. With all that commercial effort how can we expect people to believe in the law that isn't being followed?
"Everyone knows that you have to buy supplies! “One year I tried to find out who was at the bottom of that. Of course the ads were from stores selling supplies, but what I found was that the newspaper articles came from the AP. They are writing for a national audience without regard for California specific law. How can we get them to stop? or tell the truth about state laws? I gave it up.
I am very glad to hear what you have done and are doing!
I think we must continue to strengthen an online presence for parents and students. We need to create chat room and use Facebook to connect people to each other for mutual support. This is about equal opportunity in education. Wealthy people should not be allowed to take over our public schools nor should they be privatized. In my mind, our children are ground zero.
I might add that I gave my granddaughter a booklet on student rights and she got really excited and told all her friends on Facebook and they all turned on her and accused her of trying to ruin their lives, echoing what they had heard from adults.
Another thing I have noticed in my long life (going on 79) is that more and more people are making relatively less and less money. Social Welfare no longer has the stigma it used to have because so many people are forced to rely upon it due to being underpaid. People are coming out of the closet on this issue. They need to see that they are part of something greater than themselves. Of course they have to contend with the political polarization that has blocked so much action.
I wish you well. Hearing from you has been wonderful. It has not opened an old wound so much as inspired an old lady.
We ask that this school year, learn the law as it pertains to Illegal Pupil Fees and let’s change the behavior so we empower our students to engage in school, to participate in all activities and not create unspoken barriers that currently exist in every public school in California.
OUR STUDENTS, OUR STATE deserve better behavior.