Yet, our education system in California fails to create these opportunities for students, especially our Latinx, Black, and low-income students- we have especially seen more inequities come to light during COVID-19 and distance learning. As a public school teacher in Watts, I have seen firsthand the struggles students go through due to lack of resources and the number of teachers who left the district for better paying jobs. California has consistently been in the bottom of our nation in public school funding, while investing millions in prisons and incarceration. I will be your strongest advocate for increased public education funding for our district’s children. I am proposing a bold new plan that includes free and universal pre-K, free 4-year colleges, and comprehensive reform to ensure all our students are getting the education they deserve.
Early childhood learning is critical for closing the achievement gap. Learning starts before kindergarten and having high quality education for young children can help improve learning outcomes in elementary school. Many families struggle to find affordable childcare. In LA county, the average annual cost for a preschool child care center is $11,999. In District 64, our median household income is $45,400 per year. 20% of our community earns less than $18,700 per year. Early childcare costs are prohibitively expensive and make it hard for families to access the support they deserve.
Yet, early childhood learning has immense benefits. Some studies suggest people with access to early childhood learning are more likely to grow into happier, healthier people. The employment rate of women with young children – especially low-income women of color – increases dramatically when families have access to high quality pre-K.
At the same time, the median annual salary for child care workers is only $28,630. This is not a living wage and fails to value the critical care and education work that they are providing. This makes it structurally difficult for child care workers to provide a high quality of care for our children.
Black and Latinx students are overly policed in our schools From 2014-2017, the LA School Police Department made 3,389 arrests and issued 2,724 citations. While Black students only make up 9% of the LAUSD school district, they accounted for 25% of all arrests, citations, and diversions. Boys and young men of color were involved in 76% of all LASPD activity. 1 in 4 of these arrests were in elementary and middle schools.
Even before police are involved, Black and Latinx youth are more likely to receive detentions, suspensions, and expulsions. Students who have been suspended or expelled are more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system, to drop out, or to repeat a grade. None of these outcomes benefit students, heighten their learning, or connect them to the resources they need.
California spends significantly less per pupil than other states. In particular, predominately Black and Latinx schools are underresourced and not given the funding equity they need to create thriving environments for education. This impacts our school systems in several ways. Most of the cost of schools goes to paying teachers, teaching assistants, and other staff. Not investing in our schools means we aren’t investing in our teachers. At LAUSD, the starting salary for credentialed teachers was $53,435 for the 2019-2020 school year. For teaching assistants, preschool teachers, and educators without Bachelors and Masters degrees, the pay scale is even lower. Given the importance of education and the number of hours teachers put into their classrooms, this wage is much too low and makes it hard for teachers to show up fully for their students and schools. Teachers also receive little support and training, making it structurally challenging for them to produce high quality, culturally relevant lessons.
Lack of funding also means that many schools cannot put on high quality after school programming, keep class sizes low, or hire for other important school positions such as counselors and nurses. These issues impact Black and Latinx students the most. Across LA county, there are 1 million low income Black and Latinx students; only 15% of them are enrolled in a top performing school that is actively reducing the achievement gap. All of our students deserve access to this level of education, and adequate funding is one important way to get there.
Our community has some of the lowest educational attainment rates in the entire state. Many of our community members in District 64 do not have access to high quality formal education. 36% of us have no high school diploma, and less than 18% of us have an Associate’s degree or higher. This has serious impacts on our economic future as studies repeatedly show that people with college degrees earn more than their peers with high school degrees.
We know that this gap in educational attainment has nothing to do with the intelligence of our community and everything to do with the systemic racism that we face. Our primary and secondary schools are underfunded, meaning many of our students – especially Black and Latinx students – are not adequately prepared for college. 87% of Black students going to California community colleges had to take some sort of pre-college remedial coursework. Of all the Black students in California that go to college, 67% of them go to a community college, higher than the overall LA average. Black and Latinx students also have lower completion rates. This points to systemic racism and a lack of support across all levels of education and is something that we must address.
Want to learn more? Check out these resources:
• Social Security Administration summary on the impact of education on lifetime earnings.
• Black Minds Matter report from The Education Trust-West
• Policy Analysis for California Education’s (PACE) report on college attainment in California
We have collaborated with community members and organizations to create a comprehensive education policy platform that centers justice and equity for our entire community and state.
We need community schools that are resourced and skilled enough to develop the whole child, not just academically, but also socio-emotionally, artistically, and athletically. Current definitions of school “quality” create a tyranny of quantitative performance measures contingent on overtesting and business modeling. Instead, Fatima envisions building learning environments that enable students to choose whatever paths they want to pursue as adults, all while affirming their identities regardless of language differences, legal accommodations, cultural backgrounds, or any other needs they may have.
As a teacher, Fatima will support all teachers and other school-based workers to cultivate these learning environments, with equitable compensation and treatment. Through the passage of a holistic Community Schools Bill, she will advocate for:
Fatima will also fight to increase funding for public education through a combination of:
We are focused on championing robust policies of care that will bring the systemic change we need. Fully free and high quality universal pre-K is a critical first step to achieving equity in California. This will help improve outcomes for children, ease burdens on families with young children, increase the ability of parents to enter the workforce, and allow us to to better invest in our incredible childcare workers.
On the opposite side of early childhood education, we must also strengthen our students’ ability to access college, which is why we are proposing tuition-free 4-year public colleges & any other post-secondary training. We know that access to college is critical to being competitive in today’s job market and to earning a livable wage. Lack of access to college right now is a huge form of inequity and and systemic racism, and tuition-free 4-year colleges is one step to addressing this issue.
We know that we need increased education spending as a state and ensure a massive reallocation of funds to Black and Latinx schools. We have plans for how we can raise the revenue we need to truly invest in our students, including repealing Proposition 13 for commercial businesses worth more than $3 million, bond measures for infrastructure investments, and raising taxes on the top 1% of our state. I also support the Schools & Communities First Act, as a phenomenal start to raising the revenue we need. For our children and for the success of our future economy, we need to make public education a top priority.