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Calling All Congregations

by Frank Alton

Remember when California was a national K-12 education leader – some 30-plus years ago?
Remember and weep.
Flash forward to 2011 and you’ll find the state in the bottom 20% of the nation.

What happened?

     According to a 2005 Rand Report*, the downslide began when California proudly became the first state to move school funding from local jurisdictions to the state in an attempt to equalize per pupil spending and narrow the gap between wealthy and not-so-wealthy districts.   One result, the study concluded, was lower spending levels across the board, a decline which continues today with California’s 2011-2012 K-12 education budget recently cut by $6.5 billion (13% compared to 2007-2008) – $1100 per student!

     Millions of students exit school sans diploma and having not acquired even the minimum skills needed to compete in a rapidly changing economy.  The figures show that nearly 25% of California 9th graders will not graduate – including 40% of African-Americans and 30% of Latinos (in a state where 70% of the public school population consist of students of color).   Even sadder, many are “pushed out”  – encouraged or forced to leave school (illegally) because they are “too old and lack sufficient credits,” being “punished for problematic behavior,” “pregnant,” special education services are “unavailable,” “have criminal records” or are being bullied.

     Read it and weep.

     Then take action!

How? 

     A good starting point would be for your congregation to form an Action Tree  through Prepare the Future California, a faith and values driven grassroots advocacy organization working to secure education, combining “online advocacy and parent engagement to ensure that ALL California children graduate from high school prepared to successfully complete further education that equips them to live meaningful and healthy lives, find financially rewarding and satisfying work and participate effectively in public life.” You can click here to sign up for an Action Tree.

     Action Tree members commit to supporting quality public education for every child by taking one action a month to support that agenda (as minimal as sending a pre-loaded email), contributing $20 annually ,and inviting 3 other people to join them. Parent cohorts are being trained and organized to improve student achievement and to engage others in effective advocacy.  And, of course, a congregation can choose to focus on both online advocacy and parent engagement.  They can, in addition, actively engage in neighborhood public schools, whether as a parent/grandparent wanting to take an active role in their children’s education or as individuals passionate about volunteering in public schools.

      Action Trees are Prepare the Future’s key strategy for building a powerful public voice. An Action Tree is an online community built by friends who share common values, including a commitment to quality public education for all children in California. A successful Action Tree will include at least 390 individual advocates who grow from a seed of 30 advocates identified by a partner organization. Each advocate makes four commitments:

            1. To Prepare The Future’s agenda of providing a quality public education for every child

            2. To take one action per month in support of the agenda (there will be several options suggested each month ranging from emails to  policy makers to participation in rallies, prayer vigils and working with parents and students in local schools.

            3. To contribute annually to support Prepare The Future (suggested amount $20)

            4. To find three friends who will make these same four commitments. 

      Each organization will determine how to best build the action tree. A common denominator is that there needs to be a core individual or group that drives the growth of the action tree. The driver could be 1, 3, 5, 6 + people to monitor and encourage growth.

     Read it and celebrate!

     Interested?

     Please contact:

Prepare the Future California

Dr. Frank M. Alton, Executive Director

840 Echo Park Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90026-4209

(213) 482-2040, ext. 201

email: falton@PTFCAL.org

web: www.PTFCAL.org

 

__________

*California’s K-12 Public Schools:  How Are They Doing?   http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2004/RAND_MG186.pdf  

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