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Supporters of school funding plan go door to door

Ventura County Star
Jeremy Foster
June 1st, 2013
 
More than 30 supporters of Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to transform the way the state distributes money to schools mobilized Saturday morning, knocking on doors throughout Oxnard to persuade residents in favor of the contentious plan.
 
The local volunteers were members of the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, or CAUSE, which was among several local groups that included about 1,000 volunteers who fanned out across the state.
 
They were among 31 community organizations allied under California Calls for Action Fund, a statewide voter outreach network.
 
Volunteers in Oxnard knocked on the doors of more than 50 households, speaking with new and occasional voters who supported Proposition 30 last November about their opinion on the local-school funding proposal.
 
“This is an equity issue,” said CAUSE Oxnard organizer Diana Marin. “English learners, at-risk youths and low-income students have other problems and lack of resources that other people don’t face.”
 
As it stands, Brown’s funding plan would give districts more flexibility in determining how to spend their resources, providing supplemental funding for students who either come from low-income households or have limited English skills, and offering an additional boost to districts where a majority of students are in those categories.
 
The group took a similar tack last year in galvanizing support for Proposition 30, a measure passed last year by voters that kept education revenue level by slightly raising the sales tax and by raising taxes on people who make more than $250,000 a year.
 
Lucas Clay Zucker, a CAUSE organizer for Ventura County, said the organization was reaching out to neighborhoods “that feel disconnected from the political process and ignored by mainstream politics and campaigns.”
 
Zucker, of Ventura, said that with California in the black for the first time in several years, school funding should benefit the neediest school districts.
 
“The fact is, all public schools in Ventura County will still see gains from Prop. 30 funding, but larger gains will be focused on the schools with the highest needs,” he said. “Next year, Conejo Valley Unified, which is a fairly wealthy suburban school district, would see an increase of $191 per student, while Fillmore Unified, which is a rural community with many children living in poverty, would see an increase of $383 per student due to its unique challenges.”
 
Volunteers have been phoning and knocking on doors in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties since May 13, according to Aracely Preciado, CAUSE civic engagement organizer. They have canvassed in Ventura and Santa Paula and will head as far north as Santa Maria.
 
Jose Lopez, 37, told volunteers he supported the idea of the state setting money aside for schools with bigger challenges, particularly economic ones.
 
Lopez has three children in elementary schools across Oxnard.
 
“Of course I support this,” he said. “Kids who are struggling oftentimes need an extra push, and sometimes that push can be financial. Why would anyone object to this?”
 
Eusebia Ramirez, who works at Ramona Elementary School and has grandchildren who attend the school, said the school has been teetering because of funding problems.
 
“I think a lot of it is the language barrier,” she said. “And it’s not just about Spanish learners. I teach resource students, and some speak the Mixteco language.”
 
She said schools with a preponderance of low-income students fail because students often come from families without the resources to help them with school.
 
“If you go to upper-class schools where parents are more involved because they have money and tutors and other resources, then this isn’t a problem,” she said. “But here it is, and unless we improve not just parent education but parent involvement by creating better schools, we won’t have a better school system for all kids.”
 
Giovani Bautista, 19, said he wanted to go door to door in the heat if it means helping others who struggle like he has.
 
At age 7, he moved from Mexico to the U.S. and was placed in regular classes where speaking only Spanish left him feel slow.
 
“There weren’t enough resources and classes,” he said. “I had to catch up on my grades as I caught up on my English.”
 
A Hueneme High School graduate and a student at Ventura College, he now maintains a 3.8 grade-point average.
 
“I joined this because I understand the language barriers,” he said.”People can ignore us, but we’re in the country and we need to have opportunities to be successful.”
 
 
 

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