October 4th, 2011
Booger on the left (I’d like to explain the headband, but nonsensical kid fashion knows no logic nor bounds), and Toots on the right. This is Toots’ first day of kindergarten. Two years ago. And also when I was still only 40. Such halcyon days.
I remember the first time I gave serious thought to the budget cuts affecting California’s public education — it was when my oldest daughter entered kindergarten two years ago. I know, care much? I did in theory, but unfortunately the impact of the cuts in education spending didn’t hit home, until it hit my daughter’s school. Hard.
Arrogantly, I thought I was impervious to budget cuts. Prior to enrolling Toots in the elementary school she attends now, I considered several different schools — mostly private — so I could get my daughter the best possible education available within reason and within our resources. I was impressed by the small class sizes at the Catholic schools I visited (12 kids to a class? Be still my parental heart) and even registered Toots for a few of these schools, despite the financial burden. But then, my husband and I decided to move to a town about 20 miles north of where we lived so we’d reside in the Poway School District, a community of public schools recognized for providing an outstanding education.
And so that’s what we did. I assumed that because we were in a renowned school district, we’d be immune to budget cuts and their impact. But entering Toots’ kindergarten class that first day, and milling about among the 22 other registered children and their parents, I realized no one in the public school system would be unaffected. Toot’s kindergarten teacher practically begged for volunteers that first day, because the school couldn’t afford a teaching aide, and she was quite on her own for teaching all 22 children to read, learn math, make art projects, tell time, tie shoes, and in general, provide an excellent educational experience.
Without volunteers, she was up the creek. Without a paddle (those cost extra).
The year went on. I volunteered every Friday, and did my best to help, and thankfully, so did plenty of other parents. And before I knew it, my daughter was ready for the first grade. And that school year? School started a week later than usual (because the teachers salaries were cut) and the class sizes measured 26 to a classroom (because there wasn’t enough money to pay more teachers for smaller class sizes). Art was in danger of an axing, and forget about PE (PE is when kids are encouraged to run around the track before school and at recess).
Again? Volunteers to the rescue. We had a hearty crew at this school. Us parents weren’t going to let our kids suffer for California’s fiscal crisis, no sir. We united and but good. Art was saved! One-on-one learning time was achieved! Kids had reading tutors! Math skills would not lie down and die! (PE? Still working on that one.)
And so Toots graduated to second grade, and my five-year-old, Booger, got ready to start kindergarten. And this August, tears in eyes and lump in throat, I took my youngest to her first class. Booger ended up with the same teacher Toots had and so the classroom look comfortingly familiar and recognizable. The only thing? This year, there were 29 children in the class. TWENTY-NINE children. And one teacher. By God, this was the year our kids learned to read! And it’d also be real nice if they could actually ambulate about the classroom without tripping over one of the 28 other students.
I dropped Booger off and caught her teacher’s eye. “I know,” is all she said.
So again we volunteer and we help and we fundraise and we donate and we do this and we do that. (But what of the schools with a working-parent majority? With a smaller volunteer pool? In another school district with less resources? What then?)
Because with three years of California budget cuts measuring a loss of $18 billion to our public schools, it’s the schools in lower-income communities that suffer the most. And I’m by NO MEANS in a wealthy community, but I am in one where there’s usually only one working parent, leaving the other available to volunteer. And yes, there’s some disposable income to donate to the PTA or the school’s foundation for educational field trips or new books or to keep the librarian.
Many schools had to fire their librarians.
All this is to say: Sometimes I feel helpless. And sad. And wonder what to do. And think about what other people do. And worry about next year and the year after that and so on and so on.
And in the midst of all this frustration, I received a request to share the word about a way for California elementary schools to win some much needed resources for their classrooms and some good old-fashioned money for the school itself. And I said YES. I will share**. And so here it is:
Please to know the Real Seal Appeal! Sweepstakes:
If you’d like to help your child’s elementary school with funding, consider this: The California Milk Advisory Board is supporting Southern California schools with up to $2 million in cash, books and other prizes. The top prizes are $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000 for three schools each (I seriously breathe heavy just thinking about it) and 2,595 other schools will win $500. This is what you can do:
1. Collect Real California Milk seals from the dairy products you buy (you buy like 82,000 packages of cheese too, right?).
(Look for seals like these above…)
2. Turn the seals into the teachers*. (You might want to tell them about this sweepstakes first, so they don’t go all wha–? on you.)
3. The teachers send in the seals to win.
One very cool thing about this is that for the first entry, the classroom receives a Scholastic book, with plenty more opportunities to win additional books.
Also, EACH seal is a sweepstakes entry, and the sweepstakes runs from October 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011. Please find out more at scholastic.com/sealappeal. That link will take you to every thing you need and want to know.
*Participating elementary schools in Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. (I sent the info to my school’s PTA president so we could get going schoolwide on this…but even if your school doesn’t participate officially, teachers can send in dairy seals to enter.)
**This post was sponsored*** by Real California Milk. But all thoughts, opinions, and angst are mine.
***The money I was compensated for writing this post is going directly to my school’s PTA fund. It’s the exact amount they request as a donation to pay for art classes and teacher’s aides and so many more necessary things.
****Could I ADD any more stars? Man oh man. Star overload.
*****HA HA! Just a little sponsored post humor.