By MIGUELINA MANRIQUEZ
While most kids grew up running around their daycare after school, I grew up hanging out in my parents’ classrooms. Both of my parents work in the Pajaro Valley Unified School District — a district that is severely underfunded. This district is largely populated by low-income, immigrant families.
My parents work tirelessly to ensure that their students have the same opportunities as students from privileged districts. My father routinely works unpaid and over hours to support struggling students. My mother constantly puts the needs of the families she counsels before her own. Teachers like my parents are the unsung superheroes of society. They make sure that the at-risk middle schooler does not get in with the wrong group of gang members, or help the shy young girl find her voice to speak up for what she believes in. My parents are part of a large community of teachers that quietly change lives, every day.
But this community is threatened. At the local level, the well-being of teachers is second to the financial agenda of the PVUSD school board. A common misconception about the school board is that it is powerless to create change. This is false. The school board is not simply an oversight committee. They have considerable influence over the district budget. This year, there are three seats up for election on the PVUSD school board. If we elect accountable candidates, the board can act as a force of good.
I support Jennifer Holm, Daniel Dodge and Jennifer Schacher. These individuals will advance quality education by funding materials for staff instead of increasing the grossly over-funded administrative budget. They understand that in order to create a sustainable learning environment for children, schools must invest in hiring long-term, high-quality teachers, not more administrators.
On the state level, teachers face opposition from California lawmakers who do not support public education. State investment is hugely determinative in influencing teacher pay and classroom support. Due to state budget cuts made to alleviate financial pain from the recession, per pupil spending is lower now than it was a decade ago. Despite the fact that our economy has largely recovered from the recession, many cuts are still in place. Electing leaders like Tony Thurmond for state superintendent, and Gavin Newsom for governor, will ensure that students and teachers get the resources they need.
We must also resist against the agenda of the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. Since taking office, DeVos has pushed to reallocate public education funding to private school vouchers. The use of private school vouchers allows for blatant discrimination in school selection and severely disenfranchises many young students in the United States. Our country needs leaders who will stand up for these unseen students.
As a recent graduate of UCLA, I know the financial burden that pursuing a higher education can have on our generation. Student debt cripples us, but we have a chance to change this by voting in support of public education. When public education is poor, many students pay for remedial courses before attending a university. We can strengthen the quality of our classes and lessen the need for remedial courses. As the largest voting bloc in America, it is up to us to speak up, show up, and vote for candidates who will support public education.
This election will directly impact the livelihood of not only teachers, but also students, parents, grandparents — ultimately, the well-being of educators impacts us all. It is an opportunity to stand alongside our teachers and finally treat them like the professionals they are.
Miguelina Manriquez is a resident of Watsonville. Her opinions are her own and not necessarily those of the Register-Pajaronian.