On Friday, May 1st, I attended a town hall meeting on education in Ventura
The guest of honor was State Senator Gloria Romero, current chair of the Senate Education Committee and the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Education.
She shared the stage with Hannah Beth Jackson, our recent Assembly Rep, and Das Williams, member of the Santa Barbara City council and legislative analyst for the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy.
Other speakers included the Dean of SB City College and the Super of the Ventura Unified School District.
Sadly, there were only about two dozen people in the audience, I only heard about it from an Email sent out Thursday. Most of the attendees were educators.
Romero was inspiring. She’s fully committed to education as the engine of equality and prosperity. She’s reminded us that the economy has changed and that education must change with it. And she also pointed out that 1/3 of all American children live in California…wow!
Romero said that California has a state education code that details everything from textbooks to district management, but it has no preamble and no mission statement. She believes that beyond the current funding crisis, our education system has an identity crisis. She believes that public education must be “sold” again to a new generation of taxpayers who have come to take it for granted.
I was totally impressed by her commitment to this cause. Most of the meeting was devoted to the current problems and possibilities of public education. But we did talk about special election too.
Romero stated her “disgust” with the budget deal. She described her 15 minutes of fame when CNN broadcast her 3 AM address to the Senate articulating that disgust. She recounted Able Maldonaldo’s reports that his Republican colleagues were willing to push the state “off a cliff” to prevent tax increases. But she’s supporting Props 1A-B.
I missed Hannah Beths’s opening remarks, but she later reminded us that the budget “deal” included 1.5 billion dollars of corporate tax breaks – for which the state received nothing in return.
The educators did not take sides on the props. They told the group how their institutions are already stuggling, but refrained from saying “you must vote yes… for the children”. But the Dean of SBCC did express some doubts about the future of the spending cap, and a member of CTA stood up in the audience and itemized her union’s opposition to 1A
I asked one question: Being dead-set against political blackmail, I intend to vote No on the 1A. But, being the parent of one college student and one high schooler, I am wavering. I don’t want to condemn the current generation of students to a third-rate education so I could play chicken the the kamikazi wing of the Republican Party. I wanted to know if anyone on the panel thought that the spending cap was a problem that could be “managed” in the future, after 1A got us past the current crisis.
Romero believes that if the Props fail, the ‘Pubs will gain political advantage. She said It will be very hard for the Dems to juggle another “fees for taxes” deal like the on the Governor vetoed last fall. She feels that the Dems will benefit by taking the issue of “fiscal responsibility” away from the Pubs by supporting the spending cap. Das William said that the cap is a “soft” one, which I understood to mean that yes, there will be room to manuever the budget after 1A passes. They’re both for the compromise, but they agree that it’s really up to the voters.
Romero got a little heated when she spoke about Prop 1F. Before she was elected to the Assembly, she earned $52,000 a year as a college professor. She got a small pay raise by becoming a legislator. The idea of millionaire Able Maldonado, flying around in his private jet, telling people that legislators aren’t earning their pay really burns her.
It burns me that she’s going to be termed out in a couple of years.
It was terrific of Romero to make the drive and bring a bit of Sacramento to Ventura County. I’m sorry it wasn’t better publicized. I hope Pedro Nava follows her example… and Tony Strickland too.
Altho I expect his appearances will be limited to a work-day, mid-afternoon, country-club setting in Simi Valley, attended by no one but retired Republican faithfuls.