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The California Students' Bill of Rights

The Right to Demand that Decision-Makers Put Students First.

Every stakeholder in our public schools matters and everyone deserves respect and consideration. But students must always come first. A student-focused lens should be applied to all decisions made in our education system: how is this decision helping our students succeed?

The Right to Economic Equality.

The facts are clear, students who come from families where parents have middle-class jobs do better than students whose parents are struggling economically. Economic equality creates educational equality – because it gives parents more time to engage with their children, puts children under less stress AND when we grow together fairly we grow our tax base, meaning more money for schools.

The Right to Appropriate School Funding.

Proposition 98 is the floor, not the ceiling. We are still far, far behind other states in educational spending. The Proposition 98 spending formulas are being used as a maximum allotment. That was never the intent. Proposition 98 created a minimum of spending, not a maximum.

The Right to Equity Money Being Used in the Classroom, not the Bureaucracy.

New funding rules that require more equality in our schools are only a help if the money is spent on kids, not bureaucracy. We need to invest these new funds in better trained and better compensated teachers and other ways that impact the students who need the most help to succeed.

The Right to Access High-Quality Schools.

Wealthy families can choose to move to high-performing school districts, or pay for private school tuition. Poor families also deserve the right to access high-quality schools and publicly chartered schools often provide that access. High-performing public charters playing by the same set of rules as other public schools are laboratories for innovation and creativity; our low-income families should be empowered to be able to choose the school that makes sense for their children.

The Right to Teachers Who Get More Pay and More Professional Training.

Teachers are not the problem – well-paid and professionally-trained teachers are a solution. We need to invest in more professional training, continuing professional development and tenure reform. Providing opportunities for our teachers to work at least three years under training and supervision and other common-sense reforms will make our teachers better trained and better supported.

The Right to Hold Every One of Us Accountable.

Principals, parents, teachers, elected leaders, the entire community and students are all responsible for success. We can’t point fingers at each other. We need to understand we are ALL responsible for educational equality and student success.

The Right to Support from the Beginning.

The reality is that succeeding in schools is dramatically affected by neo-natal care, childhood nutrition, childhood healthcare and other basic services. Access to quality child care and early education can ensure that every student has a healthy start in life.

The Right to Be Free from the Worry of Being Homeless or Housing Insecure.

Housing is a recognized educational rights issue. We have too many homeless kids in our schools and too many parents who must work two and three jobs to pay for skyrocketing housing costs, meaning they don’t have enough time to support their children. Affordable housing creates opportunities for greater student achievement.

The Right to Nutritional Food.

Nutrition programs must extend beyond the school day and school year. Children who are hungry at night or over the summer can’t keep up.

The Right to Safe Schools and Neighborhoods.

To give our kids a chance to succeed in public school, they need to be secure and safe in school, and coming and going to school. A focus on safety does not need to, and should not, criminalize students. They must be free to think and learn without fear and trauma.

The Right to Advance to College or Career Training.

Graduating from high school is a start – not a finish. We need to make sure our schools lay out a clear path for higher education or other post-secondary career and technical education as a part of our curriculum, requirements and culture.

We're Accountable for Making the American Dream Possible Through Education

By: Antonio Villaraigosa

With the passage of California’s Local Control Funding Formula and the new federal education law, Every Student Succeeds Act, responsibility for protecting disadvantaged children in the classroom falls squarely on states and districts. The question is: Is California ready for the responsibility?

Will California lead the nation in educational excellence and opportunity or will we continue to trail behind states like Massachusetts that made a commitment decades ago to high expectations and meaningful accountability?

I believe in the power of education to make the American Dream possible for anyone willing to work hard. I not only believe it. I know it firsthand.

Education is often called the great equalizer — putting all kids on a level playing field and giving them an equal shot at a good life. But American education is still unequal and inadequate for too many young people. We are one of the few developed nations in the world that spends less to educate poor kids than to educate rich ones.

And when the system of education is unequal, the results will be unequal. Consider California’s results on the national NAEP test — often referred to as the “gold standard” of assessments.

Our Latino students have made some gains over the years, but California is still ranked near the bottom and the gaps remain large. For example, in eighth-grade math only 15 percent of our Latino kids are at grade compared to 53 percent of white students — a 38-point difference. In fourth-grade reading, the percentage of Hispanics at grade is 31 points lower than for white students. For black students, it’s 33 points lower.

california high school graduation rate antonio villaraigosa for governor of california antonio villaraigosa education 1 achievement gap in education

Unless we change those numbers, education will perpetuate inequity instead of reducing it. Instead of driving economic mobility and providing a ladder to the middle class, it will lock access to the middle class and beyond.

The current presidential election has focused discussion on income inequality but it mostly glosses over the most important lever for addressing it, which is strengthening K-12 education. Education alone can’t eliminate poverty, but for millions of young people, it’s the only real path out of poverty.

On average, a person with a college degree will earn nearly one million dollars more over a lifetime than a person with only a high school degree. Add a million college graduates to our economy and that’s a trillion dollars more in wealth. More important, it’s a million families with the means to live a decent life.

california high school graduation rate antonio villaraigosa for governor of california antonio villaraigosa education 1The good news is that California has adopted high standards. The Common Core standards are in schools and classrooms across the state and kids are better off for it. It’s more rigorous and more aligned to what they will need to succeed — both in college and in life.

California has also been a leader in innovation — with nearly 1,200 charter schools across the state — more than any other state in the country. The best ones, like the Alliance and the “PUC” schools in Los Angeles, the Summit Schools in the Bay Area and many others, are proving that poverty isn’t destiny.

The bad news, however, is that California has backtracked from accountability, putting disadvantaged children at greater risk than ever before. For the last three years, we have stopped reporting accountability ratings in California during the transition to new standards and new tests. It’s not clear when we will start again.

And this undermines our efforts to improve schools. Without transparency around performance, states and districts can’t help low-performing schools get better. Without the data you can’t make the case for change.

Parents also need data to make informed decisions. Increasingly, we live in a choice-based education system, not a neighborhood-based system. They want their kids to go to college. They want more learning time in school and they want the very best teachers in front of their children. They know all children are not the same and they want to find the right educational fit for each child.

Education Trust West has developed a set of common-sense recommendations around improving public education and holding ourselves accountable. The only question is, do we have the will and courage to adopt effective policies that lift the teaching profession, strengthen our schools and put children’s needs ahead of politics? Parent voice matters. We have to keep up the pressure. We can’t accept mediocrity and ignore the facts. It’s time we define our own destiny and demand quality education for our children. That’s what our parents want and our kids need. Anything less is unacceptable.

Antonio Villaraigosa is chairman of EducationPost’s advisory network. He was formerly mayor of Los Angeles and speaker of the California Assembly.

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