A Lesson with Eric Heins

President of California Teachers Association

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Are there any ballot initiatives or campaigns in the upcoming election that will have a significant effect on public education? What should we as voters and citizens be paying attention to?

First one is Proposition 55, which is the extension of taxes on the top 5% of the wealthiest of Californians. It doesn’t raise taxes but it continues the taxes that were voted on in Proposition 30 and that money goes into a special school account. That’s the foremost that could have a really big impact because if Prop 55 doesn’t go through, schools will immediately lose about 4 billion dollars in the first year and that would set us back in the chaos of recession.

Another one is Proposition 58 which is the Learner’s Initiative. What that would do is give students access to multilingual education. Not just bilingual but also dual immersion, which would be important if we are going to have our students be global citizens and not as insular as we have been.

The CTA has also supported Proposition 52 that brings medicare and healthcare to poor families, which obviously affects our students and their education.

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Do you have suggestions for students, teachers and parents who would like to get more involved with public education in their localities?

Two years ago Governor Brown changed the school funding system so all the money goes to the districts. Districts are required under the law to involve the community as well as the teachers in building a local accountability plan that outlines how that money is being spent. As those plans are updated every other year  and as they are developed, people can definitely get involved in the process. The district doesn’t always have a meaningful way for the community to get involved and also engage with the teachers in the discussion about how best to spend that money to help the students we all know.

The second way for people to get involved is to vote.  Get to know the candidates, run for the school board if that’s what you want to do but engage in the process and don’t feel that you are aside from it because you really can make an impact. In California, one of the reasons we are actually doing much better than the rest of the country is because we have some of the right people elected in office. We are not like Louisiana or Florida where the state is in complete turmoil with the public education system. We are doing a lot of exciting things and it’s because we are actively engaging.

One of the things I found intriguing about the play was how Thomas was thinking about becoming a you-tuber and that’s how I think students can get involved. There is a whole new economy that these young kids can create. Old folks like me, we don’t even know what exists yet! If students see opportunities, they should go for it!  Learn about  what the world is like and create something new out of it. Who knew you could turn tweeting into a job?

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