For ten years, Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) has advocated on behalf of our local public schools. Not coincidentally, during that time our schools suffered a steady onslaught from the State of California in the form of draconian and withering budget cuts to education.
CEPS’s focus has always been trained on protecting our excellent local schools, but it is no mistake that the first word in our name is “community”. The excellence of our local public schools is felt in every corner of our diverse community, and it takes extraordinary vigilance on the part of every community member to hold together the strained fabric of our high quality public schools.
Those of us who have a history of advocating for public education know that California’s public education finance system leaves districts painfully dependent on Sacramento. We also know that our local schools excel at levels far above state and county averages. In part because of superb teaching and academically rigorous programs, but also in part because of innovative and extremely active community participation, which has not been content to allow the quality of our local schools to whither under relentless State funding raids.
TWO NEW COMMUNITY EFFORTS
The Save Our Schools Campaign (SOS) sprang into action shortly after the Santa Monica Malibu Board of Education was forced to respond to State budget cuts to SMMUSD by making $7.1 million dollars of cuts for the 2010-2011 school year. This is after cuts of $4.5 million for 2009-2010 and an additional $2 million dollars of furloughs, shorting the school year in both of those years. These cuts will have significant impacts in our schools, increasing class sizes, closing libraries, eliminating music education and increasing counselor ratios.
The Santa Monica Malibu Education Foundation, SMMUSD’s district-wide fundraising organization immediately partnered with concerned parents and community members to launch Save Our Schools, a private fundraising campaign to raise as much money as possible to fund some of those cuts and restore class sizes and programs.
The response to SOS has been tremendous, with individuals and businesses from across our district rallying to support this effort. To date, Save Our Schools has raised more than $1 million dollars, with the goal to raise $300,000 more before its August 15th deadline. This will enable 16 of the 60 eliminated positions to be restored, making a significant contribution to relieving class sizes, keeping libraries open, restoring elementary music and saving teacher jobs for the 2010 – 2011 school year.
Within a month of the SOS launch, news came from the City of Santa Monica about a proposed Transactions and Use Tax to go on to November’s ballot. This measure, if passed in November would bring much-needed funds to City coffers to address their structural deficit, also caused by State funding cuts. New proceeds generated by this measure would ultimately benefit all essential city services, and it is exciting for veteran education advocates to hear public education mentioned among those services.
Education advocates and SMMUSD voters have strongly felt that strong schools are vital to strong communities. One can’t flourish if the other withers. And a community in which all of its essential city services are strong and healthy, becomes stronger than the sum of its parts.
The education community is eager to join with City leaders, not only to help pass this much-needed measure, but for years to come. The education community has much to offer and looks forward to continuing to develop a robust and productive collaboration with our City, Police and Fire departments, businesses and neighborhood groups.