Ted Lempert hopes politicians in Sacramento will make education their top priority, said the CEO of EdVoice, an organization that promotes education reform and support for California public schools in the state Legislature.
Lempert, also a former assembly member representing San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, was the guest speaker at the Los Altos/Mountain View Parent-Teacher Association Council Founders Day celebration, Feb. 5.
"There is no more critical time to be involved in education than right now," Lempert said. "California has gone from being fourth in per capita spending in education in 1964 to 33rd last year. If you factor in cost of living, California is really 48th or 49th."
Lempert explained one of the reasons for California's slip in education funding came with the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, which amended the state constitution to limit the level of local general purpose property tax to 1 percent of the full cash value of the property. Schools could no longer raise funds by increasing local tax rates and became more dependent on state funding.
With K-14 education in California facing midyear cuts as well as proposed budget cuts for the next school year, Lempert stressed that parents, educators and community members need to be outspoken about the importance of education.
"Educators have been too shy. They need to be a lot more aggressive in their lobbying," Lempert said. "There is a huge disconnect between the education we want versus the education that we have. Education has to be a top priority."
Lempert suggested that parents and community members write their local legislators and urge them to keep public K-14 education in mind when making decisions.
"I urge people to write personal letters. It's really critical to speak out and make as much noise as possible this year," Lempert said. "Somehow we have allowed our leaders to say 'don't throw money at K-14 education.' How can they say that education is their top prior-ity? We have to get the elected officials to put their money where their mouth is."
Lempert also stressed that Gov. Gray Davis needs to take the proposal to eliminate Basic Aid funding for districts across the state, including the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, off the table.
"When that legislation came out, there was immediate opposition from both parties," Lempert said. "There is strong sentiment that this proposal doesn't make sense."
A Basic Aid district is one where the total of its property tax collections exceeds its revenue limit. By law it can keep the revenue that exceeds its revenue limit.
"If the governor's proposal is enacted by the state Legislature, our district stands to lose nearly $10 million of a $32 million budget," said Rich Fischer, superintendent of the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District.
For more information on where to write your local legislator, or to receive e-mail updates on educational issues in the state Legislature, logon to EdVoice's Web site at: www.EdVoice.net.