Can a grassroots parent group convince California's state legislators to create a balanced budget without deeper education cuts? That's the goal of the "Stop the Circus" public service announcement produced by Educate Our State, a 3-year-old 40,000-member organization hoping public pressure can force legislators to protect schools from the latest wave of slash-and-burn fiscal policy.
The PSA—which features a little girl getting the run-around from politicians when she demands to know who is responsible for fixing the education system—was created by Greg Bartlett and Brent Jones, both dads of Los Angeles public school students and Educate Our State members. Like many parents across the country, Jones and Bartlett are frustrated with the struggling education system and the political infighting that has hindered any attempts to fix things.
California’s dire budget situation made national headlines this week after Governor Jerry Brown announced that the state’s deficit had ballooned to $16 billion. Deficits are nothing new in California, and schools have long borne the brunt of cuts. Since the 2008-2009 school year, the Golden State has cut $18 billion from education and now ranks 47th in the nation in per-pupil spending. There's nothing left to cut—California already ranks last in the nation in student-to-teacher ratio and student-to-librarian ratio.
"Children shouldn't have to rely on luck for an education," says Jones, who served as the creator and director of the video. "What are we supposed to say to future generations, 'Sorry, we couldn't figure it out?'"
Brown is counting on California voters to pass a tax initiative in November that would bail out schools. "This makes all the numbers in the budget dependent on an election that has not happened yet," Los Angeles Unified School District superintendent John Deasy, whose district has weathered $2.7 billion in cuts over the past few years and is facing a $390 million deficit for the coming school year, said in a statement. "If voters do not pass the initiative, the results are so catastrophic it is simply untenable."
Educate Our State hopes the PSA will inspire people to write their legislators to demand that they pass a budget that fully funds education. Given that California's economy is the ninth-largest in the world, our nation's long-term economic recovery depends on how well the state's kids are educated. Let's hope the campaign works.