June 4, 2019

Schools run on more than just promises and rhetoric; they need human and physical resources to function as beacons of learning

Marisa Crabtree English and AVID Teacher at Lincoln High School

Paper, pencils, erasers, pens, copies, notebooks, planners, tissues, pencil sharpeners, speakers, desk chairs, posters, books…This is a list--just off the top of my head--of items I have recently purchased for my classroom. When I went looking for these basic tools of teaching--or the money to pay for them--at my school, I received a variety of responses: “We’re currently out,” or “There’s no money for this,” or “You’ve reached your limit this year.”

During the Great Recession, our schools were asked to make difficult cuts, eliminating key staff positions and resources in order to keep the district afloat and schools open. Eleven years later, despite a booming economy, per-pupil funding has not yet rebounded. Today, at my high school, guidance counselors struggle with caseloads of 500 students and students lack daily access to social workers essential to supporting students’ mental, emotional, and social health. Schools run on more than just promises and rhetoric; they need human and physical resources to function as beacons of learning.

That’s why, earlier this year, I joined my colleagues in the cold, hard rain for six straight days, advocating for the needs of my students and my fellow educators. As we marched through downtown Los Angeles pleading for critical resources for our students, we felt a groundswell of support from the local community. The strike allowed us to highlight for our neighbors the unfulfilled needs in our district and raise awareness about their impact on students and teachers.

On June 4, Los Angeles voters will have the opportunity to show they truly support students and teachers by voting for Measure EE, a 16-cent, square-foot parcel tax. This progressive tax, based on the square footage of homes and businesses, could generate approximately $500 million annually for the next 12 years. This means the owner of a 1,500 square foot home would pay approximately $240 per year, while the owner of a 1.5 million square foot skyscraper would pay approximately $240,000.

California is the fifth largest economy in the world, yet we are 44th in the country in terms of per-pupil funding. While the majority of per-pupil funding comes from the state, it will take reforms at both the state and local levels to ensure students and educators have what they needs. California state leaders have made progressive shifts in terms of statewide per-pupil funding with the Local Control Funding Formula in 2013; but it is not enough. I can still remember happier times when our school had the resources, wraparound services and staff to meet students’ needs. We can bring them back.

As I look ahead to my 15th year in the classroom, I believe that we need to work together to encourage our state leaders and city leaders to spend more on our schools and make a commitment to our students, especially in our highest need communities. My students deserve a full-time nurse, college counselors with time to advise, and better library services.

While some have expressed concerns that the money generated by this measure would not be dollars well spent, the fact is that Measure EE requires strict measures of accountability. If it passes, the school district will need to create an independent oversight committee to ensure that all dollars are spent to support Los Angeles public schools. And, research shows that increases in school funding and money targeted to students’ needs can significantly improve student outcomes.

On June 4, I encourage all voters who live in the boundaries of LAUSD to vote “Yes” on Measure EE. My colleagues and I were overwhelmed by the support voiced by our community during the strike. We hope you’ll now turn your words to action by securing more funding for our students and teachers. Together we can provide our students with true educational opportunity.

Marisa Crabtree

Marisa Crabtree teaches English and AVID at Lincoln High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). A 15-year veteran teacher, she also serves as the UTLA Chapter Chair for her school and a UTLA House of Representatives Member.