Monterey County Herald: Guest Editorial PK Diffenbaugh: State Budget Must Reflect Our Values: Invest in Schools

 

Link to the Monterey County Herald article.

 

State Budget Must Reflect Our Values: Invest in Schools
HEROES Act Needed

The global pandemic has cast a spotlight on the tremendous inequities within our society and nowhere has this been more evident than in our public school system. To respond to the needs of our community, school district leaders have expanded their focus to provide the vital services needed to protect the health and well-being of our children and communities. Since March 13th, MPUSD has launched Distance Learning in under two weeks of planning and distributed more than 2,000 chromebooks and academic packets, deployed mobile WiFi buses at three Park-n-Learn locations and partnered with a local internet company Red Shift to install in-home WiFi to bridge the digital divide for our families. In collaboration with the Monterey Public Library’s Books to Go program, MPUSD staff gifted new books to every elementary student, and through a generous donation from the Community Foundation for Monterey County, MPUSD is also providing temporary shelter for families experiencing homelessness. Our Nutrition Services staff has delivered over 60,000 meals to students through our daily Grab and Go lunch sites and we continue to partner with the Food Bank for Monterey County and community partners to distribute over 1,000 bags of food every Friday through our Food for Families in Need program. 

We are not alone in these efforts. In every community across California, schools are providing distance learning and social-emotional supports to students while also ensuring that essential safety nets exist for our most vulnerable children and families. As we continue to provide these services at the close of this school year, educators must also plan for what will be a unique start to the 2020-2021 school year. In order to open safely, schools will need to increase sanitation of facilities, reduce the number of students on campus at one time through adopting alternative schedules, provide for social-emotional support to address the increased anxiety and trauma experienced by students, address steep learning loss as a result of lost instructional time in a distance learning environment, and continue to provide essential nutritional services for youth who receive the majority of their meals at school. 

Compounding this daunting challenge is the new fiscal reality, outlined this past week in the Governor’s May Budget Revise, that schools will need to accomplish successfully opening schools with a reduction of 10% funding from the state. For MPUSD, this means a loss of approximately $10 million dollars at the very time in which we will need more resources to provide for the safety and well-being of our students. 

Educators will be forced to overcome this budget challenge -- offering services despite the lack of adequate resources. We shouldn't have to. It is a reflection of our societal values that we continue to underfund our schools while relying on them to be the primary institution responsible for meeting the needs of our most vulnerable populations. If there were ever a time for the federal government to step up to ensure that schools have the resources needed to meet the challenge, now is that time. Adequately funding public education is not only a moral imperative, but necessary for the reopening of states and the recovery of our national economy.

I urge you to join me in calling on Congress to pass the HEROES Act, which would provide $60 billion to our nation’s schools to help reduce budget cuts caused by the economic destruction of COVID-19. If we can find money to pay airlines to keep flying with little to no passengers, surely we can find money to support our schools to reopen with the resources to provide the education our children deserve.  

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