Long Beach community organizers and leaders demand urgent action from Congress to save the K-12 public school system

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An open letter asking Congress to immediately invest $200 billion in K-12 public school districts was drafted by Megan Kerr, vice-president of the LBUSD Board of Education and Cesar Armendariz, Long Beach resident and Downey High School teacher, according to a press release.

The letter addressed to Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McCarthy, Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer, was co-signed by Black Lives Matter Long Beach, Mayor Robert Garcia, Councilmember Rex Richardson, Congressman Alan Lowenthal, Congressman Ro Khanna and over 70 Democratic National Committee delegates from 14 states.

The letter’s co-signers stressed to national lawmakers that US school districts are in need of dire funding to keep school children safe and healthy. According to the press release, schools need funding to buy personal protective gear for both students and staff, hire additional nurses to monitor health, hire additional custodians to make sure classrooms are sanitized more frequently and to hire more teachers in order to reduce class sizes.

“If Congress does not distribute at least $200 billion in emergency funds for K-12 classrooms, many schools will not be able to protect teachers, staff, parents, and most importantly our country’s most valued asset – our children,” the letter said.

The press release stated that schools are currently facing a threat of impending budget cuts because of tax-revenue deficits.

“Unless Congress invests $200 billion in the K-12 public school system, policy experts predict that hundreds of thousands of teachers will be fired and some states will lay off more than 20% of their teaching force,” the press release said.

Armendariz stated, “Education budget cuts always cause irreparable harm to our students because schools everywhere are already underfunded. What’s more, we must consider the consequences of cutting school budgets in the midst of a pandemic. It’s nothing short of catastrophic.”

Kerr stated that children who return to a learning environment, even if it’s exclusively online, will need a “robust” emotional support system.

“Schools everywhere are currently in dire need of emergency funding to support our children’s mental health,” Kerr said in the letter.

She went on to say, “Teachers and staff will need to innovate to provide a rigorous and relevant curriculum in this new era of education. It cannot be done without the full funding and support from our federal government. We need the resources to meet the needs of each child, no matter how they come to us to learn.”

Congressman Lowenthal, who represents the 47th congressional district stated, “As a former educator, I have seen firsthand the transformative power of education and how it impacts not just the lives of individuals students, but entire communities. Even before the pandemic, our public schools were woefully underfunded. Now with states facing major budget cuts due to a loss of tax revenue during this crisis, our public schools are faced with a looming financial catastrophe. Congress needs to immediately inject significant funding into the nation’s public school system to keep our students safe, both mentally and physically, as well as protect our teachers and school staff.”

Black Lives Matter Long Beach discussed their concern that education budget cuts will harm marginalized communities the most, especially Black children.

Dr. Kim Tabari, educator and community organizer with Black Lives Matter Long Beach, gave a statement saying, “According to recent data from the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, 70% of the Black students in Long Beach are unable to pass Math and ELA proficiency standards as early as the 3rd grade. Black students are in crisis and in need of multiple strategies for success, starting with an influx of Black teachers to serve as mentors and advocates. Furthermore, research conducted by John Hopkins University found that the role model effect shows that having one Black teacher for a Black child is enough to give that child a chance to achieve.”

The end of the letter calls for Congress to not let “political negligence and gamesmanship” cause children any harm.

“Our students are experiencing a real crisis; they have proved that they are resilient, but we need to do our part as adults to ensure their health and safety. What good is it to live in the wealthiest country in the world if we can’t even protect our children? We must get loud and rowdy to make sure that Congress acts immediately,” Armedariz said

The letter’s co-signers encouraged parents, teachers and the public to connect with their Congressional representatives immediately.

The letter can be found below:
[pdf-embedder url=”https://signaltribunenewspaper.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Letter-To-Congress-Save-Our-Schools.pdf” title=”Letter To Congress – Save Our Schools”]

The general public can show support by signing a petition to Congress on http://www.BeTheirHeroes.net. Those who support this movement can contact the co-authors of the letter at info@BeTheirHeroes.net

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