Yesterday Citizen Ed posted video of testimony from Evelyn Macias, a California parent who addressed an education committee about teacher assignment policies that put the worst performing teachers in classrooms with low-income students of color. Today Ms. Macias tells her own story on the blog La Comadre. It is republished here.
by Evelyn Macias
Last week, I flew to Sacramento to give a one-minute comment during an informational hearing held by the State Assembly Education Committee to discuss some of the statutes challenged by the education equality lawsuit, Vergara v. California. Although I submitted a letter to the committee on December 1, 2015 asking to speak at the hearing and thereby represent the nine brave student plaintiffs behind Vergara and their families, I received no response. So, instead I opted to make my voice heard during public comment, but even here I was cut off mid-sentence by the Chairman of the Committee, Assembly member Patrick O’Donnell, who turned off the mic.
The lack of parent, student and even teacher voice in the education discussion has become the status quo, and that should be of great concern to all of us. We have been ignored for far too long by all the powers and special interest groups who claim to know what is in the best interest of our children and our communities. What happened to me in Sacramento is what happens to many of us at the school site and at the district level when we voice our concerns over our children’s education – we are often ignored, dismissed and even ridiculed by the very people who say that they act in our best interest.
As voters, we entrust our elected officials to be our voice in political circles that we may not fully understand, but we fail to hold them accountable when they don’t attend crucial meetings, or truly represent the needs of our students when it comes to ensuring that they receive a quality education – every step of the way throughout their academic experience in California’s public school system.
To my great disappointment, the hearing in Sacramento was held during the holidays, when no one would pay attention to discussions around one of the most important issues in our state – education. In addition, only five of the seven committee members was present at the time. When I arrived at the hearing, I was surprised to learn that there was no parent or student representation whatsoever. Instead, there were witnesses from special interests who spoke about education without taking into account the voices of our children and our families. I voiced this concern over the one-minute comment I was permitted, to the only remaining member of the committee, Chair O’Donnell.
I told Assembly member O’Donnell that I was disappointed that parents, student and teachers – especially from low-income communities and communities of color, mainly Latino and African American – weren’t invited to the hearing. I told him that California’s current laws are having a detrimental impact on children all over our state because they keep least effective teachers in the classroom – forcing students to lose out on critical learning time – and that these laws are responsible for pushing wonderful, effective teachers out of the classroom just because they have less seniority. I also said that like countless parents across the state, I believe that our current education system is broken, but with political will – their political will – it can be fixed…My voice was cut off as I said, “We owe it to the children.” I could not finish my sentence because my mic was literally turned off.
“We owe it to the children” is the feeling that needs to be evoked within our state lawmakers. They need to understand that as parents, students, teachers and voters we will no longer wait on the sidelines as they decide policy for us. We deserve respect and the right to have our voices heard about issues that are important to us, mainly a quality education for every child in our state – regardless of ethnicity, cultural or socioeconomic background.
The nine brave students who came forth in Vergara and their families lent a voice to the hundreds of thousands of students affected by policies that are created in Sacramento.Vergara provides an opportunity to fix our education system, which is why now more than ever it is key that our elected officials hear our diverse voices.