California Parents Rally for Better Schools

At their training last weekend at the Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles, parents and education activists learned how to effectively tell their stories, how to organize signature-gathering campaigns and brainstorm festive events, writes Teresa Watanabe at the Los Angeles Times.

And now, this weekend, more people are giving up free time to train on how to campaign for more school funding, top-notch teachers and a high-quality education for all students.

Educate Our State is a fast-growing parent organizing network launched two years ago in San Francisco. The organization now boasts over 40,000 members throughout the state.

Their goal: to collect more than 1 million signatures to place a proposed constitutional amendment on next year's November ballot that would lower the voting threshold for local communities to raise money for their schools through hikes in fees and taxes.

The proposal is also looking to ensure that seniority is not the only factor in determining teacher layoffs. A change that many believe is key to ensuring our schools are full of the best teachers and not just the most experienced.

"Parents are outraged that we've allowed California schools to get where they have," said Crystal Brown, one of six San Francisco mothers who initially started the group to protest a 25% budget cut totaling $113 million in their city schools. "We're not happy, and we've decided enough is enough."

"This is about getting a vast amount of parents up and down the state saying … ‘We're not going to take this anymore,' " says Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica).

And this is exactly the message activists aim to deliver through Educate Our State.

Recently, a satirical video was launched efforts to raise awareness about the effects of cuts called "Hot for Teachers." The video features actors Brian Austin Green and Megan Fox.

The video is drawing millions of viewers online. And it stoking a fair amount of media coverage.

Other groups in Sacramento and Silicon Valley have spawned. Educate Our State now includes more than 20 organizations, including the California arm of PTA.

Earlier this year, the all-volunteer, nonprofit network delivered 60,000 letters to legislators urging them to allow a vote on extending taxes to save schools from further cuts.

They also launched Wake Up California rallies in 22 communities to protest budget cuts.

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