A group of politically astute students from all five IUSD high schools traveled to Sacramento Tuesday to engage in wide-ranging discussions on the budget and other matters of local interest with some of California’s top movers and shakers.
Irvine high-schoolers have been taking part in these PTA-sponsored treks to the state capital for several years now to learn more about the legislative process and to explain to policymakers how cuts to education are impacting instruction and local programs. This year, 22 students from Creekside, Irvine, Northwood, University and Woodbridge high schools headed north, accompanied by a handful of teachers and administrators.
PTA member Wendy Bokota said the students dialoged in the governor’s conference room with veteran consultant John Mockler – he authored the landmark education spending initiative known as Proposition 98 – before meeting with first-term Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, and later Rick Simpson, who serves as chief of staff for Assembly Speaker John Perez. The Irvine contingent also attended a press conference held by State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and spent time on the Assembly floor with the staff of Senator Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto.
Budgetarily, there was certainly a lot to talk about. In addition to the state fiscal crisis, which has forced IUSD to make $38 million in onetime and ongoing adjustments since 2009, a recent legal settlement between California and the American Civil Liberties Union will make districts more dependent on local donations to preserve educational opportunities for students.