Student advocate speaks at capitol

By Jacqueline Carr

Minutes after arriving in Sacramento, a University High School Junior, Tristan Malhotra, was speaking in front of the California Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance. Malhotra was one of 22 students from the five Irvine high schools who traveled to the California state Capitol on March 10 to lobby on behalf of IUSD on education issues.

IUSD Sacramento 2“While this program has been ongoing for nearly 10 years, this is the first time our students have actually had the opportunity to speak at a hearing,” said Irvine High School Social Studies Department Chairperson, Jon Resendez.

When the students first arrived they observed the hearing, then the Subcommittee Chair, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty opened up the floor for public comments. The IUSD contingency quickly jumped at the opportunity to have their voices heard.

Malhotra talked about the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) from the perspective of IUSD and said, “districts like mine, IUSD, are funded $2,000 (per year per student) under the state average.”  The LCFF allocates funding levels to school districts based on various criteria, and Irvine’s share per student is one of the lowest in the state.

Also speaking at the hearing was Superintendent Terry Walker, who said, “We’re trying to make sure we don’t exacerbate that inequity as we begin to see the effects of the LCFF.”  The one-and-a-half hour hearing was videotaped and can be accessed at the State Assembly website . The portion of the hearing with just the IUSD’s speakers is posted on YouTube.

To prepare for the hearing and the trip to the Capitol, the students reviewed the 23-page budget subcommittee meeting agenda and studied education issues at four weekly meetings.

IUSD Sacramento 3At the Capitol, the students also met with Senator Lois Wolk, a 12-year veteran of the legislature, Majority Whip, Chair of the Government and Finance Committee and a former teacher. She gave each of the students a detailed chart entitled, “The Life Cycle of Legislation – From Idea Into Law” which shows the complicated steps for passage of a bill, but she also encouraged the students not to be cynical about the process.

Lobbyist Bob Blattner organized the meetings and coordinated the visits with the lawmakers whom the students met, including:

  • Assemblymember Rocky Chavez, Education -Vice Chair Budget Subcommittee No. 2 on Education Finance member, Higher Education Committee member.
  • Rick Simpson, the Assembly Speaker’s Policy Director
  • Roger Mackensen, Chief Education Policy Consultant for Senate Republicans
  • Edgar Cabral, Education Budget/Proposition 98 expert, Office of the Legislative Analyst
  • Nick Schweitzer, Deputy Superintendent at California Dept. of Education and
  • Craig Reynolds, Veteran Chief of Staff for Senators Wolk, Killea and Assemblywoman Thompson.

The students asked questions on topics including the Local Control Accountability Plan (district’s allocation of own funds), Common Core (new curriculum), mental health, technology and facilities.

Five IUSD teachers accompanied the students, along with IUSD administrators, and staff, IUSD board member Lauren Brooks and Sharon Wallin, and leaders from the Irvine Teacher’s Association, California School Employees Association, IPSF, and the Irvine Unified Council PTA which organized this ninth annual Sacramento Advocacy Trip.

The annual Sacramento trek is an opportunity for students to learn more about the legislative procedures at the state level and to provide the elected officials with a voice from the students. This year’s PTA Sacramento Student Trip was coordinated by Deloris Yang, Irvine Unified Council PTA Secretary and Seth Grossman, Irvine Unified Council PTA Finance Chair, under the direction of IUSD School Board President Lauren Brooks.

The program provides an insight into the life of a legislator and the busy nature of the capitol and gives the students a view of the complex procedures for legislating education matters.

IUSD Sacramento 1

Jacqueline Carr is a junior at Irvine High School and part of the Sacramento Advocacy Program.

Photos courtesy Lauren Brooks and Deloris Yang.