Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My public comment at the May 28 school board meeting

Thank you to everyone who came to tonight's school board meeting, and an extra thank-you to everyone who spoke and asked the school board to restore elementary CSR.

For those who are interested, here is the text of my public comment:

Trustees, Superintendent Ahmadi, and Cabinet, my name is Emmeline Chen, and I am a parent of two children at Walnut Grove Elementary School.

First, thank you for your May 14 decision to fill in the funding gap for 1st grade class size reduction this fall. I know that all of you value education and understand the importance of smaller class sizes. On behalf of many parents of entering first graders, thank you for publicly recognizing this importance through your support of 1st grade CSR.

I would also like to thank PPIE and all the parents, teachers, and community members who supported and contributed to the 1st grade CSR effort.

At past school board meetings, I asked you to consider not only restoring CSR for 1st grade but also restoring elementary CSR completely for grades K-3.

Now that 1st grade CSR has been restored for the coming school year, I would like to again ask you to consider restoring elementary CSR completely, beginning with 2nd grade according to the CSR program priorities listed in the California Education Code.

Following the May 14 school board meeting, I received multiple requests to join my CSR email list, was informed that parents at other school sites had been unaware of our CSR advocacy efforts, and was asked repeatedly whether there was any possibility to reduce class sizes in other elementary grades for the coming school year.

Based on this feedback, I started wondering if our community could work together to accomplish even more. So last week I began a fundraising pledge campaign for 2nd grade CSR for the upcoming school year.

In one short week, we received more than $37,000 in pledges for 2nd grade CSR from 94 families, teachers, and concerned community members, with support from all 9 Pleasanton elementary schools.

Although we focused on 2nd grade CSR since it is the next eligible grade to receive additional state CSR funds, we also received almost $7000 in pledges for kindergarten CSR and close to $5000 in pledges for 3rd grade CSR.

I am reporting these numbers to you to communicate the high value and priority that our community places on elementary CSR. These numbers and the feedback that I have received from other parents are further supported by the results of PPIE’s Parent Survey in 2012. This survey found that 74% of elementary parents ranked classroom sizes as one of their top 3 priorities.

This past Friday, I met with Superintendent Ahmadi and Ms. Cázares and was told that at present, the district is unable to reduce elementary class sizes beyond 25:1 in 1st grade.

However, I was also told that they are waiting to learn the details of the California state budget. From my research about Governor Brown’s proposed budget, the new budget may grant additional flexibilities regarding the use of formerly categorical, restricted funds.

I would like to respectfully request that the Trustees add a future agenda item to the June 4 meeting to discuss options regarding the restoration of elementary CSR beyond 1st grade. I would also like to ask the Trustees to commit to exploring creative options for restoring elementary CSR in the 2013-14 school year and beyond once the California state budget has been approved by the California state legislature.

Thank you so much for your attention and for considering my request on behalf of elementary parents, teachers, and concerned community members. Most of all, thank you for caring for our kids and for your commitment to provide equitable opportunities for all students.

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