It is a fact that a dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to. Housing and education costs have far outpaced wage increases in the last 30 years. The same opportunities that the Baby boomer generation had are no longer available. This current generation of young adults is working twice as hard for far less.
In 1968, state residents did not pay any tuition to attend the University of California. There was a $300 registration fee. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that tuition, as we know it today, started increasing to become a primary funding source for the UC budget.
We need to abolish tuition so that every Californian has the opportunity to attend college – whether that is a California State University, community college, or a UC.
At the same time, we need a livable wage in California. Young folks who need to pay for books, and room and board, while attending school should not be put in a position where they are working 60 hours a week to make ends meet.
The same goes for every Californian that is working multiple jobs just to keep a roof over their head. We do not want people working 60-80 hours a week to be able to barely afford basic necessities. When folks are working that much, they do not have time to spend with their families; to raise their kids; and to volunteer in the community. People being able to afford the basics on one full-time job, speaks to what we value as a society. If you are a full-time worker, thereby contributing to society, you should not be struggling to afford housing and food.
Implementing strategic criminal justice reform will save lives, particularly the lives of unarmed black children, men, and women who disproportionately lose their lives under our current system. Changing the laws and the way we train law enforcement will also positively influence the current working culture and internal practices for those with careers in law enforcement.
Los Angeles County paid over $50 million to settle police misconduct cases in 2016 alone (Article). Kern County Sheriff’s Office and Bakersfield Police Department are the two “deadliest” police departments in the United States (Article). Black drivers make up 13 percent of the driving population in Sacramento but total 32 percent of traffic stops (Article).
Currently, police are not required to use the minimum amount of force when effectuating an arrest. The bar is currently set at “unreasonable.” Where we set that bar informs police training. This bar has never been moved. No matter how many unarmed people are killed, no matter how many protests there are, there is never any serious discussion about changing the law that justifies these incidents. Aside from requiring police use the minimum amount of force when effectuating an arrest, we need to mandate de-escalation training for all of our cadets and active law enforcement officers. After de-escalation training, Salt Lake City did not have a police shooting for about 15 months (Article). In California, the San Francisco Police Department has started implementing de-escalation training. Giving police more tools to avoid violence keeps both them and the public safe.
It is undeniable that we have systemic and structural issues related to law enforcement. The only way to address structural issues is to look at the framework that allows this to take place over and over again.
Aggressively Investigate All Police Shootings
The State needs to aggressively investigate and prosecute police shootings. Currently, the local District Attorney investigates police shootings. This is the same office that the police work with on a daily basis. It is important for people to have confidence that our criminal justice system is treating everyone fairly. The impropriety has eroded community confidence. When State agents (the police) use deadly force, we deserve a complete, timely, and impartial investigation – and if warranted, an aggressive prosecution where a civil rights violation is suspected.
Ban For-Profit Prisons
For-profit prisons have no place in our criminal justice system. Incentivizing groups of individuals and companies to put and keep people in prison leads to countless misdeeds. Further, when we have profit motivations dictating policy and daily operations, it is often at the expense of the public. The Department of Justice compared for-profit prisons with government run facilities and found that for-profit prisons had higher rates of inmate on inmate and inmate on staff assaults (Report). In California, since 2005, the costs of housing an inmate have doubled to over $75,000 annually (Article). In other words, for-profit prisons cost more and are more poorly managed than state run facilities. Taxpayer money should not be lining the pockets of the private prison industry, but should instead be invested to make higher education and healthcare universally available to Californians.
We need to close the existing funding gap between school districts, and invest more in the schools that have been operating with far fewer resources for too long. Every child in California deserves access to a quality public school that has the resources and funding to prepare all students for college and career pathways.
We need to increase funding in communities that have been historically under-resourced. Meritocracy cannot exist as long as systematic and institutional inequity persists. It is a fact we are not providing the same quality of education to our students across the board. So how can we look them in the eye and tell them that the system is not rigged against them?
We have a de facto private school system because school districts rely primarily on property tax revenue. Rich neighborhoods have better resourced schools than low-income neighborhoods. Aside from the tax revenues, many wealthy districts have robust education funds and direct-donation programs where they are able to raise six and seven figures in donations from parents and local businesses (Article). When it is all said and done, public schools in wealthy neighborhoods are going to be fine.
There is a huge push across the state to further privatize California’s education system. This is absolutely the wrong direction. We have seen what happened with the privatization of prisons. When profit is the motivation behind decisions, the community suffers. Charter school interest groups pump money into election cycles because they expect their enormous political contributions to result in substantial profits for the charter industry. If their candidates win and if their paid-for legislation passes, they grow at the expense of our public education system.
Charter schools are a threat to the promise of a free public education. “In the 2015-16 election cycle, charter school advocates have so far reported raising $24 million for races throughout California – almost five times more than during the 2013-14 cycle.” (Article).
Privately managed charters should have no place in our public school system. Privately managed charters pick and choose which students they accept, they do not use union teachers, and they do not have to answer to the community. It would be one of my top priorities to take on privately managed charters that are unaccountable to local school districts.
Allowing individuals, groups, and business entities with profit motivations to continue segregating and diluting our public education system is not the answer that parents seek when they advocate for quality schools, access and opportunity.
Too often, art and music are the first programs to be cut from school budgets. Yet study after study shows that music and art stimulate and improve student performance. We need to ensure that poor rural communities and inner-city schools have the same access to the arts as wealthy suburbs.
We are the richest nation in the history of the world. And while most wealthy countries have universal healthcare, we do not. This is unacceptable. Healthcare should be considered a basic human right. Single payer universal healthcare must be a priority.
California should not allow federal immigration agents into schools and courthouses. A just society does not make people fear getting an education or fear going to court.