Together, we can achieve Full and Fair Funding — if we keep the pressure on

Last month, I had the great pleasure of addressing thousands of education advocates from across California, including board members, teachers, superintendents, parents and classified staff, at the Day of Action Rally for Education on May 22 at the State Capitol. It was an exciting day that began with a personal meeting with Gov. Gavin Newsom and CSBA representatives including myself, President-elect Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez, Vice President Tamara Otero, CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy and Assistant Executive Director of Governmental Relations Dennis Meyers, where we impressed upon the Governor the need for Full and Fair Funding of California’s public schools.

The energetic crowd at the rally and the unrelenting advocacy for Full and Fair Funding from board members throughout the state are planting the seeds of change in the Legislature. We are beginning to hear policymakers use the term Full and Fair Funding and are witnessing increased receptiveness to legislation that would move us toward our goal.

But in order to succeed in bringing our message to fruition, we must not be complacent. We must continue to advocate for Full and Fair Funding at every level. This means continuing to talk about funding needs and circulating the Full and Fair Funding petition available at to all the members of your community. This means continuing to call your legislators and let them know you support the push to raise school funding to the national average by 2020 and to the average of the top 10 states by 2025. Together, we can achieve Full and Fair Funding for California’s public schools.

The following is the basis of the well-received speech by Dr. Emma Turner at the May 22 Day of Action Rally for Education.

I want to thank you all for coming here to defend public education and recognize the California Teachers Association for organizing the rally and offering me an opportunity to speak. There is strength in numbers. So, it’s important we are gathered today as an education community, unified in purpose and firm in resolve. 

It’s equally important that we understand one thing: the real fight is not between labor and management, nor between teachers and administrators, but between those who are committed to public education and a legislature that refuses to provide students with the resources they need.

It warms my heart to hear your passion and to see your commitment to our 6.2 million students. And, yet, I’m angry that we have to fight for what our students should have been granted long ago — a high-quality education regardless of zip code, background or circumstance.

I am outraged that in a state with the fifth-largest economy in the world, we rank just 41st — 41st! — nationally in per student funding. Forty-first is not good enough for me, it’s not good enough for our students and it’s not good enough for California!

That’s why we’re calling on the Legislature to provide Full and Fair Funding of California’s public schools. We are telling the State Legislature to increase per-student funding to the national average by 2020 and to the average of the top 10 states by 2025.

This goal is personal to me because I know what it’s like to attend inadequate public schools. I grew up in the ‘60s and ‘70s in Memphis, Tennessee, and while many of my classmates fell through the cracks, I made a new and successful life here in California.

And let me tell you something — I didn’t come to California for my children, or for my children’s children to experience the hardship I knew growing up in Tennessee! Let’s work together and give all California students what they need to succeed!