It’s the end of the month and the refrigerator is almost empty. A fifth-grader leaves for school hungry, where she might get her only meals of the day.
She takes her seat in a class filled with 32 other students. She loves to read, but her school library is closed because there’s no librarian. At recess, she plays on broken asphalt because there’s no green space. If she sprains her wrist, she’ll be lucky if she can see the nurse — who’s only there once a week.
After the bell rings, she goes home to a cramped apartment where there’s plenty of love but no quiet place to study. She can’t go to an after-school program, because she needs to look after her younger brother. And when she reaches high school, there isn’t anyone in her family who has gone to college and knows how to fill out financial aid forms.
At every step, she finds obstacles instead of opportunities — and her story is more common than you might think. All told, eight out of every 10 students in the Los Angeles Unified School District live in poverty. As mayor, I have worked to address the root causes of poverty by raising the minimum wage, launching a free community college program and investing in workforce training programs.
But when it comes to our schools, there’s more to do. The teachers strike earlier this year provided our city with an opportunity to build a new culture of collaboration, and to stop complaining that our schools are underfunded — and actually fund them.
On June 4, Measure EE will be on the ballot. If passed, Measure EE will help us lower class sizes so when any student raises a hand and doesn’t understand a concept, they aren’t left behind. It will also make sure our school libraries are open and staffed by a teacher librarian, and put a dedicated nurse on campus every day. And Measure EE will cut counselors’ caseloads so they can give more attention to students, all while delivering supportive services for families and adding more after-school programming and technology to our schools.
This ballot initiative is part of a larger vision which starts in the first days of a student’s journey and carries them through to a diploma and a career.
Early childhood education is critical to learning, and we are going to focus new resources to make sure every child — especially children living in poverty — is ready to learn when entering kindergarten. To meet these children at the classroom door, I announced in last month’s State of the City address that we will recruit, train and certify 2,500 new early childhood educators by 2025.
Building on the success of the College Promise, we’re also going to double the program to 10,000 students per year by 2022 — that’s up from 5,000 last year. And starting next school year, every College Promise student will have free rides on our DASH buses — and, thanks to the Annenberg Foundation, laptops they can take home.
Momentum is on our side. Let’s come together, for our children, and turn out the vote in June. If we do, we’ll know that this was the moment we transformed L.A.’s future.
Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs the first Thursday of every month in The Wave.