California Educator

June/July 2020

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TAKE ACTION T H E F A C T S : A looming fiscal emergency. Due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, state and local budgets are under siege across the country. Unlike the federal government, states are required to have balanced budgets, meaning that cuts are coming without federal help. California faces steep cuts to education funding. The state anticipates a $54 billion deficit over a two- year period. This will lead to cuts to vital student programs, educator layoffs, furlough days and salary reductions. We cannot afford a generation of students subject to underfunded classrooms due to this pandemic. Congress needs to hear from us! Tell your members of Congress to support the $1 trillion HEROES Act and at least $175 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund to distribute to states. Ask them to support $2 billion for the E-Rate program to promote internet equity. Call 855-977-1770 to be connected directly to your representatives. Scott Buschman "Structural racism is the preexisting condition that has destined us to be where we are — where our communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus." —NEA Vice President Becky Pringle 'We are the community' Since the school closures, Ramona Rocha, a pre s c h o o l t e a c h e r a n d m e m b e r of Inglewood Teachers Association (ITA), has been at Hudnall Elementary School every Wednesday to help hand out fresh produce, canned goods and other food- stuffs to the 400 to 500 families in line. Inglewood School District is 56 percent Latinx and 40 percent African American. "e majority of parents at this low-in- come school are Spanish speakers and don't have a job, don't know how to pay bills," says "Ms. Mona," as Rocha is known. O t h e r e d u c a t o r s h a v e b e e n p i t c h i n g i n a s w e l l . A re c e n t news story followed a day in the life of Aba Ngissah , sixth grade t e a c h e r a t H u d n a l l and ITA president. In the morning, she packed bag lunches for students, then handed out laptops. In the afternoon, s h e w e n t h o m e t o t e a c h c l a s s , a n d b e tw e e n i n st r u c t i o n a n d a n sw e r i n g individual questions via text she didn't finish till late in the evening. Ngissah spent nearly a month tracking down her 35 students, helping them log on, reset passwords, and access the inter- net. Almost all of them are now doing schoolwork; she knows the others have too much going on in their lives. "It's not like they don't want to," she says. "People are dealing with stuff." Ngissah and other teachers and staff members help with this, too. They use their own money to buy food and other needed supplies for families. Ms. Mona's preschool class has 24 chil- dren, and while she is not teaching them right now, she is in frequent contact with students and families. "I give parents strategies for teaching ABCs and numbers," Rocha says. "I tell them how to make 'Play-Doh,' and how to use shaving cream to develop kids' fine motor skills — it doesn't cost much, and they can use it to write, make shapes, talk about language and science. I make cop- ies of worksheets and drive to m e et th em . Ma ny p a re n t s d o n' t drive or have technol- ogy. I ask if they need f o o d a n d t e l l t h e m w h ere to go for Cal- Fresh or to get help to pay their bills." For those who need clothing, Rocha is a primary source. "If parents need clothes, I have stuff I'm not using. I have grand- kids, so if children need clothing or shoes, I take it directly to families." Rocha's desire to help extends well beyond her immediate family of eight children and eight grandchildren . On w e eken d s, sh e's a h om e care w orker for seniors. " We have to think as we, not me," she explains. "We are the community." Brenda Alvarez contributed to this story. "All the families I talk to want the same thing for their kids." —Rori Abernethy, United Educators of San Francisco Hudnall teacher Aba Ngissah spends her days packing lunches for students as well as teaching class. 35 J U N E / J U L Y 2 0 2 0

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