California Educator

November 2014

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 39 of 63

Advocacy Compiled by Len Feldman Meet Senator Holly Mitchell WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE BECOMING A LAWMAKER? After my undergraduate studies at UC Riverside and during my Coro Foundation fellowship, I was hired by Diane Watson, the first African American woman to serve in California's Senate. (I am the fourth since statehood.) I became an analyst for the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Later, I worked as a health advocate for the West- ern Center on Law and Poverty, and then executive director of the Black Women's Health Project. H E M O T H E R O F a teenage daugh- ter, state Sen. Holly J. Mitchell has been representing voters in Culver City and Los Angeles County since 2013. She's a member of the powerful Rules Committee and chairs the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) and the new Select Committee on Women and Inequality. Prior to her election, Sen. Mitchell represented the 54th District in the Assembly. Sen. Mitchell is the author of SB 1165, a CTA-backed measure that will help protect students against sex trafficking and sexual abuse by adding relevant and age-appropri- ate information to the health curriculum. T Later, I served as CEO of Crystal Stairs (a nonprofit that advocates for children and families) until my election to the state Assembly in 2010. [Coro is a nonprofit organization that trains college graduates in leadership skills.] WHAT LED YOU TO RUN FOR OFFICE? At Crystal Stairs I had the won- derful satisfaction of engaging in advocacy for children and working families in Sacramento and Washington — and the immense frustra- tion of discovering that their issues seemed to be first on the agenda of few in power. That's when the first of the lessons of my childhood mentors hit home: Stand up for what you believe and don't sit down until it's done. So I ran, and here I am. WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION? I'd like to see Cali- fornia make sure that every child has access to preschool, which we know provides critical early child development. Ensuring that poor children and kids of color don't fall behind in school before they begin is my number one educational priority. WHAT STEPS SHOULD THE LEGISLATURE TAKE TO HELP SCHOOLS SUCCEED? I believe the Legislature and the governor took the first major step toward improving K-12 public schools by adopting the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), allocating more dollars and more flexibility to school districts. Although every district is required to implement a plan for the majority of underperforming students to make significant progress on the Common Core curriculum as reflect- ed by standardized measures, the specifics are left up to each school district in order to minimize micromanagement. The Legislature's role now is to monitor the LCFF and make sure its operations and resources are sufficient for success. ANY ADVICE FOR EDUCATORS? It helps to remember that parents and taxpayers are constituents to whom legislators have a responsibili- ty, just as they do to schools. When we approach the challenges of education together as a problem-solving task force, everybody wins. Otherwise, we have gridlock and stagnation. Remember, too, that parents like me just want their children to ac- quire the living and academic skills they will need to succeed in later life. Because what works for one child may not work for another, par- ents are naturally apt to want to maximize their educational options. Parents know that teachers alone can't make up for the assets and deficits kindergartners bring with them into the classroom. We owe it to our teachers to provide them with the resources they need to help all children reach their full learning potential. WHO WAS THE TEACHER WHO HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOU? Actually, there were three women who taught me in elementary school to whom I owe a lifelong debt of gratitude. When I was sworn in to the Senate, I invited them to attend so that I could thank them personally for the inspiration and discipline they instilled in me. Florence Downey, Veronica Morris and Mrs. Broussard taught me the importance and power of nurturing and protecting young minds and spirits. Legislator profile 38

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of California Educator - November 2014