Tony Thurmond, California Superintendent of Public Instruction

OPINION (CBM) – Millions of California students, teachers, administrators are returning to school this week.

As California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, I spent every day working with Gov. Gavin Newsom to make sure they are walking back into safe environments that shield them from COVID-19 exposure and afford them an opportunity to learn effectively in person.

As a father of two girls and the son of a teacher, the health and future of our students and educators is the issue closest to my heart. As an Afro-Latino Californian, I know how easily our kids can be left behind and what leaders must do to prioritize equity from their earliest years.

That’s why I’m urging you to join me in voting NO on the rightwing Republican gubernatorial recall election. Your NO vote is a vote for our kids’ future.

Gov. Newsom’s leadership over the past year and a half — in unimaginably difficult circumstances — has been essential to helping get California schools back on track and to ensuring that our hardest-hit students and families have what they need to thrive.

Last month, Gov. Newsom signed the landmark $123.9 billion Pre-K and K-12 education package as part of his California Comeback Plan. I was an invested partner in drafting the plan, and I’m a proud supporter of it.

The funding includes:

● $3 billion to convert thousands of school sites into full-service community schools, with expanded learning time, family engagement and wraparound health, mental health and social services.

● $1.8 billion in ongoing funds for summer and after-school programs at all schools serving the highest concentrations of vulnerable students, growing to $5 billion by 2025.

● $2.9 billion to match well-prepared teachers with the most vulnerable students, including $500 million in grants for teachers who commit to high-need schools and $250 million to attract expert teachers to high-poverty schools.

● An ongoing increase of $1.1 billion to improve staff-to-student ratios at all schools serving the highest concentrations of vulnerable students.

● $490 million to build a pathway for universal Pre-K with the adult-to-student ratio cut in half.

● $650 million in ongoing funds by 2022-23 to support universal free school nutrition, including access to two free meals every day for all students, and $150 million to improve kitchen infrastructure and nutritional training.

● Over $1.5 billion in ongoing and one-time increases to special education funding, including $260 million for early intervention for preschool-aged children.

Under the Governor’s California Comeback Plan, the state is investing more than ever before in our public schools to fundamentally transform them into the kind of complete campus every parent would want for their child: smaller class sizes, before-school and after-school instruction, sports and arts, personalized tutoring, nurses and counselors, and free school nutrition – paired with new preventative behavioral health services for every kid in California. Schools will offer free universal pre-K to all four-year-olds in California and add 200,000 subsidized child-care slots over the next several years — bringing down the cost of childcare for many. Included in the plan is provision for college savings accounts for 3.7 million low-income children in public school and lowers the costs of student housing and textbooks, making college more attainable than ever before.

We know that Black students of all ages have been left behind — and have suffered under the most recent Republican governors who intentionally under-invested in their education and health.

The threat of this recall should make all of us scared of a return to the times of inequitable funding formulas, walking away from arts enrichment and school-based health services. Make no mistake: this is a Republican-led effort that wants to destroy our social safety net while promoting vaccine conspiracy theories and anti-mask intransigence, which are disastrous for kids who we know learn best with in-person education. Rightwing revolts against public health and public education are putting our students’ health and futures at risk.

We cannot let this happen. We need to defeat this recall. Every single California voter will receive a ballot by mail; yours may already be in your mailbox. There’s no need to wait until September 14, you can mail it back today after voting NO on the first question and leaving the rest of the ballot blank.

California’s students simply cannot afford to lose Governor Newsom’s leadership. We owe it to them to defeat this recall.

About the Author

Tony Thurmond is the first Afro-Latino elected California Superintendent of Public Instruction. A former social worker, he served in the California Legislature representing the 15th Assembly District in Oakland from 2014 to 2018.