People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by Amy Horn, a Long Beach resident, mother and organizer with Khmer Girls in Action, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.
Last week, the White House threatened to cut federal funding from school districts if they do not reopen in the fall. When I think of my two sons going back to school, I feel scared.
I am scared that my boys could lose educational resources due to an administration that prioritizes corporate greed over children. I am scared that those priorities could haphazardly expose them to COVID-19 and I could lose them forever.
This fall, we can advocate for resources to help children and youth overcome this crisis. California has an opportunity to truly invest in our youth by passing the Schools and Communities First (SCF) Act, also known as Prop. 15. If passed, Prop.15 would bring $12 billion annually to California’s public schools and local social services by closing corporate property tax loopholes.
While I am grateful that local leaders closed our schools in Long Beach to help slow the spread, distance-learning has its own unique challenges, especially for the refugee and immigrant children and our families. The transition to distance-learning triggered so much anxiety for me. It reminded me of the time I had to navigate the school system by myself.
As the daughter of Cambodian refugees fleeing the Khmer Rouge, my family’s resettlement in America was not easy. My parents suffered from PTSD and struggled financially. By the time I turned 16, we had already moved more than 10 times. I was struggling academically and emotionally.
Now, as a parent, I desperately want to make sure my children and this current generation of children have better opportunities than I did growing up. I think about the immigrant and refugee youth, especially those who were already vulnerable before the pandemic. How are they coping physically, mentally and emotionally? Many transitional age youth who supplement family incomes have lost their jobs. Those under age 18 are not usually included in political decisions that impact their lives.
Prop. 15 is the solution to make sure children and youth have the resources they need to recover from this pandemic. Imagine what those resources could do. We would have schools that actually work for all of us: balanced student-teacher ratio, counselors, school nurses, or enough soap and toilet paper to last a full day. Currently, California ranks 39th out of 50 in the nation on spending per student with the largest class sizes in the nation.
Imagine how these resources can improve our city. Long Beach can have the revenue to invest in an equitable youth development fund—a goal of the Long Beach Invest in Youth Coalition, whose leaders helped secure seed money to put together a plan for it.
Having grown up in an era of deep budget cuts, I’ve seen too many of my teachers and counselors overwhelmed and overworked to notice how much I was struggling. Instead of being a place to prepare me for my future, school became a place of frustration and anger. My sons now attend the same elementary school as I did. And, I can tell you not much has changed. In fact, it could get worse.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Major corporations like Chevron have been taking advantage of loopholes in our tax system for decades that allow them to pay 1970s tax rates on their commercial property. Disneyland pays property taxes based on land value in 1975, costing local schools and communities $50 million annually, funds our communities need and deserve. We can close these loopholes and restore billions of dollars to our local schools and communities by making sure corporations pay their fair share.
I refuse to let my kids and the next generation struggle the way I did when there is something we can do about it. I am in this fight because I believe we can win. As the deadline for taxes approaches, it’s a reminder for California to step up for youth, families and teachers—not corporate billionaires. It’s time for billion-dollar corporations to pay their fair share and for voters to pass Prop. 15. Now is the time to show that we love, believe and care by giving our children the resources they deserve!