When School Boards Come Up Short in Stockton, We Need Parent Voices and Direct Action

Natalie Kith

There are several issues that students in Stockton consistently face, including access to quality teachers and unsafe learning environments. Many problems stem from the school board. They cannot handle funds appropriately and effectively, constantly misinform the public and school staff, and fail to highlight parent involvement in schools adequately. Due to the subpar school environment caused by school board ineffectiveness, students often move to other cities, where they believe they will have access to better educational systems. Those who remain have little desire to stay in Stockton post-graduation. This flight may negatively impact our community, as few people are available to reinvest in our city to make it a better place to live.

Access to quality teachers and school environments is highly contingent upon school funding. Schools with lower budgets cannot provide students with the high-quality education they need and deserve. Throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many students have experienced issues accessing their classes due to the lack of supplies, such as Chromebooks/laptops, internet access, textbooks, etc. Better management and distribution of school funds would help ensure students have the tools, supplies, and materials they need to succeed. Improvements in fiscal allocation are one direct action the school board can take to improve education for Stockton students.

The flaws of the school board have been a significant focus thus far. However, improved actions by the school board won’t be enough to fix Stockton education completely. Community partnership, especially among parents, is also needed. A common way to involve parents is to maximize the efforts of existing parent groups like the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA). The PTSA facilitates parent involvement in schools and provides a medium to gather feedback and input. Programs like these help schools thrive, as they are sources of valuable information that can inform and improve decision-making. However, the PTSA and similar programs are only effective if they have strong membership. In many instances, proper recruitment of parents is lacking, and participation suffers. Without hearing parents’ voices, leaders are making critical decisions in a vacuum. Without confirmation from those they are making decisions for, they can’t be confident they are taking the right actions.

Increased parental involvement is only one action that can help improve Stockton schools. Direct political action through voting is a strategy frequently overlooked. Our representative political system provides the next best alternative; voting by proxy. We step closer to improving Stockton schools by electing competent representatives who authentically listen and respond to student needs. Students must become politically active and encourage increased voter turnout. While many students are not of voting age, they can support the political process by volunteering in organizations whose missions align with their interests. A great example is The Organization & Leadership Academy (TOLA), a Stockton organization that conducts outreach to families and informs them of key school issues.

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