Archived: Solving the State Deficit Is An Information Issue

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California’s Gross State Product (GSP) is $1.85 trillion per year and California is the 8th largest economy in the world according to Wikipedia. Yet if you believe everything mass media and politicians say, you would think there is no money.

“They” say the State is absolutely broke. Yet there is a $1.85 trillion trunk of resources waiting to be tapped, ready to close what is a minuscule, by GSP comparison, budget deficit. So what is the challenge?  Information!
Most folks preoccupied with loss of job, loss of home, loss of income, cannot see farther than today. Issues like a 40 percent dropout rate among our children in California does not register, the gravity of this crisis is virtually ignored. Given this statistic, it is possible that 40 percent of all of Californians will be living in poverty in the next generation. Think about it. These children falling-out of school certainly are not going to be running Fortune 500 corporations. We are in a crisis situation that requires crisis intervention, not because of a perceived budget issue, but because a dropout issue. California State Senator Curren Price, the incoming Chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus says, “letting this problem [40 percent drop-out rate among Black and Latino children in California] go one more day is unacceptable… we can and must do better.”

The fingers point in every direction and everyone is to blame, but what is the solution?

What has not been tried in a concerted, sustainable, manner is better engaging parents in their child’s education using technology. Recently I met with a group of leaders representing the California Teacher’s Association’s (CTA) local chapters in the Inland Empire and asked, “do they see any value in better engaging parents into a child’s education using technology?”  It was obvious that engaging parents, especially through technology, was not a top priority. But this group is not alone; up and down the state parent engagement is a huge challenge for most schools. Yet the data is conclusive. A parent engaged in their child’s education doubles that child’s chances of graduating. Innovative parent engagement initiatives warrant crisis intervention-like funding, similar to a bailout package.

On December 7, well-established community-based organizations that serve over one million families combined, launched One Million NIU in 2011. The NIU (New Internet Users) Coalition includes partnerships with public and charter schools, civic entities and other non-profit organizations. The goal of the NIU initiative is to create One Million New Internet Users (NIU) in 2011. NIU will create quality Internet users as measured by their engagement in their child’s education and their community. Intel, Comcast, PG&E and Verizon have all expressed interest in funding such an initiative. Members of the California Public Utilities Commission support the idea of the NIU initiative.

The NIU model turns elementary and middle school computer labs into Empowerment Hubs once the bell rings at 3:00pm. NIU works in underserved communities mandated by law, as Title I recipients, to use fiscal resources to better engage parents into their child’s education. Many Title I schools will tell us that they are engaging parents, but few are using technology to do so.

Parents graduating from the NIU model feel empowered, are empowered, with technology tools that make them quality Internet users as defined by their engagement not only in their child’s education but as in their increased community and civic engagement.

Parents use Internet tools like Facebook, Huffington Post, radio archive files, Google Translate and more to get the information they need to bring home the abundant resources of this state.

Empowered parents will know the myth about keeping tax breaks for the wealthy, the supposed ‘job creators’, is simply not true; see the recent Department of Labor unemployment rate report.

Empowered parents will know there is a $1.85 trillion trunk of resources from which our state leadership can close any perceived budget deficit. They will know what a good school looks like and how to advocate for getting good school attributes implemented in their school. We are talking about an informed constituency that will help our state leadership push the ‘reset’ button on California’s priorities to ensure our children, our economic future, stay out of poverty.

L.A. Ortega was born in Los Angeles and is Founder and President of Community Union, Inc. a community-based computer training organization based in Van Nuys, CA. He can be contacted at CUInc@communityunion.org, www.communityunion.org.

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