I plan to vote for today’s budget, but I know that the uncertain revenues and lack of adequate numbers means that negotiations will be ongoing past today’s vote. And as such, I feel that it’s important I highlight a few issues that are not only important to my district, but to all communities of color.
First, as we discuss education funding we have a responsibility to look at it with an equity lens and not just an equality lens because the reality is that if you are a black or brown student you don’t start in the same place as your white counterparts. And Covid 19 has only made black and brown kids fall further behind.
Students from low-income and communities of color have historically confronted lifelong achievement and education gaps between themselves and their more white counterparts, Covid 19 has only made those disparities more glaring.
According to a McKinsey study, pre COVID 19, “the average black or Hispanic student remains roughly two years behind the average white one, and low-income students continue to be underrepresented among top performers”
And because of Covid McKinsey further projects that black students will suffer the equivalent of 10.3 months of lost instruction, and Latinos 9.2 months, compared to 6 months for white children.
As we consider additional taxes to close the education funding gap, we have to ensure those dollars will prioritize black and brown kids so they really have the potential to reach their true potential like their white counterparts.
And if we are going to make cuts, we should start by closing loopholes like those that allows homeschool charters to pay for trips to Disneyland, LegoLand, or horseback riding lessons under the pretext of educational enrichment activities.
It’s insulting that we can’t ensure schools in communities like mine, who teach mostly low income students of color, have the funds to close the digital divide and are also facing potential cuts, while we continue to allow homeschool charter to have loop holes to pay for extravagant fieldtrips or are advertising to parents how to get $3k from the state, basically as an incentive for homeschooling their children.
Second, as we continue to discuss funding of our health care systems we also have to use an equity lens and ask ourselves if there’s a better way. Covid 19 has further magnified the racial disparities in our healthcare system and we cannot ignore them and think they will get better on their own. According to the most current data for the CDPH, Latinos have more cases than all other racial groups combined while African Americans, make up only 6% of the CA population but nearly 10% percent of COVID 19 deaths.
And black and brown people are also two to three times more likely than white Americans to be uninsured, according to a report on covid-19 and race from the CDC.
COVID 19 has also amplified long standing racial disparities in respiratory health. This pandemic has magnified how where people live and the air they breathe makes them more susceptible. Brown and Black people are more likely to live in highly polluted communities. A recent Harvard TH Chan school of public health study confirmed that “people with Covid-19 who live in US regions with high levels of air pollution are more likely to die from the disease than people who live in less polluted areas”.
Compounding already overburdened and medically underserved communities.
It’s why we must continue to invest in AB 617, which identifies hot spots of pollution and creates community driven action plans. The modest investment in AB 617 implementation in this budget ensures we can continue this important work, but moving forward we need to find ways to secure a continuous stable source of funding for AB 617. Covid 19 simply magnifies the urgency to do this work.
COVID 19 also magnifies the need to finally get the Department of Toxic Substance Control reform done. DTSC needs both governance reform and fee reform to both clean up existing brownfields but also ensure companies are following the rules so we can prevent any more Exides. I have a vehicle in the Senate right now, AB 995 that addresses structural and thoughtful changes to the DTSC. That state agency must be reformed if we want to properly care for our most vulnerable populations that have been exposed to toxics from decades. I hope that as we work on additional trailer bills we take that bill seriously. It’s a compilation of years of work and an extensive collaborative process between EJ groups and business.
Finally, as we look to get the economy going we also have to make sure we prioritize those that have been impacted the most.
Pew Research – Hispanic women have experienced sharper job losses in Covid 19 downturn than other workers and in general men and women of color have higher job losses than their white counterparts.
This is on top of the fact that Latina women, on average make 54 cents for every dollar their while male counterpart earns. And black women earn 62 cents for every dollar their white male counter parts earn.
We must ensure job training and job protections prioritize those hardest hit by Covid 19 and the systemic racism in our systems.