April 23, 2012 When Sheila Reilly, Administrator at Woodland Star Charter School in Sonoma, heard about the governor's budget proposal and the anti-charter legislation in the pipeline at CCSA's Winter Regional Meeting, she knew it was time for action. So she got a bus and brought five teachers, six boardmembers, a handful of parents and the school's entire 8th grade class to participate in various parts of the CCSA Conference and Advocacy Week in Sacramento.
"We wanted to have a really comprehensive approach to facing the budget crisis," said Reilly. "That meant getting active in the political arena. CCSA made it so easy for us."
Everyone from their school sat in on the morning general session of the CCSA conference, hearing from Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and Jed Wallace, CEO and President of CCSA. Then parents headed to the Parent Summit organized by Families That Can, hearing about ways to connect with legislators and mobilize parents. The eighth-graders toured the Capitol and sat in on some legislative sessions, and the teachers and board members had the chance to meet with Senator Mark Leno and staff from the office of Assemblyman Jared Huffman.
"The highlight for me was having our teachers get in front of the legislators," said Reilly. "I loved seeing them have a chance to tell their story and to see that they're really able to effect change. That's the mind shift I want, to see that this is our system and we have a responsibility to be engaged. It was empowering."
Reilly said it was eye-opening for everyone to see the legislative process first-hand.
"On one hand, we are facing a fifth year of budget cuts, but at the same time, I feel our school is stronger than ever in terms of our school's enrollment and academic performance," said Reilly. "It's really depressing to keep going back to teachers and staff and say, 'We can't fully fund your salaries.'"
She felt that her parents had stepped up to support the school as much as they could in these tough economic times, and that the next step for the school was to move into the political realm to raise awareness about charter schools and to connect with legislators.
The Woodland Star group closed out their day by attending the Charter School Funding Equity Rally on the steps of the capitol building, where Governor Jerry Brown addressed rally attendees, calling charter school supporters "insurgents and rebels," and urging them to keep pushing for a better California.
"It was really exciting for the students to see Governor Brown come out," said Reilly, who felt that the camaraderie between the teachers and the parents built up over the course of the day.
"It felt like everyone was working together toward the same goal" said Reilly.