By EMILY M. MURASE, Ph.D.
On Nov. 6, voters will decide between two very different futures: a future of continuing cuts to public education and the further impoverishment of poor communities OR a future of educational investments that pay off for everyone.
Did you know that projected prison capacity is based on literacy rates of third-graders? This assumes that if a third-grader cannot read, it is likely the child will, as an adult, end up in prison. Do you want a future where there are more seats in prisons than in our classrooms?
You have a say in California’s future. Proposition 38 lays the groundwork for a better future.
Since 2008, California has cut school budgets by an astounding $20 billion. Proposition 38 would reverse these cuts and restore school funding by raising state tax rates on income after all deductions, using a sliding scale. The wealthiest taxpayers pay the most, with rates rising 2.2 percent for individuals making over $2.5 million annually. At the low end, taxpayers with incomes under $25,000 would pay an annual average of $7.
Why is this issue so important to our community? Like others, I am just one generation away from crushing poverty. My grandparents were immigrant sharecroppers from Japan. Too poor for store-bought clothes, my father wore pants made from discarded rice sacks to school. He endured the taunts of wealthier classmates, focused on his studies, and graduated at the top of his high school class.
Yet his farming parents would not permit him to go to college; he was too valuable in the fields picking grapes. My father finally ran away from home, heading to UCLA and landing eventually at UC Berkeley.
Then World War II broke out and he and his family were incarcerated at a desert prison camp in Poston, Ariz. with other Central Valley families. Were it not for First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who organized officials at universities located in the Midwest and East Coast to accept college-aged Japanese Americans, my father would have languished behind barbed wire, as so many other Japanese Americans did.
But he was one of the lucky ones. He was able to graduate from college and eventually earn a Ph.D. in social welfare and social research. He taught for many years at San Francisco State University and, though we lost him several years ago, his students continue his legacy of fighting for social justice.
My father’s journey from a poor farmer’s kid to a highly respected university professor all began in a classroom at a public school in Parlier.
Many Japanese American and immigrant families have similar stories. We must support public education to keep opportunities open for children of all backgrounds. Vote yes on Proposition 38.
Emily M. Murase, PhD, became the first Japanese American elected to the San Francisco Board of Education in 2010. She resides in San Francisco, where she graduated from public schools, with her husband, Neal Taniguchi, and their two school-aged daughters, Izumi and Junko. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.