At the core of the definition of the American Dream is the idea that wherever you are from, or whatever zip code you grew up in, we should be able to provide our families with something better than what we had. In America, we will provide our children with the opportunity for upward socioeconomic mobility.
The single best way to achieve upward socioeconomic mobility has always been through getting an education. Education gives people the necessary tools and propels them towards the American Dream, especially in my home state of California. Education is supposed to be a right here too. Accessible, affordable, and quality public education should be available to everybody here in the United States. Educational equity is the term that conveys my message, and it is cemented when ALL students receive the resources they need to graduate and are prepared for success after high school. With so many Asian-Americans being the first and second generation, this message of opportunity for all is more pertinent than ever.
Educational equity is more personal to me. My parents arrived in this country in the early 1950s, and like all immigrant Americans, they dreamt of a better future. My dad left Taiwan with just three shirts, two pairs of pants, and less than $100 in his pocket. They had to leave their family, friends and everything that was important to them. Growing up in the midwest, we were called plenty of names by folks. I would hear “gook” and “chink,” commonly. It was a very different era and it wasn’t easy.
The values my parents were taught in Taiwan molded their view on education. My parents perceived education to be a great equalizer and a power no one could take away. Commonly, America is considered to be the most aspirational place on Earth, but as a child of immigrants of color I can understand how people could feel disconnected from that. What was truly transformative was the great drive my parents had to pursue an education. My mother and father both mastered English. My mom went to junior college, and my dad even got his PhD. They instilled in me the life-changing possibilities of education. My ability to become an elected official is a direct result of the opportunity, the educational equity, that was available to my parents.
— John Chiang (@JohnChiangCA) January 27, 2018
Educational equity, and therefore opportunity, is facing a critical crossroads today in California. As a candidate for Governor of California, let me tell you my ideas on how we can ensure that a quality education, a defining trait of our society, can meet our needs as Californians:
First off, and this is a theme you will see repeated, we need to invest more in education. California is 46th in the nation on money spent on each individual child. With how little we spend per child, it’s no wonder why our state ranks in the bottom tier in reading and math. If we want results, we need to invest.
— John Chiang (@JohnChiangCA) January 27, 2018
It is extremely critical to focus on kids when they are young. In the first few years of life, children’s brains are making more than one million different neural connections a second. Decades of research has confirmed that quality early childhood education programs not only make children more successful in school, but pay enormous dividends over time. This includes: higher graduation rates, employment rates, wages, tax revenues lower welfare costs, health care costs, and crime rates. That is why we have to invest in quality early childhood education. We also need to make sure that the conditions of children are appropriate for learning. Too often school districts and other local governments operate in separate silos, and yet they serve the same populations of children, families, and neighborhoods.
The jobs of the future require that we also put an emphasis on the areas of science, technology, engineering and math; however, we face a massive teacher shortage, especially in those fields. We do not have enough teachers for vital programs such as English as a second language or special education classes either. That’s why we need to launch a plan to aggressively obtain, train, and retain teachers. While we are at it, teachers need more control over the decisions that affect their classrooms. Currently teachers are held accountable for student success without having any control over what affects their students academically.
Then there are SAT and ACT preparation classes — they aren’t always accessible to everyone. These classes should be available as an elective class to all public high school students. While we take steps to address the unsustainable rate of California state tuition, we must also incentivize families to establish a college savings account for every child by enacting refundable tax credits or other incentives.
Higher education is too expensive and students come out of college with crippling debt. We need to return to our community college roots and make sure that students have the opportunity of two years of free community college.
Investing in these policies will improve our educational equity. I know what it’s like to receive an opportunity and my achievement is a direct result of it. Together, we can ensure that every student, no matter where you are from, has an opportunity.