Pondering the Definition of a Green Leaf

 (Thoughts About Jerry Brown and Proposition 30)

 I treasure such images as the one I saw earlier on this hot San Diego Monday morning: the vision of a nice number of San Diego City College students walking down hill in front of the B Building on their campus, heading for some trees for shade to listen to their governor, Jerry Brown, speak at a Press Conference regarding Proposition 30 – an initiative designed to raise as much money as possible to arrest the slow death of our schools. Their schools.

Nothing inspires more hope in me regarding the future of our species than seeing young people rising to remodel their world for the better. I hope that’s their intent, getting out there and talking to as many friends and family and others in their community as they can about how Proposition 30 is one of the most important proposals of our time, about how the learning needs of our children and young people or any active learner, for that matter, should be among our highest priorities as a state.

Those who oppose Proposition 30 rant and rave, not about how scary all the cuts to education have been or how deplorable the situation remains, but about: what they like to call “hidden surpluses” as if you can hide a surplus where there is basically zilch; “suspicious accounting” as if there’s something in the coffers to account for; “questionable spending” as if this is a new and unique practice.

The truth is: the state government does waste a lot of money and something needs to be done about that. Yesterday. But today our children are waiting for some pencils and erasers and paper and a few books and some bandaids if they get hurt out on the playground. One can only hope that these detractors stop devoting so much energy to keeping rich people from sharing some of their wealth for the general welfare of society-at-large and come through for our schools. A temporary income tax on the wealthy will not bring about a rash of piggy bank smashing. And then we can do the down and dirty work of “cleaning up government,” through “better stewardship of state finances” and such. But not at the expense of our children.

The good governor, who has always been quite adept at breaking complex matters down to simple terms, laid out the rationale for Proposition 30 quite well, the need to take “a stand against further cuts to our schools and local public safety,” the need to “stop $6 billion in deeper cuts to public education and invest billions of new dollars in our schools starting this year.” What other alternative is there to this disaster?

Besides being buoyed by the students, I also treasured being among a handful of people who got to sit with the governor after the press conference, as he shared his thoughts about education and asked the chancellor of our City Colleges questions about how we can eventually solve these massive problems not only in school finances but in the nuts and bolts (and there are all kinds and styles of nuts and bolts) in facilitating learning experiences for students.

The conversation was interesting. The governor and the chancellor at one point actually spoke in Latin and discussed the ins and outs of grammar as though they created the English language. I was impressed. I found that our state’s highest office holder, in general, has a deep sense of some of what’s needed in a dynamic learning environment. As I listened and also threw out a few of my thoughts regarding the subject as teaching is my craft, my art, my passion, my reason for being, a major definer of who I am as a human being – this following part of the exchange really resonated with me.

The governor mentioned that once on a final exam he was asked but one question: “What is your definition of a green leaf?”

“I still ponder that question” he said. And isn’t that what education is all about, raising questions that capture a learner’s imagination and motivates him or her to keep questioning, to continue learning throughout one’s lifetime?

It would, however, seem, in the scheme of things, that we can’t even afford to dream of our children becoming lifelong learners without everyone paying a “fair” share of taxes – so the leaves, if you will, can be watered so they can stay green enough to be studied. We have only one option to solve the monetary problems that plague our schools in this moment in time: passing Proposition 30. For our children and learners of all ages.


Ernie McCray

I was raised in a loving and alive home, in a black neighborhood filled with colorful characters in Tucson, Arizona. Such an environment gave me a hint that life has to be grabbed by the tail as tight as a pimple on a mosquito's butt. With no BS and a whole lot of love. So, from those days to now I get up every morning set on making the world a better place. On my good foot*, and I hope my writing reflects that. *an old black expression

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  1. avatar says

    I’m with you, Ernie, and I’d urge voters to say Yes on Prop 38 too, as it is time-limited, unhindered by labyrinthine Sacramento politics and will go only to public schools. Do kids a favor and Vote Yes on both Props 30 and 38.

    Prop 38 is like an insurance policy: if the Governor’s measure doesn’t make it, Molly Munger’s privately-financed PTA-backed initiative might. And if they both win, it will be a triumph of altruism over selfishness.

  2. avatarDavid says

    I just listened to a PBS documentary about how some schools are utilizing the summer session to help ‘disadvantaged’ students get a leg up on those in more affluent schools and actually get ready to go to college before the ‘affluent’ ones…. These kids have a 100% graduation rate and a 100% admission rate to college… So my question is….
    How in the heck can we let school facilities stand idle over the summer and not be productive… ? No business or factory could let valuable assets lie idle while the competition continues to operate…

    In some countries, the ones that are overtaking the US in producing scientists and engineers, they go to school six days a week and some have evening shifts…. When are we going to wake up folks… ? Educators and school districts are wasting valuable assets while students ‘unlearn’ during the summer off… only to have to be re-taught to get caught up…

    As a ‘business’ person I will be glad to support Prop 30 or any other legislative measure to improve education… when I am shown that the Education system is doing as much as they can with the resources they have… Right now it ain’t being done…

    Sorry folks but that is the way it is… Comments invited…
    Dave Beekman
    Spring Valley Ca

    BTW… The Santee School district has found an innovative way to utilize resources and cut Administrative costs… The did away with Middle school.. I like it…: )

      • avatarDavid says

        Kelly… Funding for what ? The buildings are there… (they even have A/C…: )

        Are not teachers and Administration paid an ‘annual’ salary ?

        Before I retired as a professional from ‘Industry’ I was paid an annual salary and was expected to work five days a week for 50 weeks out of the 52 week year… minus seven Federal holidays of course…
        I finally after ten years got 4 weeks off for ‘good behavior.’ (I guess… : )

        I guess us ‘business’ people have a hard time understanding how someone can work less than a full year and still draw a full salary…. Hmmmmmm
        What am I missing here…?
        Please help a ‘lay’ person understand…. dB

        • avatarKelly Mayhew says

          Community college professors–and K-12 teachers for that matter in traditionally calendared schools–earn 10-month salaries. Summer, then, costs more to run since you are paying people to teach outside of their contracts. So, yes, you are missing something here. Thus, your idea to run summer school during a historic budget crisis would be deeply fiscally irresponsible since it would take monies away from times during the regular school year when schools serve the most students. Colleges and schools have to operate within their real-world circumstances not the abstract scenarios of those who in reality are perfectly happy to see California’s public education system gutted to suit their ideological fantasies. In the real world, if Prop 30 does not pass, public education will be decimated, which means the students–children and adults alike–will end up being sacrificed yet again. There really will be billions of dollars of trigger cuts. That is unacceptable.

  3. avatar says

    David, I hope you will not withhold support for Props 38 and 30 “unless and until.” Unless and until are far off, while the need to prevent huge teacher layoffs and a school year with three fewer weeks is at hand. The kids in California public schools need a full school year and they need reasonably small classes to prosper.We can make that happen by voting Yes on 30 and 38 in November.

    There are changes needed in the way California educates kids and train teachers — and they are much more significant than creating a bunch of charters and washing our hands. You have some interesting ideas — a longer school year, better use of facilities, bridging the summer hiatus, grammar schools and high schools. None of these notions can be explored when there is no funding. We need Props 38 and 30 to pass so that good change can begin to happen.

  4. avatarRB says

    So if you truly believe public education is an important function of government, so if you truly believe funding for schools needs to be increased, why don’t you believe the schools should be funded first? Why don’t you fund the schools fully before you fund the hundreds of unelected boards, commissions, and state agencies? Why don’t you fund the schools fully before you build a bullet train in the desert? Why don’t you fund the schools with the money you save on pension reform? Why do you spend $50,000 to warehouse each state prisoner?

    The schools are underfunded because they are used to raise taxes and protect and expand the wasteful, fraud filled state budget.

  5. avatar says

    Schools first! There’s an idea worth considering. There’s no question California government could use some freakin’ tweakin’ but in the meantime, we can’t let the kids’ education go down the drain. Don’t abandon the children for the sins of their fathers and mothers.

    For one thing, we pay now or we pay later in an unproductive, ignorant, socially debilitated, adult population. As for your expensive prisoners, I just have to say they are a direct result of the disastrously rigid three-strikes legislation that Californians embraced so warmly a few decades ago.

    • avatarRB says

      The first step to consider is to follow the current law and Prop 98. Stop the State raids on school funding and have Sacramento pay out money that has been deferred (stolen) form the school budgets. Until this is done, I will not vote for a tax increase. The voters and taxpayers have not abandoned the children, they passed Prop 98, Sacramento has abandoned the children.

  6. avatarErnie McCray says

    Interesting stuff here. I’ve always been a proponent for better use of schools by the community. And I like the idea of schools first. One thing alluded to by my good buddy and high school classmate, David Beekman, is teacher pay and I’d just like to say that teaching is unlike many jobs. When a school day ends a good teacher’s day is just beginning, grading papers and thinking creatively about how to make lessons shine even more, grouping, talking to parents and students…

    • avatarDavid says

      10-4 Ernie…. In my estimation we cannot pay teachers enough for the job they do molding the lives of our young students…. I can say this from first hand experience as I have (since retirement) been involved in assisting science teachers in three different Jr Hi schools, Balboa, Marshall Middle and Caesar Chavez and these are the most dedicated people I have ever met… How do they do it day in and day out… ?

      That’s a mystery to me…

      Dave B.