Latino Edge Magazine

 PEOPLE - TRENDS - CULTURES 

I Know the Importance of Latino Leadership for California’s Public Schools

By Tony Thurmond

 Posted on September 24,2018


As we continue to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, and to recognize the contributions of Latinos in America and in California, I take a moment to harken back to the sacrifices my ancestors made that helped me to get to where I am today.

 

My experience is one of blended cultures and traditions. My mother’s parents were born in Colombia and Jamaica and raised their seven children in Panama. My grandparents on my father’s side were the descendants of African slaves who were brought to America and settled in Mississippi and Detroit, Michigan.

 

My maternal grandparents struggled to make a living cleaning people’s homes. My grandmother and each of her children, including my mother, emigrated to the United States in hopes of finding better opportunities in America. In San Jose, California, my mother became a teacher. My father was a soldier, stationed at the army base at Fort Ord in Monterey where I was born.

 

No one in my family was ever elected to any office or even ran for an office, so I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity serve as an elected official for almost 12 years as a city councilman, a school board member, and in the California State Assembly. My passion for education is what led me to pursue the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the top education official in the state of California. If elected I would be the first ever Latino and the first ever Afro-Latino elected to this office. At a time when our student body is more than 50% Latino, it would be an honor to work to provide a great quality education for Latino students and all of our students in California.

 

As a first-generation American, standing on the shoulders of my ancestors who made such great sacrifices for me, it is my hope to be able to pay it forward by continuing to serve and provide other immigrants, Latinos, and all Californians with education and resources they need to live a great life.

 

I was six years old when my mother lost her battle to cancer. My father did not return to our family after his service in Vietnam – when I met him for the first time as a 39 year old, he told me that the physical and mental scars of war made it difficult for him to reconnect to his family. So with no parents to care for us, my three siblings and I got split up, with my brother and I moving to Philadelphia to be raised by a cousin, another Panamanian immigrant, who we had never met. I would go many years without seeing my other two siblings.

 

In Philadelphia, we struggled. We were on every form of public assistance you can imagine. I was a student on the free lunch program. My family used food stamps – I often joke I ate so much government cheese that I thought USDA was a brand name. But these programs helped us to overcome poverty.

 

Education was extremely important to my cousin, who adopted me as her son. While she worked to get her degree taking night classes at community college, she also made sure my brother and I got a great education. In public school, I found teachers who believed in me and would stay after school to help me eventually get to college. There I would be elected student body president.

 

After college, I went to graduate school and became a social worker so that I could help the children and families who were like me and my family. I spent 20 years serving at-risk young people, including 12 years working directly in schools where I ran afterschool programs, mentoring programs to support first-generation college students, and provided mental health services in schools. I have taught students at the high school, college, and graduate school levels, including high school students in the juvenile justice system.

 

As a state legislator, I’ve made it my focus to use my experiences in social work and education to create laws that help low-income families and students of color in California. I’ve achieved results for all of California’s students, but I am immensely proud of my efforts to increase funding for bilingual education and dual language instruction, support ethnic studies, expand programs for naturalization services, ensure children receive state health insurance regardless of immigration status, and help create a sanctuary state.

 

As a son raised by immigrants, I will always stand up against ICE raids and make it clear that we should embrace the diversity of our California families. I’ve stood up to President Trump and condemned his plans to separate our immigrant families and to push families into prisons. I oppose private prisons which are profiting off the breaking up and jailing of families. I introduced a bill to tax private prison companies and put the funding from that tax into early education and afterschool programs.

 

I’ve been given the distinct honor as a state legislator to be the first and only person to serve in the California Legislative Latino Caucus and the California Legislative Black Caucus. This has uniquely positioned me as a leader in the fight for the needs of black and brown people, who can build bridges between communities to ensure that all of our students receive the funding and quality education they need to help close the achievement gap. From reforms I’ve led to move money from incarceration to education, to my work to promote teaching tolerance and combating racism in the classroom, I’m proud to fight for issues that impact black and brown students.

 

Together with immigrants, communities of color, and my heroes who have endorsed me – including civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher – I’ll fight for a public education system that provides every student, no matter their heritage, with opportunities in the 21st century economy, if I have the honor of being elected California’s first Latino State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

 

Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) is a candidate for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction in the November 6, 2018 election. Learn more about Tony at www.tonythurmond.com and get in touch at tony@tonythurmond.com

 

'Think Babies' Should Be the Motto of All New Parents

By Erendida Lopez


When I was a toddler, my parents weren't as involved in my early development as I would have liked them to be for several reasons, including work and language barriers. I didn't know at the time, of course, how important it is that parents understand and fulfill the critical role they play as their child's first teacher, but I still sensed that something was missing. I knew early on that when I started my family, I wanted to be 100 percent involved in my own children's lives and education.


I've learned so much since then about the importance of early engagement with my baby and early brain development, thanks to organizations like ZERO TO THREE and the Pediatric Therapy Network's Early Head Start program. My husband and I are much better parents thanks to their expert knowledge and guidance which has meant invaluable benefits for both our children, 7-month-old Baby Cruz and 5-year-old Christian.


Cruz and I made a deliberate decision to become fully engaged parents once our first son, Christian, was born. Even though we worked at different times of the day, I work in the evening and he works during the day, we shared responsibility in creating a fun learning environment for him. Recognizing the value of the early learning support we received with Christian, we didn't hesitate to enroll our second child in the Well Baby program, the outreach program for newborns.


And it's because we were involved from the start that we learned Christian needed pediatric therapy for speech and cognitive development. Having a child assisted with development issues that most parents take for granted is a difficult undertaking but there are advantages in being part of your child's therapy routine.


The professionals, including registered nurses, who administer the therapy also provide parents with information on the benefits of healthy eating and living, the ability to create nurturing environments crucial for learning and how reinforcing learning habits help build a foundation for strong academic success later in life.


Having this knowledge and insight has transformed our approach as parents and how we view our role as teachers in our babies' development.


But it shouldn't take a developmental issue for parents to focus on the early learning aspects of their toddler or newborn baby. Learning should be an integral part of their daily activities. Babies should grow up enjoying learning as they enter pre-K or Early Head Start programs. Forming the foundation for learning will help them later in life as adults and give them a sense of focus.

The science is clear - babies' brains grow faster between the ages of 0 and 3 than at any later point in life. In fact, their brains form more than 1 million new neural connections every second. I've learned that when babies have nurturing relationships, early learning experiences and good health and nutrition, those neural connections are stimulated and strengthened, laying a strong foundation for the rest of their lives.


Organizations like ZERO TO THREE have created awareness programs to inform parents and policymakers about the significant role early interaction and planning plays in the lives of infants and toddlers. Their social, emotional and overall cognitive development grows exponentially from birth to three, impacting a child's life-long learning abilities.


I would urge parents with backgrounds similar to mine to not let language barriers, income levels or lack of a formal education interfere with your role as your child's first teacher in life. Find the programs available in your community that are right for you and your baby. Seek out the expertise of organizations like ZERO TO THREE and learn what resources are out there to help create that learning foundation for your baby. Talk to your local elected officials about why it's so important they support quality early learning programs.


We can all make a difference in a child's life from the start if we know the facts and science behind development, are aware of programs and services set up to help us as parents and urge our representatives in state government to create or maintain early learning programs. It all starts if we collectively Think Babies.


About the Author

Erendida Lopez is the Chairwoman of the Pediatric Therapy Network Policy Council and she and her husband Cruz are the parents of two young sons, with one attending a local early head start program.

 
 
Ya Basta! It's Time To Go

State Senator Tony Mendoza must resign, now.

Posted December 11, 2017


California State Senator Tony Mendoza has issued an awkwardly written holiday letter to "neighbors, family and friends" exalting "the climate across our country has changed!" The odd opening refers to the multitude of sexual harassment claims made against prominent entertainment and political figures, including State Senator Mendoza.


   Three women have come forward to allege inappropriate conduct by Mendoza while in his employ and presence. Though Mendoza states in his holiday letter the accusations are vague, the Sacramento Bee has reported detailed accounts by each woman as to the location, actions and time of each of their separate encounters with the alleged misbehavior by Mendoza. Further, the reporting has former members of Mendoza's own senior staff corroborating the accounts.


   Sexual harassment allegations aside, Mendoza has faced a sundry of accusations and odd behavior in his political past. In late 2016, Senator Mendoza was fined $57,000 by the state's Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) for what they called "laundered campaign contributions' violations in addition to reprimanding Mendoza for failure to report income from a failed real estate transaction.


   While representing the California Latino Caucus, Mendoza was forced out as chairman after members of the caucus grew concerned over his leadership and agenda. And early in Mendoza's career the then Assemblyman posed in his state office as a gang member for no apparent reason.


   There is a pattern here where one can argue that Mendoza has lost sight of his purpose as an elected official and has gone off the rails. It could be further argued that Mendoza's inability to stay out of the cross hairs of allegations, conspiracy and negative press are more than just coincidence or political schemes to harm him and his reputation.


   The bottom line here is the constituents of the 32nd Senate District are not being served properly and have already undergone the fiasco of former district representative State Senator Ron Calderon and his brother Tom Calderon and the horrendous mishandling of the Montebello Unified School District.


   Mendoza's take on these new allegations of sexual misbehavior: "It is most unfortunate that some media have looked to capitalize on the national climate and chosen to generate news that is controversial in order to gain rating shares allowing them to sell expensive time to advertisers."



   This total dismissal of the sexual harassment claims and blaming the media for "generating" news is a clear example of the lack of leadership Mendoza has shown for years. Mendoza has quipped about the fairness of the review process before it began and now is shifting blame on what he claims is a national fervor by the media to sell advertisement by reporting allegations of male aggression against women.


   These women have clearly wrestled with their decision to come forward with warranted fears of backlash in their professional work, personal reputation and public scrutiny. Mendoza is not in an election, has no high profile legislative package or bills and would otherwise be a nonfactor in the capitol, making his political scheming assertion to be far fetched.


   We agree there should be a process to review and process all allegations of sexual misconduct, while at the same time we don't believe this is a "climate" but rather an exposure and reckoning of historic patterns of certain men.


   Mendoza's prior actions and missteps alone were cause for concern, if not a recall. Knowing that he has replaced a convicted felon who was charged and found guilty while in the state senate, Mr. Mendoza should have kept his nose to the grindstone and worked tirelessly to resurrect the dignity of the office to rebuild trust with constituents in the ability to represent.


   Instead they received a holiday letter blaming the media and "fake news". Where have we heard this before?