Burbank, You Just Got Played by the Machine

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Governer Jerry Brown at Burbank Media Briefing. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Burbank considers itself a special place.  It’s citizens will tell you about the ‘small town’ feel of the city, how great the police and fire departments are, how many people actually spend their entire lives here.  This is a place that you are proud to live in.

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Burbank is one of 460 cities in the State of California.  Burbank is also one of the most recognizable cities in the state when you think of the two major studios in the city, as well as a major television network.  Night after night, you will hear Jay Leno talk about Burbank and its neighborhoods.  Burbank also boasts a major airport that has a direct connection to the State Capital, Sacramento.  Let’s face it, if you had to guess California Cities, I’m sure Burbank would always come up before someplace like Claremont (no offense, Claremont!)

California Gov. Jerry Brown has been warning that if we don’t vote for his new tax proposals on the upcoming ballot that he claims are key to saving education, automatic cuts will go into effect that would seriously damage our public school system as we know it today.  On Wednesday, he delivered his State of the State Address in Sacramento where he once again talked about budget cuts that would effect schools and social programs.

One problem with the State of the State speech – no one watches it.  There are a few hearty souls who will be interested, but most Californians are oblivious to state politics.  It was now up to the Governor’s spin machine to get the word out there.

When the speech was over the consultants know that Los Angeles has a disconnect with Sacramento.  Without the Southland’s support, there is no chance of a ballot issue ever passing.  So it was decided to get the Gov. on a plane.   And guess where it lands – Burbank.

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A Burbank school was picked because of its proimity to the airport.  It was convenient to get to, about a mile from the airport.  Only Providencia School would have been closer, but probably could not have supported the parking requirements of the teachers and the media.  What a great place to go, a school where you can drive home education cuts.

Now the Gov. can’t just pull up to a school and have a press conference, so he lets the school setup a round table and then a forum with teachers and administrators.   People will come because they have legitimate concerns and hope they can make a difference.  Burbank’s School Superintendent, Stan Carrisoza. went out of his way, as did his staff, and the administrator’s of Bret Harte Elementary Schoo,l to host this event, where the Gov. was coming to listen to them.

And that’s exactly what he did, he listened to everyone and agreed something had to be done, but then reminded all the teachers that this ballot measure had to be passed.  I’m sure he hopes that all of these teachers will go back and influence more votes from their students’ parents.

Of course, listening to the everyone’s concerns at 4:00 gave the news media time to set-up their live shots for the Los Angeles news cycle.  People may not watch the State of the State, but they will watch their local news.  So when it was time, and he could get the most exposure,  Brown came out using Bret Harte Elementary School as a backdrop — and all the educators as victims.

I feel bad for all those attending who went into this thinking that maybe they could make a difference for Burbank schools and students.  Let’s face it, if the Gov. really cared about this roundtable and forum, he should have at least brought the Superintendent of Education, Tom Torlakson, who might have some real insights.  He brought no one from the Education Dept. because it was not about the schools, it was about the ballot measure to raise taxes.

Let’s hope that something actually hit Gov. Brown and something positive comes from the meetings.  But sadly, I  think that Burbank was just used as a convenient photo opportunity, not a legitimate forum that may bring change.

Governor Brown, please pick one of the other 459 other cities in the future when it is only about your message and not about a real solution.

Burbank, you are a trusting city, but you just got played.

1 COMMENT

  1. Craig Sherwood’s opinion column is an unfair judgment of our
    governor and the events, which occurred in Burbank on Wed. Jan. 18th, 2012.  It is clear that Mr. Sherwood did not
    talk to the teachers who hosted the event.  I am saddened that Craig Sherwood took a wonderful event and
    put his own cynical spin on it during these times when our schools are in
    serious trouble and are in dire need of support. 

     

    Usually when a politician wants to look like they are
    concerned about education, they visit a school, give a speech and take a
    picture of what appears to be reading a picture book to young children, even if
    the book may or may not be upside down. 
    It is a one-way conversation and photo opportunity, will only last 15-30
    minutes, is orchestrated by the administration, and the opinion of the teacher
    is never solicited. 

     

    This governor’s office called the California Teachers
    Association headquarters, which represents over 300,000 teachers in the state, and
    asked to have the governor speak directly with teachers.  Since we were in the vicinity of his
    other events, I, the president of the Burbank Teachers Association, was called and
    I decided to reschedule our Representative Council from our small office to
    Bret Harte Elementary to accommodate a larger group.  We hosted his visit with elected representatives of
    teachers, counselors, speech pathologists, librarians and nurses from every
    site in Burbank as well as all of the teachers from Bret Harte.  

     

    Since we moved our meeting to a school site, the
    administration was called and arranged their meeting with the
    governor, which was approximately 20 minutes prior to ours.

     

    Our close proximity to the airport was a factor, however, why
    the location is relevant is lost on me. Why must the governor spend more hours
    in traffic to hear the same issues? 
    Why should the importance of our voices be minimized because we are in a
    convenient location?  Which school
    district should the governor have chosen?

     

    Our issues are common statewide, we waste too much time on
    multiple-choice standardized tests, public schools need more funding for
    resources and lower class sizes make a big difference, to name a few.  The governor listened, asked questions
    and clarified situations so he could have a better understanding of the
    ramifications of the decisions that have been made by previous leaders who
    never held these types of conversations. 

     

    The meeting went longer than planned.  It was almost an hour and half with no
    administrators or press in the room and the governor had to be pressured to put
    it to an end.  It was clear that he
    listened because he described the conversation in the press conference immediately
    following the meeting and provided quotes from our members and our testing
    schedule as evidence of wasted class time, which is pictured in Ross Benson’s
    article of the event here in BurbankNBeyond.

     

    Of course, we already agree with the governor on many issues
    but not all.  We campaigned
    vigorously for his election because we knew he would be a governor who would
    listen to teachers and we were certain that his opponent would not.  The teachers of Burbank, now have had
    the opportunity to speak directly to the man who holds the highest office in
    the state and gave him ammunition to fight for our students. 

     

    Our schools are hurting and are on the brink of
    collapse.  Anyone who offers to
    shed light on our situation in hopes of improvement is welcome in Burbank. 

     

    Sincerely,

     

    Lori Adams

    Burbank resident and President of the Burbank Teachers
    Association

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