Results from L.A. Youth’s political poll

By Andrea Kim, 15, King Drew HS
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When I walk into my geometry class, I see rowdy kids all over the place, not in their seats, not listening to the teacher, not ready to learn geometry.

The class is just too overcrowded and the teacher cannot handle so many students. There are more than 30 packed in one room and only one teacher. We barely finish reviewing our five warm-up problems during the class period. Our teacher has to spend most of the time taking attendance, settling the class down and collecting and passing out papers. Several students keep their patience and listen to his lecture. But what happens to the rest of the class when it’s time to take a quiz?

Because there are so many students, those of us with questions don’t have time to ask them after the lecture. There just isn’t enough time to get around to each student. When this happens, students go home confused about what they were supposed to have learned. Class discussions are difficult if the class gets out of control. When we really start to get in depth with the material and I really start to get excited about learning something, the bell rings.

We wanted a new law

That’s why my classmates and I have been working hard to make our classes less crowded. This year I took a Government Lab class, and our first project was to form a state proposition. A proposition is an idea that is presented to the people of the state. If the majority of the people vote on it, it becomes a law.

We decided to focus on providing equal privileges and advantages for students in the classroom. To do that, we proposed to limit classroom size to a ratio of 20:1 at least for the core academic subjects. Our class feels that with more teachers, students will get more individualized attention and perform better in class and on standardized tests.

But don’t underestimate the process it takes just to begin one proposition. It takes more than one person or even a group to change state law.

In order to get the initiative written by the legislative counsel (the state body that reviews new propositions), we needed to write a letter and get it signed by 25 registered voters. This took about a week. First we passed around the letter to the teachers at our school. I was surprised to see the reaction we got— they practically ignored us. They just wanted to get on with their class agenda. Most of the teachers showed no interest in the idea and gave no support.

But we managed to find enough teachers to sign, and our teacher submitted the initiative to the Attorney General along with the $200 fee. They took our proposal and summarized it in legal language for the legislative counsel. The proposition was now written!

Next it had to be okayed and analyzed during a process called fiscal analysis. They estimated that it would cost from $700 million to $1 billion to operate this program. While everything was being reviewed, it cost the state hundreds of working hours and tens of thousands of dollars.

If the program is approved, money will be provided to participating schools to hire more teachers and maybe even expand the school size for more classrooms. With the state’s population growing rapidly, there will be a boost in hiring teachers for the next several years. But before our initiative becomes an official proposition, we need to get 600,000 signatures of individuals who agree with our initiative. Originally, 419,000 signatures were required, but because not all of them are going to be registered voters, we need 600,000 to be safe. Imagine getting over 600,000 signatures! We need to raise money and get sponsors to hire professional signature gatherers. It will cost about a dollar a signature.

It took us a long time and a lot of meetings, researching, phone calls and writing letters and proposals to get where we are now. We feel grateful that even as kids, we can be heard as long as we work hard and never give up. We never thought they would actually take us seriously, but they did and that motivated us to pursue this proposition. Maybe you’ll see it on this November ballot!