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Democrats Approve $200B Budget  That Sets Aside Money for Low-Achieving Students And More

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By Manny Otiko | California Black Media


The California Senate has approved an almost $200 billion budget which set asides money for several issues that progressive groups deem important such as   education, homelessness and transportation. The budget also approves $300 million for schools to boost the academic performance of underachieving students. This was an issue that black voters and legislators had lobbied for. However, it is a compromise with Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) who had requested ongoing funding for this project. The $300 million is a one-time funding allocation. "We cannot look the other way anymore. African-American kids in California persistently fall behind academically,” said Weber when she was lobbying for the funding.  "And this problem is not limited to low-income students either. Parents have been patiently waiting for something to change, but it has not. Providing additional resources for the lowest-performing students is now no longer an option, but a necessity.” Other takeaways from the budget include:


•K-14 education received $78.4 billion in Proposition 56 funding.

•Higher education also received a share of the budget. The University of California system received an additional $210 million, while the California State University System received an additional $260 million.

•$15.9 billion was set aside to protect against an economic downturn.

•$500 million has been allocated for emergency aid to deal with the homelessness crisis

•The budget allocated $5 billion in Proposition 1 transportation funds to repair and maintain highways.


State Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) was pleased with the areas the budget addressed. "With this budget, we continue our efforts to strengthen the state’s commitment to human infrastructure, with much needed additional resources for childcare, targeted resources for higher education and financial aid, additional funds for the courts and diversion and rehabilitative services, and significant ongoing increases to K-14 education,” she said.  In a Facebook post-Mitchell wrote, "Happiness is: (1) when the budget bill has your name on it (2) includes major investments for California’s children and (3) it's done!"


Assembly Budget Committee Member Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) criticized the budget, which was passed by a Democratic majority. She questioned if taxpayers were getting their money’s worth. "California has the highest poverty rate in the nation, is ranked lowest for quality of life out of all 50 states, and has become so unaffordable that one million more residents have left the state than have moved here in the last decade,” said Melendez. “At some point, you have to wonder what taxpayers have gotten for the money they send to government. It doesn't appear to be much.” She added the budget didn't address pressing issues such as rental costs and rising utility bills.

Merced County High School Students invited to apply for Scholarship-based Summer program in Yosemite & Sequoia

April 2018—Merced, CA – High school students from Merced County will have the opportunity to participate in a transformative outdoor and academic program in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks this summer.  The Adventure Risk Challenge (ARC) summer courses introduce students to the natural beauty of the Sierra Nevada, while challenging them academically, emotionally and physically. ARC selects 12 students for each of its courses: a 40-day course in Yosemite and a 25-day course in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.


During the summer courses, students explore the Parks’ iconic granite rock formations, cascading waterfalls and alpine lakes, while backpacking, rock climbing, rafting and more. Participants study language arts and environmental science, write poetry and personal essays, and learn to navigate in the backcountry using a topographical map. They return home having learned about stewardship, conservation and the importance of teamwork.


 “I learned to be an independent, problem-solving leader. I’ve become more independent by learning how to cook my own food, by doing chores that no one asked me to do, and by taking initiative in my education,” says Joel Duarte, a 2017 summer graduate from Dos Palos.  He adds, “I’ve become a leader by setting my goals high and not being afraid to push myself.”


 On the 2017 Sequoia course, students supported one another on 1,000-foot climbs while carrying heavy backpacks. They shared with one another their struggles at home and in school. They workshopped their poetry together, discussing their deepest hopes, fears and dreams. Giselle San Ramo, a Dos Palos High School student on the course, said the experience was “exhilarating.”  She wrote at the end of the course, “Coming to ARC has helped me realize many things about learning to trust people, while also being independent. I’ve learned that it’s okay to share some of the weight off of my shoulders.”


Teenagers like Duarte and San Ramo build their self-confidence and become better-equipped to achieve academic and personal goals on ARC courses. ARC’s intensive curriculum helps prepare students for the independence and academic rigor of college. Participants showed a 15 percent improvement on SAT English questions on a pre- and post-assessment last year.


 ARC’s Associate Director Will Fassett says the summer courses connect Merced youth to the outdoors. “Many young people in Merced don’t realize that Yosemite and Sequoia are world renown," he said. "This is an opportunity for local youth to have a multi-week adventure in these extraordinarily places.”


ARC’s courses are offered to students on a sliding scale based on family income, but many students pay less than $50 for their participation. First-generation students, English-language learners, and all students who are motivated to experience a challenging outdoor and academic adventure are encouraged to apply. The summer 2018 program is accepting applications now until April 13.


Visit to learn more about the program and download applications for the 2018 Summer Courses.


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