Voicing Concerns at Capitol Convoy

Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District students, educators and administrators took business into their own hands through the annual Capitol Convoy trip from March 19 to 20. Participants traveled to advocate for assembly members and state senators to co-sponsor or support Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi’s bill, AB 39, which would increase K-12 education spending by $35 billion.

On the trip 15 PVHS students, 14 Peninsula students and one student from Rancho del Mar, collaborated together in advocacy groups representing all K-12 schools in the district.

For Lobbying Chair and Council Representative Assistant Dr. Jasminka Criley, Capitol Convoy was the manifestation of her and many other’s efforts.

“This year, I was more involved in the effort to organize Capitol Convoy, and worked … to coordinate how we would select students, how we would arrive at a coherent set of advocacy points, and how we would prepare students, parents, teachers, and administrators in meetings before we got on the plane,” Criley said.

Preparation leading up to the trip was thorough, with training and lectures scheduled in the weeks prior along with students doing additional research. School district administrators and PTA legislative representatives touched on topics ranging from how schools are funded in California, what determines the amount of funding that school districts receive and how legislation operates at the state level.

“A lot of teachers talked about class size,” junior Anton Lok said of the things they discussed with legislators. “Just like us, having more kids in the class puts more stress on them.”

Students arrived for a jam-packed two days of advocacy meetings with the legislative office such as Senator Ben Allen and Assemblymember Muratsuchi. For Criley, the biggest change from previous years of Capitol Convoy was the involvement of PVPUSD Superintendent, Dr. Alex Cherniss.

“In great contrast, Dr. Cherniss was there right from the start, when we were meeting together with students and parents, to prepare them for the kinds of questions they would encounter when visiting Sacramento,” Criley said.

The significance of making the trip to the state capitol was not lost on both PVPUSD participants and those who worked in Sacramento. Arielle Ayala, a Legislative Fellow for Assemblymember Marc Berman, was an English teacher who made her experience as an asset when it came to creating policy for her students and others across California.

“Understanding what a 15 [or] 16-year-old in this country is faced with every single day… are the experiences that I use in my position now to uplift [my students’] voices because they aren’t here with me now,” Ayala said.