Public Education at our Schools Once Again Stands to Lose from Budget Woes Next Year

(Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 64)

Governments have established virus task-forces, and job task-forces. Where’s the education task-force?

– Austin Beutner

In his address to families and educators this past Monday, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner noted the toll on public education posed by Governor Newsom’s proposed budget for the following year, which is said to contain nearly $7 billion in cuts to public schools in California following an estimated $54 billion loss in the state’s income and sales taxes due to these last two months of shutdown.

While the governor originally forecast almost $19 billion in losses for education over the next two years, he is now looking to direct nearly $4 billion from the federal Stimulus bill passed in late March to make up for learning loss during the crisis, which is particularly important for special education students, as well as for districts with large concentrations of low-income families such as LAUSD, where more than 80% of families are living at or below the poverty line.

The governor is also looking to offset the state’s revenue losses by reducing a number of increases in pension payments scheduled for 2020 – 2021 before the crisis, which can save up to $1 billion, as well as issuing up to $2 billion in deferrals or IOUs for 2020 – 2021, meaning that districts can count on being paid back for the money, though at an unspecified date.

These adjustments from the governor’s office account commit up to $7 billion for K-12 schools and community colleges in California despite the crisis, but still fall well short of rescuing the public education system.

The biggest cut would be in the local funding control formula by about 10% under the proposed budget, translating into a $6.5 billion dollar loss for public schools, and forcing districts to pick and choose between prioritizing instruction for English learners, unhoused students, students in the foster care system, and the many more low-income students enrolled on their sheets.

The reduced budget can also entail a shortened school year, more furlough days for teachers and staff, larger class sizes, and a hiring freeze for new teachers.

According to John Gray, president of the School Services of California consulting group, the last possibility of losing new teachers due to budget cuts, whom were already in short supply following the great recession, will lead to a repetition of this history in the years ahead:

Last time, we went up and down the state and dismantled public education piece by piece. We lost 40,000 teachers and they never came back because the recession lasted so long. They left the profession. [If this next round of cuts come to pass] yet again we’re going to just disillusion thousands and thousands of teachers.

In his own remarks, Beutner noted that such cuts could prove catastrophic to the hundreds of thousands of families like those at LAUSD, whose children’s dependence on schools should demand more support from the state’s resources, not less. In his view, failing to support students with the additional resources they need during this time and in the days ahead can prove just as damaging for their future as the coronavirus, yet the issue isn’t being treated with the urgency it demands.

Is it because the harm is silent and unseen, unlike the image of overrun hospitals? Is it because children don’t have a voice, or is it because so many of the families we serve are living in poverty and don’t have access to the corridors of power in Sacramento, and Washington D.C.?

This makes it critical for more families and advocates to stand for this public good, for how its loss can alter the course of too many lives for the foreseeable future. Or, as one mother said of what parents can learn to better support their families going forward:

Mainly we need to learn how to use a computer to support our children, and not stress ourselves out. We also need to have more patience because our teenagers are a little more stressed [right now].

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 52

The Department of Labor recently reported the unemployment rate as rising to 14.7% during the month of April. Of a population of about 330 million people in the U.S., that’s at least 48 million citizens out of work over these last few weeks.

The numbers suggest long and difficult days ahead for people from literally all walks of life; whether white, black, gay or heterosexual, christian or muslim, immigrant or citizen, or younger or older, effectively everyone and their mom has been affected by a disaster which few of us could have anticipated only two months ago, when reports of the coronavirus began to break news.

If we were preparing for the future, as in, for the 21st century still ahead, I am certain there is much we could achieve with 48 million Americans–and more who will accrue–in need of a new safety net, pastime and direction.

A brief glance at the past during similar turning points for the American project can provide readers some clarity about the present moment. Here are just three quotes from other extraordinary times when the goal was still to look forward:

In 1932, when at the height of the great depression a quarter of Americans were unemployed, Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of getting ‘back to work’ with a renewed purpose:

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits.”

In 1961, during the throes of the Cold War, or the fight against liberty-bashing ‘communism’, John F. Kennedy spoke of fighting alongside people all over the world against ills affecting all nations:

Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out…a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

In 1965, one week after Alabama state troopers attacked Martin Luther King jr and a group of protesters in Selma, Alabama, for marching for the right to vote, in a joint-session to Congress, Lyndon B. Johnson reflected on the great power suddenly placed into his hands, and how his memories as a “small-time” college teacher in Texas guided his decision over how to apply that power:

My first job after college was as a teacher in Cotulla, Tex., in a small Mexican-American school. Few of them could speak English, and I couldn’t speak much Spanish. My students were poor and they often came to class without breakfast, hungry. They knew even in their youth the pain of prejudice. They never seemed to know why people disliked them. But they knew it was so, because I saw it in their eyes. I often walked home late in the afternoon, after the classes were finished, wishing there was more that I could do. But all I knew was to teach them the little that I knew, hoping that it might help them against the hardships that lay ahead. Somehow you never forget what poverty and hatred can do when you see its scars on the hopeful face of a young child.

I never thought then, in 1928, that I would be standing here in 1965. It never even occurred to me in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help the sons and daughters of those students and to help people like them all over this country. But now I do have that chance—and I’ll let you in on a secret—I mean to use it.”

These words may be from a different time, but on closer inspection, they don’t feel radically removed from our own. In the days ahead, we will continue documenting and sharing to inform and uplift Los Angeles.

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 41

I want to take a moment through this series to recognize the myriad of teachers, professors, and other educators in Los Angeles whose herculean efforts to continue providing instruction to the many students relying on them are a clear show of the profound work they take part in on a daily basis during circumstances of all kind.

Only yesterday, I spoke briefly with an instructor who informed me that they “have no weekends,” as they do the work of lecturing, advising, and grading for three different classes with more than two dozen learners in each class all by themselves.

I marveled at the heroism in the professor’s voice, unbeknownst even to them as they told me of their troubles. Then I remembered a line by another professor, one of my favorites, from many years ago:

“Being a professor, is just like being in college for the rest of your life.”

Of course, it made perfect sense when she said it. And I can still remember thinking to myself, I can do that too.

So guess who’s looking at a credentialing program this morning. Our teachers need help! Let’s assure them more support is on the way.

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 38

I am driven by the challenge to not only survive, but to thrive all across Los Angeles, even during this most unusual time. The fact of the matter is that I love challenging myself, taking on one task after another, and finding out just how I’ll get through.

I know I’m doing it all for a story, or for a cuento, which I will get to share with many generations for many days to come. To that end, it’s my great pleasure to announce that I’ve officially received my Certificate of Clearance from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

In the long term, the certificate allows me to pursue a teaching credential to become an official teacher in the state of California sometime within the next five years. In the shorter term, it assures that once the students get back to school later this year, I’ll be available to support their community on stand-by as a Substitute teacher.

It boggles my mind to think that I could actually do this. For the longest time, even while I believed that education was a world I was destined to be a part of, I struggled to find exactly what my role in it could be. This was due to a number of factors, including many jobs lost, many other jobs gained, and at some point as a result the notion that perhaps I had very little to offer my community after all.

But like the magical screen-printer from Compton whose talent allows me to pursue another dream for myself through Los Angeles, it’s true that at the end of the day, every human being has something totally unique and valuable to offer the world.

In turn, whether I am a substitute or a fully-certified teacher for students in Los Angeles and across California, what I can be certain of is this: I will give it my all to make our time an extraordinary one.

J.T.

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Pandemic in Los Angeles: Day 19

The question of how to continue educating and organizing for communities during this public health crisis is burrowed in my mind, and I am moving forward with more vision. Today, I am announcing the launch of an official website for Who Is Your Neighborhood/Quien Es Tu Vecindario in East Hollywood, Los Angeles, primarily written in Spanish, which will serve as a tool and resource guide for las familias in the neighborhood to learn about grassroots efforts to support our community during the pandemic.

The fact of the matter is that before the coronavirus swarmed over each walk of life, JIMBO TIMES was only getting started with bringing together the vecindad; two consecutive Back to School Parties and two Open Mic Nights for youth and families in East Hollywood were just the beginning. This year, before the shuttering of L.A.’s schools and libraries, there was already a 3rd Open Mic Night scheduled at local Cahuenga Public Library for this April 9th, replete with another flyer by The Think Farm. That event is of course now cancelled, and it’s a question as to whether there can be a 3rd annual Back to School Party this August 2020, but I do know this: there is no need to wait until summer to rise once again for the uplifting of our communities.

Indeed, there is already a community at work each day with or without any organization making a formal commitment to it. There are neighbors speaking with their neighbors, daughters dialing their mamas, friends texting, emailing, and face-timing each other, bloggers passing on the latest to subscribers, and more.

Even so, I know it’s not easy for many of the humble gente still carrying this wondrous city on their backs while quartered at home, whose kids rely on school meals, and whose work relies on the good will of many they’ve now lost touch with; people who don’t quite have the time to read the L.A. Times reports–even if they’re en Español–and whom also therefore still have much to learn to get through these times still better prepared for the future rather than not.

For these reasons, the new site will seek simply to build upon what their voices and manos have already taught this blogger (or is it blogero): to be honest with our intentions, graceful in our learning, and ever ambitious in our will to go the distance no matter the depth of the road.

We can do this, Los Angeles. Or is it, si se puede!

J.T.

JIMBO TIMES Salutes LACCD Students Going Back To School This Week

Notwithstanding this most difficult time in our country and around the world, I’ve been fortunate to not only be able to continue with the favorite pastime of my blog, but to do more with it than ever before. When I think about others like myself who are also finding their way through these times, I am grateful for one pillar of support nearby: the community college.

This week, community college students in L.A. were called back to classes–through distance learning–by their chancellors, presidents and counselors. JIMBO TIMES salutes this return to learning, and wants to encourage all students to give this Spring 2020 semester more than a shot, but every effort they’ve got in their queue.

For me personally, it was at community college where, more than anything, I gave myself an opportunity to pursue my skills and interests in writing and storytelling at precisely the time when a world of professionals were ready to support me in that pursuit. They were the professionals daily present at my CC.

Over ten years since I enrolled in my first ever college class at ‘CC’, I now use the voice I learned to harness there daily as a young professional for people in my community all across Los Angeles.

Now, I know this: going to community college is about more than educating yourself. It’s about preparing to serve the needs of your community for the next ten years. And if there’s one thing this public health crisis makes certain, it’s that the next ten years in L.A. will absolutely need professionals from its communities to step up.

To every student (and professor and counselor and president and staff) this week and in the weeks ahead who choose to continue their work for our communities’ education despite these most recent challenges for our communities: you are taking more than one step for yourselves, you are taking a great leap for learners everywhere for generations to come.

It’s an investment of leaps and bounds. Let’s make every second count!

J.T.

EPISODE 11 – KAIROS CHURCH

In our 11th episode, we sit down with Gregory Larson, local instructor at Los Angeles City College, pastor at Kairos Community Church and avid advocate for East Hollywood. We discuss everything from our cultural isolation while growing up to the socioeconomic environment surrounding LACC, as well as our meeting for the first time at East Hollywood’s first Back 2 School party. Learn about Kairos church at their instagram: @kairoshollywood.

J.T.

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J.T.

How LAUSD’s Teacher Problem is a Moment of Truth for Progressive Future of California

Protestor on Soto Street and Whittier Boulevard; PC: Namekian Blast
Protestor on Soto Street and Whittier Boulevard; P.C: Namekian Blast

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” – MLK Jr.

I: Standing with Our Teachers

This week national attention will continue following the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) over the bevy of tensions with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) called out in their five-day work stoppage at over a thousand K-12 public schools in the union’s first strike after nearly thirty years.

Demonstrations led by the union throughout the past five days have enjoyed broad support from parents, fellow union workers, and much of the public at large, but their most lasting effect will be the framing of UTLA’s struggle with LAUSD as a matter of ‘the soul of education.’ I would like to consider with readers the essence of education in Los Angeles by posing the following questions:

How is it that the second largest city in the United States, which is renowned globally for its film culture, sports teams, university and star-power, is unable to successfully matriculate less than half a million kids in Los Angeles each year? By extension, how is it that the state of California, known as the fifth largest economy in the world for a gross domestic product of over $2.7 trillion as of 2018, spends just a pinch above $10,000 per student at LAUSD and similar school districts under its governance?

A stroll down the public memory lane of California’s politics can tell us quite about how we arrived to this juncture.

II: Prop 13’s Legacy on Public Education

The year was 1978, and according to state department info, California was just over half of its current size at an estimate of 22 million people within its jurisdiction.

California was also a far whiter place to be, with just over 70% of the state’s population identifying as Caucasian. Latinos in the state made up just over 18% of the population, while Black, Asian and Native Americans each made up less than ten percent of the pie.

Public data also show that in 1978, about 55% of California’s 22 million residents were homeowners. As of the fourth quarter of 2017, of the roughly 40 million people in California today, the percentage of homeownership is actually the same, with 55% of the state’s current residents being homeowners. The rate alone says much about the power dynamics held in the state over the last forty years, but we will look at it later.

For now, all we need to know is that it’s amid these circumstances in 1978 that along came a figure by the name of Howard Jarvis, a businessman and Republican who described himself as “mad as hell” at property tax rates in California. Across a barrage of television ads and interviews in support of the proposition, Jarvis rallied about “a revolution” in California tax laws.

Prop 13 was that revolution, drafted to reduce the amount of property taxes that the state would be allowed to collect from homeowners and ‘commercial property’ owners or corporations by almost 60%.

Proponents of Prop 13 argued that it was a tax relief meant to disentangle home and property owners from unfair tax burdens each year, while opponents countered that the initiative would cripple public goods such as schools, parks, libraries, public transportation and other tax-funded goods.

On June 6th, 1978, despite repeated warnings from then-governor Brown and other civic leaders regarding Prop 13’s effect on the public sector, California home and property owners overwhelmingly passed the bill with nearly 65% of the tally.

As a result, over $7 billion worth of public revenue was taken right out of the budget for the following fiscal year. Needless to say, summer school for 1978, among other programs, was immediately taken off the schedule following the bill’s passage.

If a similar tax reduction were passed in say, June 2020, it would be the equivalent of $27 billion out of the budget, or over a seventh of the $209 billion budget proposed by incoming Governor Newsom earlier this year, which allocates nearly $81 billion towards funding for public education in California.

$27 billion taken out of public education in the 2020-2021 year would wipe out funding for over a third of California’s schools, immediately leaving nearly 2.5 million students with no access to a basic education as mandated under U.S. law.

But the most noteworthy effect of Prop 13 is its hold on taxes in 2019. For example, today a Californian who bought their property in say, 1980, pays the same property tax for their home or commercial space that they paid in 1980.

They can then lease out that space to a Walgreen’s or Starbucks–and again–due to Prop 13, pay the same taxes on the property as they did when Jimmy Carter was president. While this has been good for that owner–saving them tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of dollars a year–what they avoid in taxes is money that never goes to support local schools, libraries, public transportation, and other public goods the surrounding population depends on.

Or, as Jennifer Bestor puts it in one interview regarding Prop 13’s tax rate for a certain commercial property in her neighborhood:

“We’ve got about 15,000 square feet of space. And it’s only paying $9,337 a year in property tax. I’m not an assessor but I would expect to pay about $75,000 or more a year in property taxes. Essentially, they’re getting a $65,000 free ride…that’s six and a half kids who could be educated for the amount of money that they’re escaping.”

Prop 13 has set the tone in California for more than forty years since passage. But the property taxes saved for home and business-owners are a major part of how the fifth largest economy in the world ranks 41st in the States on per pupil spending. Now, UTLA teachers beg the question of just how much Californians values a universal education. Although it’s not an outright contest of public education versus private property, Prop 13 makes the two issues inextricably tied.

III: Charter-School Growth

Currently, LAUSD is reported to hold over $2 billion in its surplus or reserves, which the superintendent and several LAUSD board representatives insist are meant to keep the district from bankruptcy over the next three years, particularly due to a growing pension deficit. Nevertheless, UTLA is demanding of the district a significant reduction in class sizes, more resources to schools such as full-time nurses, counselors and librarians, and last but certainly not least: a cap on the growth of charter-schools, which are publicly funded but privately managed schools that “compete with” LAUSD schools for funding.

It’s a significantly different set of demands than those of the last work stoppage by the union, when in the Spring of 1989 UTLA walked out on LAUSD under the leadership of organizer Wayne Johnson. In a recent interview conducted by the L.A. Times with the union’s old organizer, Johnson commented on the difference between his union’s strike and current struggle between UTLA and the district:

“‘UTLA keeps saying it’s not about the money. With us, it was almost 90% about the money.’”

What Johnson means is that most of the tensions between his union and the district centered on wages. But one can argue that it’s still about the money, although this time in terms of LAUSD’s expenditures over the course of the next ten to twenty years. Simply put:

Under the current trend of charter-school growth in Los Angeles, which tend to be non-unionized, contracted-out or ‘freelanced’ schools, LAUSD stands to see a significant reduction in costs for running schools over the long-term. This is because a school that offers no retirement benefits or health-care coverage is far cheaper to run than a school that’s consigned to exactly those benefits.

Supposed proponents of charter schools, like the Washington Post editorial board, argue that charter schools offer “options” to low-income students like those of Los Angeles. But this is an obfuscation of the facts. While it’s true that charter schools offer an alternative for parents to LAUSD’s often outdated and overly bureaucratized system, it’s also true that charter schools are sporadically based, stripped down versions of public schools that operate like different islands to each other.

That is, there is virtually no connection between one independently run charter school and another. This means that in the case a certain charter school fails to meet the needs of a certain student, parents are left with “options” for other charter schools that could function completely differently from their first choice, and which may be similarly under-equipped to meet the needs of their child, or even less so. For the Post to argue that this amounts to “options” then, is hollow and misleading. No wonder it’s owned by Amazon.

Moreover, the argument that charter schools merely “create options” ignores the fact that privately run schools funded by public tax dollars are fundamentally a challenge to the traditional model of public education as a profession for teachers and “a right” for students and their families. There is also thus far no convincing study proving that charter schools in Los Angeles are “on average” better than traditional public schools for matriculating students and their families.

Still, should charter schools bear the total brunt of the UTLA’s ire? One can see why the union would press for more regulation of charters for fear of job security, but are the schools in fact the existential crisis they’re often made out to be?

The fact is that LAUSD’s pro-charter board representatives have thus far refused to draw a line in the sand to relieve the teachers union of their concerns with respect to the growing privatization of the district’s finances through charter-school growth. Now, UTLA has pushed the issue by bringing a national spotlight to the discussion, and whatever extra leg of support Sacramento provides LAUSD as a result of extra public pressure will be by and large thanks to the union’s mobilization.

After all, if Jarvis’s “tax revolt” of 1978 showed us anything, it’s that there’s nothing like a good ole push for ‘revolution’ to stir things up with the status quo, in this case LAUSD and Sacramento’s under-funding of the public good.

Of course, Prop 13’s legacy would ultimately prove to work merely for one sector of the electorate, with consequences for future home and property owners alike. And as Wayne Johnson himself would concede, the gains made by his teacher’s union were largely gains to the benefit of just the teacher’s union. A subsequent set of questions thus emerge:

Exactly what are negotiations between UTLA and LAUSD supposed to accomplish? That is, will the gains be solely for the union to claim as it’s been in previous struggles, or are students, parents and other members of the community in fact a part of the ‘soul of education’, and thus a part of the solution going forward?

IV: The future of Los Angeles and Other Major Cities

Information regarding the costs of the failure to adequately educate young people has long been publicly available. A study released in 2006 points out the financial losses that accrue for the state following the dropout of a single high school student. Similarly, J.T. has noted that as recently as 2008, the graduation rate at LAUSD was only 48%.

In 2019, while the district is closer to an 80% graduation rate, the fact is that the vast majority of its graduating classes are not college-ready and thus less likely to obtain four-year degrees in the six years following the receipt of their high school diplomas.

Simultaneously, today there exist endless studies documenting the disparity between how much California spends on the imprisonment of its population versus what it spends on educating that same population; by extension, the ‘school-to-prison-pipeline’ is a far better known phrase to the electorate than it was just ten years ago.

It’s therefore clear to enough of California’s electorate that there’s a problem with these and other disproportions in the state’s spending, except that since time immemorial there’s been an economy to pay attention to: rent, taxes, gas prices, Twitter and Facebook, and on.

This is not to look over the steps that voters in California have taken over the last decade to reinvest in the public interest, however:

In 2012, Californians passed Prop 30, which temporarily increased sales taxes and raised income taxes on the wealthiest to support “emergency funding” for the state’s school system.

In 2016 and 2017, Los Angeles voters passed Measure M and Measure H, respectively. Measure M increased sales taxes in the county to develop more public transportation in the city, while Measure H increased sales taxes to develop services for L.A.’s homeless population.

In 2018, California fended off Proposition 6, sold as a “gas tax repeal” that sought to reverse a voter-approved tax increase to repair roads and infrastructure throughout the state.

But problems remain looming. 2018 in California was also a year in which rent-control advocates were soundly defeated at the ballot box when nearly 60% of voters rejected Proposition 10, which sought merely to give cities authority to enact local rent-control ordinances in response to California’s growing housing crisis.

This is of concern because as it should be clear by now, the issues of housing and the right to property are fundamentally related to the issue of public education in California. In an analysis of another challenge facing the district over the next few years, that of diminishing enrollment, writer Christopher Weber points out:

“The downward trend in enrollment is due to skyrocketing housing costs that keep families with school-age kids out of the city and the growth of charters — privately operated public schools that compete for students and the funds they bring in.”

Consider one more facet of this political battleground in the Golden State. At nearly 40% of the state’s demographics, today Latinos make up the largest ethnic group in California. Whites, meanwhile, at 37% of the state population continue to shrink in numbers. What’s also true, however, is that the vast majority of Latinos in California are not home or commercial property owners. Many of them utilize public transportation, play soccer at public parks, and check out books and movies at the state’s public libraries. It comes as no surprise to anyone, then, that nearly 75% of the students at LAUSD today are Latinos.

Thus, in 2019, demographically speaking, it’s no longer Jarvis’s California. But structurally, the system he and his contemporaries left behind still holds, creating our present dilemmas with regards to the public sector. Except that if there was any doubt as to whether we’re ready to confront this past for the future of the state, the past week should make it clear: the conversation on justice through education is not going away any time soon; it’s here to stay.

Or, as one Mr. Razo, of Telfair Elementary in Pacoima, recently noted to the L.A. Times:

“We have so many entertainment companies and professional sports teams,” Razo said. “I went to a Rams-Packers game and the ticket was $350. What if just 10 cents from every sports ticket sold went to public education?

J.T.

This year: Thank you Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles; Spring 2018
Downtown Los Angeles; Spring 2018

In the flash of time that’s been this past year, I’ve been fortunate enough to take part in a handful of experiences that I couldn’t have anticipated at the beginning of 2018.

As early as April, for National Poetry month I got to team up with the Friends of Cahuenga for Cahuenga Library’s first-ever Open Mic Saturday.

Then, over the summer, I made the trek out to the states of El Salvador and Guatemala for the first time. After that, fluttering with a burst of energy from these two trips, I also managed to see Oaxaca, Mexico one more time, too.

On recovering from all the jet-lag, I beamed with inspiration from the various people and places I was able to meet through these adventures, and decided that good ole Los Angeles needed something special to show for the summer as well.

Enter the Back to School Party at El Gran Burrito this past August.

“BTS” in “East Hollywood” was a very special day for the families which J.T.L.A. has been dedicated to over the past four years, and after consulting with the team, the consensus is clear: next year, we’re doing it again. One hundred percent.

Now, as the year winds down to the holiday season, I find myself in yet another privileged position as I get to oversee a very special project with a batch of L.A.’s middle school students in Los Angeles.

Over the past few weeks of getting to know the students, their stories have motivated me with a lightning force, and so I’ve thus decided to take a moment to recognize them as the most critical actors in the journey that is JIMBO TIMES: The L.A. Storyteller.

Connecting with a young person who may recognize ‘J.T.’ somewhere farther down the line in ten or fifteen years is a gift. We are fellow citizens, after all, and the better we can learn to co-exist now, the better we can co-exist tomorrow. In the same regard, I know that supporting each other in the present moment makes it all the more likely we can support each other in the future.

In what future? In the one of Los Angeles, that is.

For this reason, I walk into the latest L.A. school I get to be a part of with all of my heart and mind brimming for the students. Even if our meeting will fleet into a memory with the class hour before we know it, and even if we’ve got to part ways at the end of our time together, for me there’s truly no such thing as disconnecting.

There’s only putting a rain-check on our reunion, because like the very ideas nestled in between the textbook and the classrooms that belong to all of those who claim them, J.T. will remain at these schools too.

“Your mom always wanted to be a teacher.”

When my tio said that, I averted my gaze towards his figure, as if to determine whether the words could ring true or not. But the words just hung there, decorating the walls. Of course they were true. I don’t know how I could have missed it in twenty-seven years as my mother’s son, but now I don’t have to look back; I can look forward.

The future is ours. It’s whirling in the present moment now, as I’ve seen it affirmed that everything from this point forward is not just an opportunity for me, but also for Mama and all of our pueblo. From the pueblos of El Salvador, then, on through Oaxaca, and from the neighborhoods of Los Angeles, back to this place called J.T.L.A:

There is far more that happened this year in stories that will take far more time to tell, but for now we can say with utmost resolution,

Thank you for all of 2018 Los Angeles.

“You can’t eat cars.
[But] you can eat chocolate cars.
Yes. Write that down!”

J.T.