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(L-R) StudentsFirst California State Director Jovan Agee (Moderator), STAND UP for Great Schools Executive Director Josiah Young, Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Alice Perez and concerned parent Dr. Leah Johnson discuss the state of education in California and ideas for improving outcomes for all students. 

(L-R) StudentsFirst California State Director Jovan Agee (Moderator), STAND UP for Great Schools Executive Director Josiah Young, Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Alice Perez and concerned parent Dr. Leah Johnson discuss the state of education in California and ideas for improving outcomes for all students.

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 Over 100 community members, including parents, representatives from the faith-based community, and local and state officials gathered for the first Community Empowerment Townhall: “Are Our Kids Learning?” The event, co-hosted by StudentsFirst California, Showers of Blessings, COGIC, STAND UP for Great Schools, and Teach For America, provided an opportunity for the community to engage in a dialogue on education in California and take positive steps toward improving outcomes for all students.

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“We know that every child – regardless of their zip code – deserves a high quality education that prepares them for their future. Our communities of color are experiencing the consequences of the crisis in education firsthand,” said Jovan Agee, California State Director for StudentsFirst.

“We must do more to engage and empower our local leaders, parents and communities to address this crisis and implement real reforms that have a lasting and positive effect on our kids.”

ment gaps persist across the country, and efforts to improve education aren’t moving quickly enough in most cases. In the United States, four out of five African-American fourth graders are reading below grade level—and a vast majority never catch up. An African-American student is twice as likely to drop out of high school as a white student. Data show that the same high school dropout will make $300,000 less than a high school graduate and $1,500,000 less than a college graduate over his or her lifetime.

In opening remarks, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson reinforced his commitment to student achievement, stating that, “As Mayor, I want to ensure that every child in this city has access to excellent schools. Too many children in our communities of color are falling behind because the education system is failing them. Our future depends on real solutions and an education system that supports and encourages all students to reach their full potential in the classroom.”In the last eight years, African-American 8th grade reading proficiency only increased two points, meaning that it will be 260 years before even 80 percent of our 8th graders are reading as well as they should. Smart policy changes that empower parents, faith leaders and community leaders are needed to improve schools in every zip code and help all students succeed.

“There is no greater priority in our community than making sure our kids get the high quality education they deserve,” said Dr. Darnell Thomas, Pastor of the Showers of Blessings, COGIC. “By working with community leaders and parents, we can rebuild our education system and prepare all kids from all backgrounds for success.”

Enacting common-sense laws that empower parents and provide families with high-quality school choices will be a major focus of StudentsFirst California and its 250,000 members in 2014. To learn more about StudentsFirst California visit: www.studentsfirst.org/california.

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