The EdSource 2012 symposium, in collaboration with the California State PTA, brought together educators, parents, policy makers, and researchers last week at the Anaheim Convention Center to discuss the impact of California’s budget deficit on schools and children. The discussion centered around the theme “Striving for Success in a Time of Crisis.”

California Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor opened up the discussion with an overview of the state's budget deficit: it’s bad, it’s going to get worse, but there’s hope. According to Taylor, it usually takes two to five years to recover from a recession. In this case, it will take California more than five years to recover. Why? The answer lies in that the state relies on temporary solutions that only prolong California’s recovery. For the upcoming year, the projected budget deficit is estimated at over $15 billion.

What does this mean for children’s success in school? Three panelists addressed this question based on their studies. The research of Ashlyn Nelson, Assistant Professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University-Bloomington, shows that mobility caused by the housing crisis has negative consequences for school children. Kids going through foreclosure, for example, are more likely to be absent or expelled from school.

Russell Rumberger, Professor of Education at UC Santa Barbara, added to these findings. According to Rumberger, mobility is also a form of instability for an entire community because when people are forced to move, it creates overcrowding which leads to changes in school boundaries.

John Rogers, Associate Professor at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education, also added to the discussion. Roger’s research shows that the recession has also created shrinking opportunities in California’s public schools. Today, half as many schools are providing summer school. Schools have also cut instructional time, which means less teacher time and attention for kids, less time to improve instruction, and less time to address growing social welfare needs.

The symposium ended with a panel of representatives from nonprofit organizations and school districts that added their view to the current school-community landscape and offered suggestions on what schools, families, and communities can do to help one another. I had the opportunity to represent my Central Valley community and be part of this discussion as a panelist. I spoke about how the Arvin High School guidance counseling program in the Central Valley has reorganized as a group to help their large student population.

As a recent college graduate from a low income, minority, and first generation student background, I was able to relate to the findings from the researchers.

Growing up in Kern County, the importance of an education is not part of the daily discourse. Kern County has some of the highest expulsion, suspension, and dropout rates in the state. Unfortunately, the kids most affected by the recession are low income and the crisis makes it even more difficult to keep them in school.

When asked by Louis Freedberg, Executive Director for EdSource, on my thoughts as the only youth sitting on the panel, I responded, “I do have hope” for California despite the crisis we are facing. Especially when there are many youth and community members that work toward making a big difference in student’s lives. I know many college students that take up part time jobs as tutors and advisors for students. I also know community members that volunteer their time to mentor disadvantaged youth. It is people like them who help counter the negative effects that the crisis has created in our schools and children.

Stephanie Espinoza is a fellow with New America Media's Youth Education Fellowship. The fellowship is a six-month long program for youth reporters aged 16-24 on education reporting. It is sponsored by the California Education Policy Fund.