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Palo Alto teachers show that grassroots politics can work

Monday, November 08, 2010

San Jose Mercury News

Columnist Patty Fisher wrote about the two teachers who inspired Sen. Joe Simitian’s bill to raise the age at which children start kindergarten.

We hear a lot about gridlock in Sacramento. We hear that only powerful special interests and highly paid lobbyists have the clout to push legislation through the Capitol maze.

And then every once in a while, we hear about people like Natalie Bivas and Diana Argenti, two Palo Alto elementary school teachers who saw a problem that had baffled the Legislature for two decades, came up with a solution, defied powerful special interests and got a bill passed to fix the problem in just a few months.

Teachers have been complaining for years about California’s Dec. 2 cutoff, one of the latest in the country. But instead of just complaining, Bivas and Argenti wrote letters to elementary school teachers all over the Palo Alto district seeking support to change the cutoff. Armed with signatures from every single teacher, they paid a call to state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto.

What happened next amazed everyone. The bill passed on the last night of the session, with just a few minutes to spare.

View the full story (San Jose Mercury News )