Claremont’s State Senator Encourages PZ Students to Get Politically Involved

State Senator Anthony Portantino shares his views with students on his faith in state government during his discussion in Skandera Hall for Pitzer’s “Mindful of the Future” speaker series. (Zeke Wapner • The Student Life)

Twenty years ago, Anthony Portantino read in his local paper that his hometown's next elections would not be held because no one was running. 

“Next time there’s an election, I’m going to run just so we have an election,” Portantino recalled thinking.

Portantino ran for city council the following year and lost by just two votes. But after a successful city council bid the next year, Portantino was elected first to the state assembly and then to the state senate.

Portantino, now Sen. Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), visited Pitzer College on Oct. 27 as part of the Pitzer Student Senate's Mindful of the Future series. About eight people attended.

Portantino, who represents Claremont in the California State Senate, started the event by explaining how he got involved with politics.

“One of the reasons I work so hard now is that I truly understand that every vote matters,” he said.

Portantino is passionate about creating legislation to enforce a late start for California public schools. His goal is for schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. because he said extensive research has shown that later starts to improve many aspects of the academic lives and health of high school students, including test scores, attendance, and sports participation. Portantino said there is no evidence that later starts in high schools would be costly. 

He created a bill that called for later starts in schools, which passed in the state senate but received pushback in the assembly. Portantino has also received criticism from school districts who don’t want late start to be implemented.

“My biggest frustration on this issue is people who are putting adult concerns over the interests of the kids,” he said.

Portantino said he does “a little bit of everything” and told TSL he's also invested in environmental issues. He believes there needs to be nonpartisan discussion before any change can be enacted.

“There used to be discourse about what’s in the best interest of our society and it wasn’t partisan,” he said. “Now climate change has become a litmus test. … It’s become partisan.”

If students are interested in politics, Portantino said, they should pursue their passion. “Don’t be afraid to start small,” he said.

He advised students to think bold.

“Roll up your sleeves and get involved in a campaign, a cause, a public policy area you care about,” Portantino said. “This is the time to do it.”

Some of Portantino’s work has directly impacted the 5Cs. For instance, the senator opposed a recent proposal to cut Cal Grants for private schools. Instead, Cal Grants were raised by $2,000 this fiscal year.

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