In a few weeks it will be 20 years since the Loma Prieta earthquake that rocked the Bay Area at 5:04 P.M. on Oct. 17, 1989. Tragically sixty-three people were killed on that fateful day, however the infrastructure damage done by the shaking has been repaired, even better than before. The Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco was hit hard by the quake, yet it is a prime example how beautiful things can arise to benefit all people when there is strong will paired with bold and visionary leadership. I hope it can be the same for public education, if not we should all be very, very worried about our collective future.
On Sept. 17, 2009 I was fortunate to attend Leadership California-Projections 2010 produced by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group with funding from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The seven subjects discussed in each of the panels during the five-hour seminar included: environment, energy, education, transportation, housing, health care, and taxation.
Four of five gubernatorial candidates were present and participated in one of the four topical panels: Steve Poizner, Jerry Brown, Tom Campbell, and Gavin Newsom. If not Meg Whitman then one of these four men will lead California after his/her swearing-in ceremony in November 2010.
We need a governor that understands the enormity of the educational crisis we are in, the achievement gap being one of the most critical problems to solve.
There were 17 panelists including the four gubernatorial candidates and five other speakers through the morning. Sadly, at least from my observation, there was not one panelist that was Latino/Hispanic, a huge oversight from my perspective. Most of the very impressive list of panelists were CEO’s of Silicon Valley businesses: Webcor (Andy Ball), Marvel Semiconductor (Sehat Sutardja), SpikeSource (Kim Polese), Palm (Former CEO Ed Colligan), MetricStream (Shellye Archambeau), to name a few. They were all effusive about the incredible area in which we live and work. There appeared to be consensus on calling this Valley the best place on the planet to live and raise a family. I was proud to be a resident.
Each panel dealing with different subjects, detailed above, all mentioned something about the importance of education to keep our valley at the forefront of innovation. Ed Colligan said, “Silicon Valley is the most extraordinary place to live on this planet, but we are screwing it up as we watch education crumble K-University.” He gets it. Aart de Geus CEO, Synopsis mentioned that we must put teachers and education on a pedestal. He said. “Teachers are the brain surgeons for our children…they must be respected.” CEO de Geus also asserted that school systems are inefficient, therefore we need a massive re-look at their efficiency. He gets it. Shellye Archambeau affirmed that the Pre-K to University destruction is a long-term threat to our survival…need to fix educational system soon. She gets it. Tom Campbell said he supports private school vouchers to the 1-2% lowest performing public schools. He doesn’t get it.
Gavin Newsom said, “Dropouts are the #1 problem, we need transformational change.” He gets it. Many panelists told the audience that the rest of the world is putting a premium on education, but the United States is not. California will be 1,000,000 bachelors’ degrees short for our workforce by 2025. CEO de Geus stressed that higher education is the shortest pipeline to change the system positively. He said education is the #1 investment for the highest rate of return.
I wonder if 20 years from now we will be looking back talking about the “big” one that rocked the state in 2009 causing so much devastation we did not recover. I am not referring to another 7.0+ Richter Scale earthquake, but rather the “big” one is the inexcusable damage caused by the state budget crisis and the slashing of funding to P-16 (preschool – University) education.
For the record I think Poizner and Brown get it too, but my energy will be going to help get Gavin Newsom elected as the next governor, for he has a newborn to worry about.
When Montana Newsom enters public school five years from now the system of public education in California must be funded stably, teachers must be receiving performance pay, quality universal preschool for all must be the norm, math and science education must be tops in the nation, every third grader must read and write on grade level (based on international norms) and we have increased state funding to levels that significantly exceed 2007-08 for the Community College, CSU and UC system, particularly in teacher pre-service training. With bold and courageous visionary leadership we landed a man on the moon in less than a decade. A world class P-16 Education system is our new frontier. Nothing less than the best for all our children will do. It is for our survival.
When Montana Newsom is taking California History as an elective in high school she might learn about university furlough days in 2009-2010. Her teacher tells her in 2009 the public education system was near collapse and the leaders of the time buried their head in the sand rather than faced the problem head-on. If it was not for the courageous work done by your father and the 2011-2012 California Legislature our Golden State might have not survived. Education and innovation are the keys to our future. Let’s all step up to the plate and protect our future.