Future of Public Education in Serious Doubt

Do you remember playing the game “pickle” when you were a kid? You only needed two bases, a baseball and two gloves, and a couple friends. Two of your friends would stand at bases 30 or more feet apart, and you were the runner. The goal was to try and avoid being tagged out while running back and forth from one base to the other.

While participating in last week’s Game Changers 2012 event, which focused on Silicon Valley’s economy and was sponsored by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, I had the sinking feeling that public education was in a “pickle” and down to its last out. The expert panels during the plenary session included:

The Green Economy
Silicon Valley’s Changing Economic Engine
The State Economy and Public Services
Staying Competitive as a State and Nation
California’s Workforce

Where was public education’s Preschool through University (P16) as a panel for becoming a game-changer for the Silicon Valley Economy?

For me, there is no more critical sector for our economy locally, statewide and nationally than public education. After all, more than 50 percent of the state budget is for P-16 public education. Public education’s absence as a distinct and separate panel was very disappointing. Perhaps there are not enough game-changers in the world of public education in Silicon Valley?

For certain, this is a false premise. Education is the most important factor to influence future employment and quality of life in this area. And I can think of enough game-changers to fill a panel easily.

Let me name several prospective panelists for a future education panel on being game-changers for public education: John Porter, Franklin-McKinley Superintendent; John Danner, CEO of Rocketship Education; Emmett Carson, CEO and President of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation; Stephen McMahon, President of San Jose Teachers Association; Darcie Green, Alum Rock School District Board Member; Michael Kirst, President of the State Board of Education; Linda Darling-Hammond, Stanford University; Matt Hammer, People Acting In Community Together; and Congressman Mike Honda, a former local teacher/administrator.

New to Silicon Valley but worthy of mention are: Mathew Mahood, President & CEO San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber, and Mohammad Qayoumi, San Jose State University President.

I think Mr. Mahood and Mr. Qayoumi have the potential to be key players in the public education field, and they now have the chance to step to the plate and be game-changers for children and teachers in Silicon Valley.

Emmett Carson was the closer for the Game Changers 2012 event last week. He roared his disapproval about the current Preschool-University public education system in Silicon Valley. He said just 39 percent of the region’s high school graduates meet the math requirements to attend a California public university.

In an OpEd in the San Jose Mercury News on Sunday, Mr. Carson wrote, “You could not design an educational system with less accountability than what we have in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties.

“Santa Clara County has 32 separate districts, 19 of which are in San Jose, while San Mateo County has 24 districts. It is impossible to hold anyone accountable for the dismal educational outcomes of our children with so many different school boards and superintendents. … Silicon Valley business and foundation leaders must demand reform of this dysfunctional system.”

Earlier in the piece, Carson wrote: “Together, business and foundations have the intellectual talent, public credibility and resources to engage elected officials to tackle two critically important game-changers: education and fiscal reform.”

Admittedly, there is bedlam here in Silicon Valley. So much is riding on public education. But we can’t lose, so let’s roll up our sleeves and do the work it requires to get the win for all our children. Working together with a strategic regional plan we can get this done. Si Se Puede.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion and can be found weekly on San Jose Inside.

8 Comments

  1. “He roared his disapproval about the current Preschool-University public education system in Silicon Valley. He said just 39 percent of the region’s high school graduates meet the math requirements to attend a California public university.”

    Like a lion roar?  Or like a jet plane engine roar?

    But I digress.

    Here’s a game changer.
    School choice.  Vouchers.  Competition.

    “…research financed by the Department of Education has found that school choice programs significantly improve the future educational prospects of children who might otherwise attend lower quality schools.”

    http://thedc.com/oyESPM

    School choice.  Vouchers.  Competition.
    These are not hard concepts Joe.  And completely achievable.

    But something tells me you and your fellow travelers aren’t really interested in getting results or closing whatever the gap-of-the-week is.  Rather this “game changing” you speak of is centered around power, “social justice”, and massive redistribution of wealth.

    C’mon Joe, we go back a long ways, you can level with us.

  2. The game changed sometime ago and you just are not acknowledging the event. It is that many parents have decided to put their children into private school. Parents have spoken with their feet and their pocketbooks yet the public education system refuses to acknowledge this event. What has resulted is a decline in test scores because parents who are engaged in their child’s education tend to have children who record higher test scores. When these parents left the mean average scores began to drop. These parents fully understand the importance of a quality education to ensure the success of their children. They have decided that the public education does not share this same desire and have recognized that the public education system is not about fulfilling the potential of high achieving students, but about creating low benchmarks and then throwing a party when those low standards are surpassed.

  3. > While participating in last week’s Game Changers 2012 event, which focused on Silicon Valley’s economy and was sponsored by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, . . . .

    Game Changers?

    More like the Praetorian Guard of the Liberal/Democrat/Unionist Status Quo.

    > The Green Economy

    Sierra Club eco-tard blather.  Aided and abetted by the Fifth Amendment taking “alternative energy”  crony capitalist insider grifters.

    > The State Economy and Public Services

    Public employee union blather.

    > California’s Workforce

    Unionist blather.

    > In an OpEd in the San Jose Mercury News on Sunday, Mr. Carson wrote, “You could not design an educational system with less accountability than what we have in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties.

    So, why include among the august panel of “Game Changers” people like Joe DiSalvo with an unblemished record of thirty plus years of education UNACCOUNTABILITY?

    Or the career gas bag and carbon footprint Mike Honda?

    I’m sure it was exactly this kind of mutual group ego-fluffing by people famous for being famous that Thomas Sowell had in mind when he penned his thoughts regarding “The Vision of the Anointed”:

    “Self-congratulation as a basis for social policy”.

  4. With revenues north of $8,000 per student and guaranteed access to property taxes, public school education has not played to its last out.  On the contrary, with these guaranteed revenues it can continue to limp along indefinitely.  The question is whether it intends to reform itself dramatically against the howls of the groups that benefit from the status quo—the teachers unions and bureaucracy above all else—or suffer the continued bloodletting by a thousand cuts.  I’m guessing the latter.

  5. If Emmett Carson feels so strongly about public education, perhaps he can donate his $450,000 annual salary (the figure given when he was hired in 2006)to local schools.

    How can the Community Foundation, or any nonprofit, justify paying nearly a half million dollars for one person’s annual salary? And how do we take Mr. Moneybags seriously as he bemoans the lack of resources for schools and human services? 

    To paraphrase Carson’s Merc OpEd: You could not design a Community Foundation with less salary accountability than what we have in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties.

  6. I wonder if the “Game Changers” considered how the game would change if they kissed the Department of Education and changed it into a frog?

    “The 2011 budget for the Department of Education is estimated to top $70 billion, while overall spending on public elementary and secondary education is about $600 billion a year. By comparison, in 1972, before the Department of Education even existed, SAT critical reading scores for college-bound seniors were above 525, more than 20 points higher than they are today, while today’s math scores are only slightly better than in 1972.”

    In other words, the DoE hasn’t made things better – only worse!!

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/21/opinion/bennett-education/

  7. We should ask is, what kind of system of reform do we want in education ? So far there have been attempts to change the system as before . Do we decentralize and deregulate the Department of Education ? We have the charter system , the Vouchers.  Competition already .
    We have accountability both from the state and federal government.  Educators are being beating over the head with nothing but data that may look dismal because America is trying to compete with other so called industrial nations. Trying to blame the system has been always part of right saying “public education is a failure”.  The system is not failing . Yes it’s bloated with pork barrel spending that should be fixed . Yet that is what you get when the government is in charge.

  8. Mr. Carson did not address this question: Accountable to whom?  Him?  Local public schools are a function of and serve the community that surrounds them.  They are by design *neighborhood* schools.

    The very fundamental structure of charter schools and vouchers are to redirect public funds for education to small, disaggregated organizations, free from large bureaucracies and regulation to do what they feel is best to educate the children of their constituents. 

    This was, at one time, the very same philosophy that guided our neighborhood public schools and their local governing boards.

    It is the top down accountability, the over-proscribed mandates and bloated administration that follows that is choking our schools.  What is good for charter schools is good for neighborhood schools.

    Let local boards of education have the same nimble and strategic advantages to serve their children that benefit the charter school movement.

    Set the schools free!