California Needs Education Leadership

Where are the bold and courageous leaders that give us the facts and inspire us to new heights? In Attorney General Brown’s website announcement on his candidacy for Governor he says he will speak the truth, yet his three-minute commercial is filled with the platitudes he says he abhors.

We are quickly closing in on the 100-day mark prior to the most important state election day in our lives. The Great State of California is experiencing imminent decline and degradation in most of its systems, particularly in public education. Does anyone really care?

The K-16 system of public education accounts for 50 percent-plus of this state’s total budget.  The two major candidates for governor, Brown and Meg Whitman, are only speaking in the most general of terms about their views on the most critical issue for our future, K-16 education.

Unlike Whitman, I have participated as a voter in every primary and general election day since my 21st birthday. To me her lack of participation in this democracy should be a disqualifier to hold elected office. Yet, I am more impressed by her website on her views on public education than I am with Jerry Brown’s.

I must say I am very disappointed in both of the two major party candidates. I reviewed the official websites for Brown and Whitman and learned very little about their key positions on the issues that plague our public schools. However, to Whitman’s credit she lists a three-page plan out of her 48-page downloadable PDF on her policy agenda for a new California. (If K-16 education makes up mor ethan half of the California budget, should not the policy agenda be at least 24 pages on an education plan?)

Whitman says, “California’s long-term economic viability and competitiveness is directly connected to the quality of the educational system in our state. The state that is home to Silicon Valley is 43rd in science. That’s unacceptable.” 

I agree, Meg.  But your four-part specific plan on pages 31-33 is fraught with danger: 1. Reward outstanding teachers, 2. Eliminate the cap on charter schools, 3. Grade the public schools A-F, and 4. Establish a fast-track parent process for charter school conversion. Other than rewarding outstanding teachers your plan is disastrously near-sighted. Yet, I thank you for expressing your thoughts so as a voter I can become educated on a reason to cast my vote.

On the other hand Brown does not have one word about public education on his website, with the exception of a July 19 posting from his campaign titled, “Whitman Gets An “F” For Education Ad”. Jerry, I have endorsed your candidacy for governor, however I am disheartened at your lack of clarity about what you would do increase student achievement across the board.  What grade would you give yourself? For me it is F as of his writing.

I urge you to put out a comprehensive plan on public education K-16. Please be transparent. I would like to see a prime-time debate on K-16 education.  I want to see the two of you answer some of the following questions:

What policies/legislation will you recommend to eliminate the achievement gap as governor?

What policies/legislation will you endorse to significantly reduce the dropout rate that is above 40 percent for African-Americans and Latinos? 

What do you believe about quality pre-school education? Head Start? Early Head Start? Mothers’ prenatal education and care?

Mr. Brown: In a Sacramento Bee interview, I heard you say the human issue of motivation is one of the main issues. You propose courses in carpentry, electrical work, and plumbing. I agree with career technical education expansion, but how will you fund it?

Both of you say something about needing better teachers.  What would you do to increase the supply of high quality K-12 teachers?

How important is the role of reading on grade level for life success?  What would you do to make certain all 3rd graders read on grade level by the end of their 3rd grade?

In her book “The Death and Life of the Great American School System,” Diane Ravitch, the former assistant secretary of education, writes that she now believes testing and choice are undermining our education system. What would you do to prevent a two-tier system of public education that Ms. Ravitch believes is occurring with the choice and charter school movement?

What would you do to decrease the rising cost of public university education?

What would you do to raise the level of spending per student to at least the national average? 

Ms. Whitman you say that more money should go directly into classrooms.  How do you plan on achieving this goal?

Attorney General Brown, you state that more money is needed for our schools.  How much more money and where will those funds come from?

What questions would SJI bloggers like to see in a debate between these two candidates?

I am mad as hell. We need elected leaders who tell us expressly where they stand on the key issues. We need journalists that will ask the tough questions on our behalf.

November 2 is our last chance for the next four years to have our voices heard about the most important issue of our day, K-16 education. Our changing demographics make the choice do or die.

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.

32 Comments

  1. “What would you do to raise the level of spending per student to at least the national average?”

    How about stipulating that State education money only be spent on kids who are lawfully in the country? There you go DiSalvo. Problem solved.

    • Ah, such simple solutions for such simple minds. It’s all the fault of illegal immigrants. Who ya gonna blame when that issue is resolved. You are always going to need a scapegoat so be careful what you wish for.

    • Galt’s idea about spending American tax dollars in support of visitors to America is interesting, but has a flaw because it ignores the idea of proportionality or, in other words, reciprocity between nations.

      The proper & lawful approach would be to provide educational services to visiting children to the same degree that their home nation provides educational services to visiting children from the USA.

      Thus K-16 schools would be lawfully entitled and required to support Swiss children visiting here exactly as the Swiss government supports American children visiting there.

      What could be fairer?  Now the problem is really solved.

      • Reciprocity? Are you serious right now? In what fantasy land are you living where Americans are jumping across the border into Mexico in flocks of 6,000 per day? Instead of focussing on fantasy scenarios, focus on what’s really going on. Focus on the tens of billions of dollars we spend educating illegal immigrants and children of illegal immigrants. Focus on the $3.2 million dollars per day we’re spending on housing illegal immigrant prisoners.

      • As the saying goes, “Folks, don’t try this at home!”  U.S. citizens “visiting” Mexico will be afforded nothing but a jail cell or the boot.

  2. > Unlike Whitman, I have participated as a voter in every primary and general election day since my 21st birthday. To me her lack of participation in this democracy should be a disqualifier to hold elected office.

    And how many university degrees do you have, Joe?

    This is a really, really stupid argument.  (Yes, I know.  Democrats make this stupid argument all the time.)

    Did it ever occur to you, and the other deep intellectuals of the Democrat masses, that Meg Whitman, and the millions of other Americans who DON’T vote in the typical gerrymandered sham election were, in fact, voting “NONE OF THE ABOVE”?

    I can report to you that in any election contest between Gavin Newsome and Abel Maldanado, my vote is going to be “NONE OF THE ABOVE”.

    I would rather have the janitor answer the phone in the Lieutenant Governor’s office and cut ribbons at flower shows than let one of these narcissitic clowns anywhere near Sacramento city limits.

    • “What questions would SJI bloggers like to see in a debate between these two candidates?”

      How about: “Meg, Jerry, can you explain what the tax-sucking, do-nothing Santa Clara County Office of Education and it’s politically posturing Board of Trustees actually DOES for public education?”

    • Visualize,

      If Gavin gets the job (a terrifying prospect), and the phone rings without answer, rush home and make certain that he isn’t messing around with your wife or daughter.

  3. > However, to Whitman’s credit she lists a three-page plan out of her 48-page downloadable PDF on her policy agenda for a new California. (If K-16 education makes up mor ethan half of the California budget, should not the policy agenda be at least 24 pages on an education plan?)

    I would advise Whitman to stick with her plan and make education three forty-eighths of the state budget.

  4. > Jerry, I have endorsed your candidacy for governor, however I am disheartened at your lack of clarity about what you would do increase student achievement across the board.  What grade would you give yourself? For me it is F as of his writing.

    Ready! Fire! Aim!

    Gee.  Do you think that the reason public eduction is failing is that the Ruling Class puts incompetent failures in charge KNOWING they are incompetents?

  5. > Ms. Whitman you say that more money should go directly into classrooms.  How do you plan on achieving this goal?

    Arrange for Donald Trump to tape about 50,000 episodes of “The Apprentice” at the state education bureacracy headquarters.

    “You’re fired.  You’re fired.  You’re fired. You’re fired. You’re fired. You’re fired. . . .”

    Rewind.
    Replay.
    Rewind.
    Replay.
    Rewind.
    Replay.

  6. Eliminate the siphoning process that takes place through the tax code and government bureaucrats and have families pay the “national average” directly to the schools their children attend.

    • > Eliminate the siphoning process that takes place through the tax code and government bureaucrats and have families pay the “national average” directly to the schools their children attend.

      It’s not completely clear what you’re proposing.

      Are you suggesting the elimination of universal tax support for schools and just having the parents pay for the education of their children?

      Why pay the “national average”?  Why not just pay budget prices for budget schools, and Cadillac prices for Cadillac schools?  Let the customer decide.

  7. While I agree, Meg Whitman’s voting record is pretty unfortunate for someone running for office, she does at least have a plan for education. While we don’t yet know how she will fare in that area due to her being a first time candidate, we do know that it can’t be any worse than what Jerry Brown did to Oakland just a few years ago.

    People forget about Brown’s abhorrent record with education. For someone to run the school system into the ground to the point the state government has to get involved, is disgusting at best. Jerry needs to get a plan and stick with it.

    As President of the Tea Party, I haven’t endorsed either one of them yet and I want to hear more on education from both of them before I do.

    And I agree DiSalvo, I think people often times put education on the back burner. It needs to be on the front burner along with the economy because as much as some may disagree, in the long run, they go hand in hand. Dumb kids equal dumb workers. Dumb workers equal subpar products and innovation. Subpar products and innovation… well, you get the idea.

    • Gee, for a president you don’t seem too informed. Just how did Jerry Brown (or any mayor) “run the school system into the ground…”? You might take a look at how much a mayor and/or city council have to do with running a school system.
      You seem to following the Whitman “big lie” campaign plan. I would think the Tea Party would hold themselves to a higher standard—maybe something like truth, justice, and the American way.
      At least you are willing to look at both candidates, though and actually review their plan(s) or lack thereof which is more than can be said for many on this site.

      • Unfortunately Amber, as much as Jerry tried to keep governor’s documents secret after his term as governor, he does have 40 years in politics for all of us voters to examine.

        Assuming he had nothing to do with Oakland’s school system as mayor is pretty naive, don’t you think? Do you really think the council voted any different than he did? Be serious.

        I agree with Paul, they both need to show us all their plans for education. Oh, and attacking the Tea Party because you don’t agree with logic is pretty sad, but welcome to San Jose, land of the libtards.

        I’m a Republican but I still respect the Tea Party because those folks appear to be the only one’s who give a damn about this country. And I’d watch out because they’re actually getting candidates elected and making changes, even here in Santa Clara County.

        The only one here who appears to be misinformed, is you.

        • Good job deflecting the issue. Of course there are politics in play, but you have said nothing that changes the basic premise that mayors and city councils do not run the school districts. Thanks for the lecture but I think I’ll continue to get my education from sources better informed than yourself.

        • Let me speak more slowly—just how much impact do you think any mayor or city council has on our schools? Please inform all of us what the city role is in running a school district. Schools are not a basic municipal service—the mayor and council do not have a role in running our schools. Perhaps you have information the rest of don’t about how the city government runs the schools?
          Good luck with your Tea Party candidates. They will be as successful as our current governor who was going to save us all from the evil Gray Davis. That worked out real well, didn’t it?

        • I think it’s YOU who did a good job at deflecting the issue Amber. If you look at the original poster’s comment, he says that Jerry Brown ran the school system into the ground which when you put down the Kool-Aid and read my comment, you will see that is exactly what happened. No one besides yourself has mentioned that mayors or city councils always control the school board. No one. Stop being a stereotypical reactionary liberal and READ. Sources better informed than mine? Mine are actual public record documents, what are yours? Media Matters and Huffington Post? Ya, that’s what I thought. If you’re gonna debate politics, at least come with real facts, not liberal propaganda. We got enough of that already here in California and just look what that has done for us. We’re broke beyond belief and are the laughing stock of the United States.

        • Amber, you’re free to speak as slow as you need if that helps you, but the facts still remain. You asked how a mayor could have control over the schools: Have you heard of Measure D? You know, the measure that gave Brown the authority as mayor to appoint 3 of his own picks to the school board, ultimately giving control of the school board to city hall? Maybe you should rethink your statements of, “the mayor and council do not have a role in running our schools.” Or maybe you should just stay out of politics if you’re this clueless and naive. Do you really think politically appointed organizations like school boards are free of outside influences including influences from city hall? Go take a political science class and then come back, okay?

        • You must be responding to someone else. I never said mayors and councils always control school boards. In fact, I said just the opposite. But I won’t bother you with details. FYI – thanks for making generalizations but I don’t read either Huffington Post or Media Matters. If I were to stoop to your level though I bet I could correctly guess what you read.
          Looking forward to your next tirade. Have a nice day.

      • > At least you are willing to look at both candidates, though and actually review their plan(s) or lack thereof which is more than can be said for many on this site.

        Amber! Amber! Amber!

        Jerry Brown is no secret.

        Oakland, California is no secret.

        The Oakland School System is no secret.

        It should take a normal, lucid human being about half a microsecond to figure out that Jerry Brown is an incompetent, and when given some tough governmental challenges to solve accomplished NOTHING!

        It was as if he got paid for not even showing up.

        We don’t need to take a look at both candidates:  we already know all we need to know about Jerry Brown.

        No sale.

  8. > As President of the Tea Party, I haven’t endorsed either one of them yet and I want to hear more on education from both of them before I do.

    > And I agree DiSalvo, I think people often times put education on the back burner.

    Paul:

    I support the Tea Partiers, and am fully on board with their basic issues.  I am comfortable with idea of Tea Partiers making no endorsements, or of making multiple endorsements.

    In my mind, the Tea Party movement is credible because it is a “movement” and not an “electoral party”. 

    Let the Democrats and Republicans be the “electoral parties”, listen to the sales pitches of their candidates, and then give them a Tea Party thumbs up or thumbs down.

    I’m troubled by your easy agreement with Joe DiSalvo.  He is not really an advocate of “education” as Tea Partiers and regular Americans envision it. 

    DiSalvo is a spokesman and advocate for the expensive, wasteful, ineffective, and oppressive public education institutions established by the “Ruling Class” and intended first and foremost to disseminate the political beliefs and attitudes of the Ruling Class and sustain Ruling Class power.

    Tea Partiers agree in principle with the ideas of Socrates who understood education as “seeking truth and virtue”.

    The Ruling Class sees education as the ancient Sophists saw it: mastering the rhetorical techniques to “make the weaker argument seem like the stronger”; truth be damned.  Or, in other words, “fooling people into thinking we’re right, is just as good as actually being right.”

    The Tea Parties will succeed as long as they are about actual “truth” and virtue, and not just about “the appearance of truth”.

    • Thanks Regular American. I’m very well aware of Mr. DiSalvo and his politics, and just because I don’t agree with all of them, and my organization doesn’t agree with all of them, doesn’t mean I can’t, or won’t agree with something now and then.

      His version of education versus mine may be two different things but no matter what side of the political aisle we’re on, I’m sure we can all agree that education is important. That doesn’t mean we should continue to throw money at improving education, especially when we’ve seen the results (or lack thereof) of that philosophy. There are other ways at fixing things besides money. Starting with the teachers union for example would be a great start.

      The bottom line is, it’s important and we need to work together to find ways to improve it. It’s no surprise that children’s vocabulary today is only a fraction of what it was 75 years ago.

  9. > California Needs Education Leadership

    > Where are the bold and courageous leaders that give us the facts and inspire us to new heights?

    I was told that they were on the Santa Clara County Board of Education.

    But, you just can’t believe anything anymore.

  10. If you want to change and improve the current system,we must start at the community level by electing School board candidates who REALLY CARE about our kids education. MIGUEL BALDONI is a candidate for School Board in the Alum Rock District. He is an educator who truly cares about your kids! Get out and vote!