It’s incredible—I have been writing this weekly column for SJI for two years this week. I went back to my first-ever post after my election to the County School Board on Nov. 4, 2008. Here’s my lead: “ California spends a lot of money on education—more than $65 billion from all funding sources in 2007-08 for K-12 education. Yet nearly 40 percent of Latino and African-American youth drop out of school prior to high school graduation… How disdainful is this in the land of the wealthiest and most educated people on the planet?”
I wrote that while attending the December 2008 California School Boards Association conference in San Diego. Perhaps I underestimated our communal stupidity.
Last Thursday and Friday I attended the CSBA’s 2010 annual conference, this time in San Francisco. Tragically, I continue to be affronted by the facts that public funding for education is pathetically low. Termed-out Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell told the first plenary session that we are experiencing the largest disinvestment in public education in our history. In the coming budget K-12 education will receive $21 billion less than anticipated three years ago. But yet corporate profits are the highest in history, and the richest among us are becoming richer. What are we doing here?
In the Merc on Monday, Sharon Noguchi , in an article about how bad school funding will get in 2011-12, quotes David Plank, a professor of education at Stanford University: “Schools will become more and more like prisons and less and less like schools.” Is this really the best California can do? We already have nearly the lowest funding per pupil, teachers per student, counselors per student, administrators per student, and nurses per student in the entire nation. Apparently not enough of us get it, for if we did we would be demonstrating in the streets.
I want my grandchildren (none yet, my son is 28 and yet to be married) to have the best teachers and to attend schools rich in the arts, music, service learning. I would want their classrooms to have the latest technology and be about critical thinking and problem solving. I would hope they could take world languages like Mandarin, Spanish, Japanese, Russian, Italian and Arabic beginning in elementary school.
I get pummeled by those who are active posters on this site for my progressive and liberal views about education and its’ funding. Friends of mine implore me to stop taking the abuse and cease writing this column. I guess I have a hard head since I have lasted two years.
My debut column said that I wanted this blog-post to begin a critical dialogue about educational topics that affect the quality of our lives in Silicon Valley: “From my lens there is no more important issue than public education and equity for all children within its reaches.” The 600 pages of SJI’s chronicled columns and their posts from readers show a vast majority of posters as being unconcerned about this outrageous disinvestment in our most valuable resources: our children.
I have taken up issues like reforming tenure, seniority practices, pay for performance, charter schools and a myriad of issues that alienate my most teacher-union-friendly colleagues. However, I am haunted by those of you who take the time to respond (and I thank you for responding). I just wish my friends and colleagues would respond, too, so that we can legitimately have a more balanced dialogue on how to solve the vexing problem that affects our collective future. I am constantly branded here as an out-of-touch progressive/liberal.
I think we would all agree that what is best for children is best for us. Can’t we clearly see that in the education story we are writing today the children are losing big time?
In a recent Huffington Post article detailing a debate Times columnist David Brooks had with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) last week, Brooks is quoted as saying: “My problem with the Republican Party right now is that if you offered them 80-20, they would say no. If you offered them 90-10, they’d say no. If you offered them 99-1 they’d say no. And that’s because we’ve substituted governance for brokerism, for rigidity that Ronald Regan didn’t have…They [Democrats] want to have—if you read what they’ve written for the past 20 years—a more actively planned society which does a little more redistribution.”
Sen. Al Franken in a floor speech on Friday, when the Senate was debating the extension of the Bush tax cuts, said “You know, I’m Jewish. So I don’t know the New Testament all that well. But I know Matthew: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of my brethren, you did for me.’…Where are our values? What are we doing here?”
I think it is high time that both sides of the political aisle in Sacramento give the newly elected Governor the financial tools he will need to increase funding for K-12 education tied to increased accountability of results. The redistribution, as Brooks calls it, is essential for us to heal and build once again as a state and nation.
One of the NY Times front page stories Monday made me scream with rage. It told a story about the top five Wall Street firms that have put aside $90 billion for total pay this year, including hundreds of bonuses to top executives worth tens of millions of dollars, making this one of their best years for compensation ever. What are we doing here?