- Per Pupil Spending
- Special Needs Students
- Pay Equity
- Individualized Testing versus Standardized Testing
- Management and Labor Disputes
- Poverty Driven Student Issues
My story with education in California is the same for many Californians, with lack of access, and having to seek alternatives. I am a product of both public and private education in this district. As a veteran of the US Army and a California resident I could not afford the tuition of the UC/CSU system. I finally found a private university overseas that was US accredited, and financially feasible. I still have personal student debt, but nowhere near the level it would have been if I stayed in California. California desperately needs bipartisan education reform. As a state we need to increase spending in poorer school districts, raise assessment standards, and continue to address the achievement gap. California in national federal studies continues to fail California’s future. In a recent NAEP study California ranked 36 out of 40 states in education output, and 21 out of 50 in education social impact, and 29 out of 50 in education efficiency. Our public education(K-12) and UC/CSU/CCC system should have the same level of Access, Resources, and Quality as our districts private and charter schools. Socioeconomic status should not bar any Californian from a quality education. Our response to this travesty of the public purse should include the following: Addressing access issues through legislation, pay issues through negotiation, and poverty driven student issues through community involvement legislation, and negotiation. If elected to represent District 17, I will make education legislation a top priority of my time in Sacramento.
California’s K-12 system is in disrepair. We all know the dire nature of California’s public education system. After talking with school teachers, I have found multiple layers of issues ranging from pay issues, and retirement, to access to resources that vary greatly from one school district to another. Further, California spends almost the lowest amount per pupil of any state of the Union. Yet, California is projected to spend $109.5 billion or 26% of GDP on education. California will spend more tax dollars on education than any other state in the Union. . Yet, the in- district high school dropout rate has increased 13% since last year. There are school principals that only control 5% of their budget, while 95% is controlled by Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Part of the way to create long term solutions to our public schools requires returning local control of our schools to those that live there. Walking through schools in the district, I have heard from students and teachers who routinely send the children home with requests for parents to financially donate to maintain adequate levels of school supplies in the classroom, there are public school students that have a lack of paper and pencils to complete their work, despite the tax dollars that are supposed to be there to meet the children’s needs. To address this concern, my education initiative calls for cash reserves for every school district. To address the lack of cash reserves of a school district, the way forward is through negotiation at the local level and legislation in Sacramento to ensure that school districts are not cash strapped in the future.
Every school district in my District 17 does not have equal access to the same level of resources. Between the low income school district and high income school district, there is a great disparity. A student should be able to walk into any public school and have the same access to resources. This idea of equal access partially rests on the idea that every student has access to personalized instruction. Congresswoman Rodgers of Washington state has put forward a pilot program based on “blended learning.” The idea of “ blended learning” works on the basis of A.) Students skills being tested weekly in an electronic format, to ensure that they do not fall behind, as they would in a traditional learning environment. B.) The costs of running schools can be reduced using this new model as well. C.) Teachers have the freedom to move classroom instruction forward at a faster pace or a more moderate pace depending on the classrooms needs, not dictates from Washington or Sacramento. Pilot programs of this idea of “ Blended Learning” have already been tried in Los Angeles, Oakland, New York, and South Carolina. They have according, to Rodgers bill met with great success. As one constituent who is a teacher put it, drive through the low income areas surrounding a school . You will see liquor stores, not dance studios or after school math tutors.
The solution to this issue is through legislation to encourage local business creation in the lower income school districts to create these after school resources. Further to build awareness among my future colleagues in the legislature to route money to address the resource gap of California’s public schools. Combined with study after study has shown consistently that if the low income students are given the same resources and access as higher income school districts, the students will actually score higher and with more consistency.
Special Needs Students
Since 2000 California has signed 50 laws to address the needs of the 700,000 special needs students in California. The current mode of addressing the situation of these children’s needs have been to treat them as a regular part of the normal school district, with special attachment modules. I agree with the new line of thought that there should be a separate system within the public school districts to focus and specialize on their needs. For these children to succeed, they need to be given the full available access and taught by teachers that have had training in their special needs and issues. Instead of paying to create new layers within the system, let us place the resources directly in the hands of those teachers and administrators that deal with these issues on a daily basis. Better to let those that have first hand understanding of the needs, issues, and solutions rather than a dissociated bureaucrat in a far away place that has no knowledge of the situation on the ground.
Per Pupil Spending
Our state’s per pupil spending in California is near the lowest in the nation, California currently spends $8,340.00 per pupil in 2011, $3,523.00 below the national average of $11,864.00. Internationally, the United States ranks below Eastern European countries in education. California used to lead the nation in education, innovation, and quality of life. Spending more money by itself does not solve problems; it creates them. But if used in conjunction with the other ideas put forward in this plan, California has a chance to set the bar for the country. California has the resources to make great things happen. The only thing that is limiting the future generation is how we spend taxpayer dollars. Do we spend it wisely and through new pilot programs pioneer new ways to teach more effectively or stay with the old methods that do not work, or serve the citizens.
Nationally teachers salary ranges from a low of $32,000 to a high of $48,000.00 In California the starting salary of new teacher is $42,000.00 Yet in California we require a BA, and or an MA and a teaching credential. 60% of new teachers quit within the first 5 years. Why? Usually new teachers are placed in low income school districts. With limited supplies for success combined with having high personal debt burdens from student debt. Then the starting salary is $42,000.00 per year. There is no overtime pay, and they have to work for free beyond their contracted hours to do their jobs correctly. We have asked these citizens to enrich the future generation, but we do not provide them with the resources to do so.
The solution to this issue rests on the basis of ongoing and focused negotiations between school administration, teachers, and teachers union representatives to create a long term solution. The way to fund is part using the current proposal of Governor Brown and his LCFF fund. In conjunction with finding ways through the audit of school districts to find mis-allocated funds and redirect them. We need to find the way to keep our promise to our educators to afford them fair pay for their attained education, and overtime pay commensurate with their duties.
Management and Labor Disputes
The ongoing issues between teachers and those that run the school administration is an ongoing battle that educators face. The stories recounted to me by educators are that of the pitting of one group the educators against the school administration. A contest that is not winnable when no one is talking to one another. Being hostile and engaging lawyers instead of discussion to break the deadlock. To create lasting solutions requires a combination of legislation that provides long term structural changes to long held conflicts. One of the reasons according to one constituent, that these conflicts remain is that the teachers unions will tell the teachers, “well you’re contracted to do so by law, so go back to work,” There is no constructive dialogue to create harmony in the current mode or negotiation to address issues, resolve conflicts, and create long term solutions to educators issues.
Standardized testing does not serve students who learn differently. A shift should be made to individual aptitude testing for students. To truly facilitate critical thinking and positive learning not just more absorption of facts that does not serve them. A constituent who has been a teacher for 10 plus years said it well. “Not every child learns the same. Some are good at standardized tests; others are audio or visual learners. Others are kinetic or motion driven learners. Instead of introducing changes to our standardized testing every few years, let us commit to testing that keeps pace with the needs of the students, that uses the strengths of the students to get more accurate data, rather than forcing students to take tests they do not care about or, in some cases, understand. For in the current system of tinkering, there is no repercussion for failing or scoring poorly. Despite the 100 billion dollars that California is proposing to spend in the new budget for 2015, California nationally ranks below the national average in 4th and 8th grade reading, writing, and math.
Student Poverty Issues
The bringing of socio-economic issues into the classroom is a modern reality in California public schools. Hunger, drugs,unstable living environments, gangs, incorrect behavior by students are all realities. Another reality of our public education system is that low income families that have not had the good fortune to send family members to the secondary level of education, do not see the importance and therefore do not encourage their children to apply themselves while in school. Governor Brown has tried through the LCFF program to reorient California’s funding for low income students. While I applaud the Governor for being bold and starting to tackle the issue, more is required. A long term policy infrastructure to address antipoverty measures that California should be consistent in implementing. 21% of California students live in poverty. So another part of the solution is to bring the family members into the equation, to help these young students grow, and be encouraged to reach for higher education. In lower income school districts, the staff that would normally deal with these issues, such as law enforcement, case workers, school counselors, do not exist. The solution is to start hiring trained staff to meet the needs of low income school districts. Combined with community involvement that includes parents, teachers, school administration, and teachers.
In the 1960’s, California’s taxpayers made a bold decision. They chose to provide, through state tax dollars the highest quality, low cost system of education that the United States had ever seen. Now our UC system is for profit, while still absorbing state tax dollars. California’s UC system is now so expensive that even state residents who’s tax dollars funded it, cannot afford to learn there. One constituent shared with me that he was attending a local state university and he could not continue his education due to the debt burden he incurred . He had to return to working in his family owned restaurant to pay down his debt in the hope of returning one day and finishing his degree. Another constituent I spoke with is in the nursing program at a local junior college. She works in the local urgent care when not in school. She is on a two to four year waiting list just to take her core classes, yet California has a shortage of trained nurses. These two constituents represent a district and statewide trend. The costs are too high and the benefit unrealized.
To address these issues requires A) An audit of the current system. B) From the audit ascertain where the waste, or misuse of tax dollars exist C) Create legislation in conjunction with the students, teachers, and administrators to create a long term sustainable action plan. D.)Return the California Lottery to the original intent of the voters. 70% of the money collected by California taxpayers, was to fund public education in California. California public schools only see 25% of said money. My campaign suggests legislation that would offer 70% to public schools, 15% to California State Parks, and 15% to the California Lottery Commission administrative costs.
California’s issues do have solutions. Which is why this campaign is about creating practical, long term solutions to California’s issues, one at a time. Involving all parties, and finding solutions that not only answer shortages, but provide resources for the future .