(Los Alamitos, 10/24/2013) Excellent schools are a huge part of what makes Los Al, Rossmoor, and Seal Beach great places to live and to raise a family. Today our Thursday columnist takes a look at some current changes and trends and their implications both locally and throughout the nation.
by Highlands Guy: Governor Brown has introduced big changes in public school funding. California’s public schools have suffered for decades under cumbersome tax fund re-distribution rules. These rules were so weighted down in bureaucracy that they required way too much time and energy at the local level.
This problem has been eased somewhat since the new school funding law took effect July 1. The responsibility now lies with the district and the community to decide how best to deal with the individual student.
This is a monumental shift from where the schools have been, especially with the new, very limited use of “Categorical” funds. Additionally, there will probably be more dollars in the per-student/per day allocation.
The target of much of the increased funding will be schools with large populations of students who are poor, just learning English, or in foster care.
While I tend to think in terms of equal opportunity and access being paramount, the reality is that there are social related circumstances that are at the foundation of some of California’s growing issues.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, the $42 billion state education budget includes $2.1 billion in new money for K-12 schools this year. Within 8 years, all school districts should receive an average base grant of $7,357 per student, about $2000 more than last year.
Many schools already have plans for the “new” money that includes new instructional materials, professional development, class size reduction, and resource officers, among other uses. This new influx should bring the allocation up to pre-2008 levels within 3 years.
Private funding for public schools:
Booster clubs, PTAs, and private educational funds have supported expensive and sometimes extravagant improvements in affluent schools across the country. Damascus High School, in Montgomery County just had a $110,000 scoreboard installed. In the same county, Winston Churchill High put in a million-dollar turf field.
Now they and other counties are wrestling with the real, and deeper issue, of how private funding for public improvements is widening economic disparities in communities. I would offer that this contributes to an erosion of the Federal mandate extinguishing the Civil War era notion of ‘separate but equal.’
Additionally, I fear the achievement gap for those in schools within the OC, but in different cities, will widen and deepen the divide between economic classes.
After all, offering the best educational opportunities to kids from throughout the region can only lead to an adult population better able to enter the workforce, be productive, and make better choices. And we will all benefit from a safer, more stable economy in the communities that touch us in a myriad of ways.
Thus the questions arises, “If the money you raise goes to all the kids in the region and not just your kids, will you retain your passion to give”?
Even if you can’t see my point on the overarching basic division resulting from the pin-point focused fund raising efforts, think a moment about the purpose of all this new money:
First, a look back:
First, we need to take a bit of an historical perspective. Over the last 100 years of public education kids have been educated with very little technology or parent involvement. They had access to all the accumulated thinking for the last 2,000 years, they had access to the tools necessary to communicate the results of their studying to the teacher, and, if time permitted they had access to extracurricular activities.
Guess what, they graduated and entered the work force, or went to college, or entered the military, based on their desires or needs or ambitions. They became doctors and mechanics, and lawyers, and teachers, and plumbers, and movie producers, and salesmen. They scored fine on SAT’s, and they became upstanding, contributing members of society.
This leads me to question the bottom line motivation or the precise deficiencies we are trying to correct with the incredible amount of time and energy spent on raising money for public schools?
I can only speak to the quality of LAUSD over the last 20 years. I have seen only dedicated, effective teachers and administrators. After all, the most important aspect that is sometimes forgotten is the teacher-student relationship.
I do not believe that more private dollars will help the District teachers, teach more effectively. I do not believe that more private dollars will help my kids think better, or make better decisions. I do not believe more money will determine my kids’ long-term success in college and beyond.
With an improving economy, a probable increase in tax revenues returned to the District, and the ongoing benefits of our extremely long-term and increasing debt, from Measure K, I would like to see more energy placed on widening the focus of fund raising.
These are public schools and need to operate, for better or worse, in the public domain and thus, perhaps the energy needs to transfer into a more political spectrum. This would include the LAUSD/State Board of Education/California Teachers Association triumph rite, where the purview of the number of teachers and staff and their pay should reside.
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
—William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) Irish poet and Senator. Nobel Prize in Literature recipient. An important figure in 20th century literature.
…And that’s just the way I see it
As always, your perspective, diplomatically expressed, is welcome.