Governor Jerry Brown is proposing that local school district boards have more responsibility and accountability in the management of school educational programs and associated budgets. This is now a major challenge facing California’s educational structure and process. It is proper for the California State Department of Education to continue to set and monitor, evolving standards and goals as well as be responsible and accountable for the collection of information required to continue to receive funding from federal programs such as ‘No Child Left Behind’ and ‘Race to the Top’. These programs are a national effort, with ‘top to down’ directives which have funded many efforts to deal with ESL (English as a Second Language) learners as well as others with learning challenges. The impoverished parents, especially the working poor, have not been able to provide for much, if any, pre-K programs which would prepare their child for enhanced achievements in basic social skills and knowledge.
President Obama, in his State of the Union address, proposed funding a universal high quality pre-K program. Fortunately, California already has implemented such a program. A pilot program is already happening in San Mateo County. And Governor Brown has been advocating for equity in funding of all school districts within California. The State of California’s Department of Education and its Superintendent of Education must continue to be responsible for monitoring all schools, to ensure that basic learning skills and knowledge content be taught to all youth, so as to enable and ensure that their academic success is enhanced. The long term outcome is projected to be lower drop-out rates and a higher level of achievement in colleges/universities. The creation of human capital begins very early now in pre-K training.
Necessarily, local school boards need to be composed of elected officials who fairly represent their diverse constituencies. Having the same amount of resources available is the first challenge, because tax funds which end up supporting school districts are not currently equal. It would be a very good thing to have Alum Rock Union School District have $12,500 per student just like Palo Alto Unified School District. Total equity will never happen because resident citizens in Palo Alto have donated directly to a school district. PAUSD just received an altruistic gift of $20 million for a new school building.
In contrast, River Glenn Elementary School, SJUSD, has a group of parents who have scheduled a casino night on March 8th to raise funds to augment their school’s budget with respect to culture, arts and technical support. Their goal is to raise $20,000 from the local community of Willow Glen, San Jose. Nonetheless, the equity in funding proposed by Governor Brown is something all parents need to support. And their school board members need to do their share by becoming the official lobbyists for their school districts. Many changes are happening in local schools because parents, civic and business leaders are very concerned about having the necessary skilled workforce members in the near future. The ‘Baby-Boom’ generation born during 1945 to 1960 is reaching the retirement age of 65+. In the health care field alone, more than 2,200 different professional vocations exist now while variations are being created. One such example is that of medical records managers who know enough to continue development of electronic medical records (EMR). Stanford Medical Center and SCVMC already have begun to develop EMR and implement its cost saving use.
Investment in education at local, county, state and national levels is the best investment which can be made during these recessionary times. While that may be true, it is essential to engage the student’s parents in all that is already happening. Traditional classroom instruction is being augmented by the use of technology…..eBooks, computers, video presentations, etc. Parents are advised to be involved to ensure that an appropriate blend of teacher/student instruction and student/computer instruction is utilized. Students must learn interpersonal communication skills essential to relationship formation and teamwork in commerce. All this while honoring and respecting the various cultural values already present in many communities. Parents must become engaged, involved and committed to the necessary oversight and monitoring of these changes in local education which are going on now. This is especially so if educational processes are not to be totally dedicated to the needs of industry and commerce. The arts, literature, and humanities will only be preserved if the parents transfer to their kids their values, traditions and historical experiences. Parents engaged in education is required.