Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee’s January newsletter includes an item entitled “Students and parents win with education reforms.” He shares that the Barack Obama administration has made $4 billion available to states for education reform and that the Legislature has achieved a bipartisan victory in passing legislation so that California can compete for these funds.
Blakeslee does not mention that California may or may not receive a nickel of this money. The truth is, this money amounts to only 3.5 percent of the $20 billion debt the state is facing, it is not ongoing funding to our schools and only the lowest achieving schools (about 5 percent of the state’s schools) would ever see any part of these dollars.
The state would also retain a substantial percentage to administer this “reform.” Reform is not always bad, nor is it always good. But positive change takes time, a great deal of effort and a consistent and dependable source of funding. Education reform will not be achieved by this one-time drop in the bucket federal funding grant.
I think the reform most needed right now is not in our schools, but at the state level in our Assembly and Senate.
North San Luis Obispo County school districts have had to absorb a decrease in funding of approximately 20 percent over the past two years. Our students have already seen reduced access to counselors, psychologists and nurses. They will be using older textbooks and have less time in the library. They are seeing much larger class sizes, they receive less help from their teachers since classroom aides have been cut and they will no longer have summer school to help with problem subjects.
We have all cut transportation, administration and maintenance. Sports, music, drama, science and other electives have all seen reductions or even elimination. We are not talking about starting new “reforms,” we’re just trying to maintain the programs we already have that are working.
Sacramento needs to stop talking about reforming our schools and get to work reforming the way decisions are made in our Capitol. Our local schools have already done more than our share to solve the state’s budget problems without having to bear the burden of yet another reform sent down by legislators who have lost touch with local reality.
Tami Gunther is a trustee of the Atascadero Unified School District, a delegate for the California School Boards Association and vice president of the Tri County Education Coalition.