The money quote is: --------------------- ...state Treasurer Phil Angelides. He's stuck in the 1980s, arguing that the problem is money, even as California spends one-half its budget on education. We spend the national median in dollars per student, and the governor is pouring on more. We pay our teachers the highest salaries in the nation. -----------------------
Until I look at CA's budget myself, I will have to take Jill Stewart's word for it: one half the state budget on education. But if she is right, CA education is clearly "vastly underfunded".
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ Practice, not politics, should rule school reform - Jill Stewart Sunday, June 25, 2006
WHOA, EVERYBODY. Forget those breathless newspaper accounts about the fight over California's schools waged by the Three A's -- Arnold, Angelides and Antonio. So far, each of the Three A's gets a big, fat "D" when it comes to fixing the schools.
Antonio and Arnold yearn to do what's right, but it is clear they don't know what that is. Angelides is a different case, being not so much interested in fixing schools as in propping up his campaign for governor.
We saw plentiful evidence of all this during Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's recent visit to Sacramento. Yes, his heart was in the right place. But he hammered out a badly compromised "compromise" with Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, Assembly member Dario J. Frommer and state Sen. Gloria Romero, and teachers' union honchos that was a victory for unions and meddling legislators -- not for kids.
The as-yet unwritten legislation, which would give some power to the mayor to oversee schools and allow unions to muck around in classroom teaching methods, will not reduce dropout rates because it emanates from union hacks and self-important legislators. Villaraigosa should start over. He needs to stop ignoring, and instead embrace, the growing crowd I call the "grandmothers of reform" -- even though some are young, and some even guys. They are seasoned vets in the Education Wars, who have directly or indirectly turned around hundreds of schools -- not just one or two.
Villaraigosa's speed dialer should include Nancy Ichinaga of Inglewood, Alice Furry of Sacramento, Marion Joseph of Palo Alto, Ronni Ephraim of Los Angeles Unified School District, David Klein of Cal State Northridge, Ze'ev Wurman of Stanford University, Reed Hastings of Netflix, Martha Schwartz of Los Angeles, Carl Cohn -- the former Long Beach supe now in San Diego -- and dozens of others.
I admire Villaraigosa for sticking his neck out, and I'm still optimistic that he will gradually educate himself about what's wrong with the schools. I'm more worried about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who announced that he will sign whatever laws the Legislature brings him regarding mayoral takeover of Los Angeles public schools.
I just have no words. Sight-unseen, the governor is supporting Sacramento lawmakers who have zero legislative track record in fixing a single school in California?
It is the governor's job to figure out what is wrong with the middle schools and high schools -- the focus of Villaraigosa's wrath. It's not Schwarzenegger's job to gamble like a three-card-Monte player, hoping he's watching the right card. The governor's actions have statewide implications. His secretary of education should be a proven high school reformer, for instance. Instead, he appointed Alan Bersin, former superintendent of San Diego schools, whose local "blueprint" for San Diego schools has proved less effective than the rigorous, top-down, statewide reform program.
Despite Villaraigosa's slams on L.A., the truth is San Diego schools are losing ground to the effort by L.A. Superintendent Roy Romer, who closely follows the state Board of Education's research-based standards and textbooks. As a result, grade schools in troubled, heavily urbanized L.A. are improving markedly faster than schools in much less troubled and more suburban San Diego.
In May, Bersin nastily and publicly lectured state Board of Education member Ruth Green on the need for more flexibility toward lagging schools. Bersin "abstained" on whether to keep Latino children in rigorous state-designed courses, where they are thriving. Latino legislators are seeking a dumbed-down, separate California curriculum for immigrant kids.
Bersin could wreak havoc by flirting like this with the bad old days. In previous decades, decentralized groups of teachers and school board members relied on strong gut feelings to decide curriculum school by school, from San Francisco to Sacramento to Long Beach to Orange County. Nobody was accountable when, predictably, California curriculum devolved into a feel-good exercise. Between 1980 and 2000, so many kids sank below the 20th percentile in reading and writing that huge populations of students left school as functional illiterates. It was a dreamy and devastating era of the "teachable moment" and disastrous "reading for content."
This brings me to the last of the Three A's who earns a "D" -- state Treasurer Phil Angelides. He's stuck in the 1980s, arguing that the problem is money, even as California spends one-half its budget on education. We spend the national median in dollars per student, and the governor is pouring on more. We pay our teachers the highest salaries in the nation. Angelides is out of touch, but he doesn't worry me like the well-meaning Arnold and Antonio. I don't see Angelides becoming governor. But Arnold probably will be again -- and Antonio might, one day. As such, Arnold and Antonio can do great good or great damage. Both need to embrace the "grandmothers of reform." They need to stop being functional illiterates in the Education Wars.