Fixing our broken educational system

Former Assemblymember Jackie Goldberg, long-time teacher, school board member and immediate past Chair of the Assembly Committee on Education provides us with some pretty plain facts-and numbers- about how much money it takes to properly educate children in the world today.
Here is her second in a three-part series of observations and comments about the recent report that came out on the state of California’s K-12 education system and the Governor’s partisan knee-jerk and overly simplistic view of its contents and our schools needs.
We invite your comments and suggestions in hopes of creating a wide-reaching dialog about what you think the real problems and solutions might be that will bring our schools back to the levels of excellence that once marked our public education system and established it as a standard for all the other states to emulate.

TToday’s studies show that no amount of money will improve our schools without needed education reform.” That was how Governor Schwarzenegger responded to the 1000-page study he called for on “how to ‘fix’ public education.” And it is not surprising. What the right wing says is that low performing teachers are the problem and it’s too hard to fire them. The right wing says we have to “reform the system” by making it easier to fire “bad” teachers and that is really all that is needed. And they say, bring prayer back, and the paddle, and increase the testing pressure, and, and, and…..
But the reports say that more money is needed, and it is desperately needed in low economic communities. But the Governor says FIRST come the reforms, then the money. But that gag won’t work with those of us who have actually taught in districts where the students are from very low-income families. And it won’t work period.
My educator friend in Arlington, VA says that his public school system pays $22,000 per year per student. That is compared to about $8500 of us in California. He also says that class sizes are small, they have counselors, librarians, nurses, and social workers at each of the schools, at all grade levels. And he says that they have no trouble recruiting and retaining teachers.
So, Arnold, don’t tell us that money does not count. If money didn’t count, the Governor would not be paying about $25-30,000 for each of his own children to attend private schools. Let’s just take the lowest of these three numbers, $22,000 and multiply it time the 6 million K-12 students in California, and we need to spend about $132 billion to bring up the performance of public school kids to those of Arlington, VA. We currently spend about $50 billion on K-12 education in California. We need about $82 billion more. But I don’t think we’re going to see any of it. The right will use Arnold to tell us that “money isn’t everything.” Well, folks, then spend $8500 a year for tuition for your private school and then tell me how little money really counts.
I just want public education to be treated like a failed missile system. You know how that works. First we spend billions of dollars on missiles we don’t need and ca’’t use. But we always need something “new.” On its first test, the missile blows up on the launching pad. Do we fire the scientists, and contract out the administration of these billions? Of course not. We give them more money. Then the second test takes place, and the missile gets off the launch pad, but blows up before it gets anywhere near the target. Are there firings now? Is funding withdrawn? Of course not. We give them more money. These steps are repeated many times. Then, guess what? The missile finally hits the target. And we talk about what genius it was to have these scientists and administrators work on this project.
Quite a contrast. But please don’t tell me, “…that no amount of money will improve our schools without needed education reform.” Don’t tell me that, while all who can, dish out up to $35,000 per year so that their kids can be protected from underfunded schools that can’t possibly compete. Or, is that the whole idea?