How to fix our schools–Do we have the will?

Former Assemblymember and long-time teacher and school board member Jackie Goldberg has provided Speak Out California with her response to the recently released 1000 page report on the state of K-12 education in California.
She makes a strong case for why “money counts”, in spite of the Governor’s simplistic and right-wing tainted mantra that bad teachers are the problem, not money.
In her first two blogs, published this week on Speak Out California’s blog, she talks about the need to invest more in our children and teachers as they do in private schools similar to the ones to which our Governor sends his own children.
In today’s blog, Jackie identifies the structural problem with more and more decisions being made by Sacramento in cookie-cutter fashion and not serving our diverse student body. Here is her analysis of why we need to return our schools to local control.
We appreciate the number of people who have responded by email to Speak Out California, but would urge that your comments be posted directly on the blog so that others can see what you are thinking as well. We hope to continue the discussion and then work to achieve the goal of returning quality education into the schools of our state to ensure a better future for our children and our critically important work-force.

The well-known, right-leaning news columnist, Daniel Weintraub has summed up the 1000-page report on California’s public education system, put together by 23 teams of researchers. He writes, very succinctly, “If the schools need more money, it should be targeted at poor children and high-quality teachers, but otherwise left mostly to the discretion of schools and districts to spend as they wish.”
The role of state government should return to what it was before Prop. 13 inadvertently made the Governor and the Legislature the “policy-wonks” for K-12 public education. The state should set standards, assess performance against those standards and hold schools and districts accountable. And then it should send the necessary money, and get out of the way. This top down, one-size-fits-all approach was supposed to be the salvation of public education. But, instead, it has driven good teachers out, led to new teachers leaving before their fifth year of teaching in record numbers, and has NOT lead to success in closing the academic achievement gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” In fact, for English language learners, the gap has actually widened.
Weintraub goes on to remind us that, “Not only are minority children lagging too far behind white students in California, the research concluded, but almost every group of California students, no matter their race or economic background, is performing more poorly than their counterparts in other states.” I insist that part of the reason is that no other state has gone as far as California in determining what is taught, when it is taught, and how it is taught for every student regardless of that student’s individual needs.
The other problem is that California just spends too little money. We have the largest or second to largest class sizes in the nation. We have fewer credentialed librarians, counselors, social workers, and nurses than most other states, and fewer than all so-called “wealthy” states in the nation. And we run everything from Sacramento.
For once, Daniel Weintraub and I agree completely on key parts of his analysis. The state government has to remember that schools are local because it is truly impossible to determine the needs of six million students in such a diverse state as California.
So, state government, Get Out of the Way!