California Goings-On

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: California Goings-On
By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 08:53 pm: Edit

Well, in California, they've just settled the Williams lawsuit for a billion dollars. The case was brought by the ACLU on behalf of disadvantaged students. All agree, however, that the billion won't get even close to equalizing conditions for students in the schools of greatest need. Much more money is needed, but it would have taken many long years to pursue the case through all possible appeals and legislative maneuvers.

Basically, the plaintiff's attorneys decided to take what they could get. It's amazing to me that kids from these schools ever get into colleges at all (although, for the most part, they don't, and the new requirements for SAT IIs at the state universities, for students whose schools don't even have a chemistry lab, is just going to make it harder.)

Lest you think this is a Democrat vs. Republican issue, the Davis Administration argued for years that just because there were rats in the ceilings, two or more children had to share a single desk, there were no books, and the windows were all boarded over didn't mean the students were at an "educational disadvantage'. But they found plenty of money for educational testing.

Editorial from Sacramento Bee below:

Sacramento Bee Opinion
Editorial: Small step for schools
Settlement addresses appalling conditions

Published Monday, August 23, 2004

Schools with rats, mice and cockroach infestations, leaky roofs, broken windows, peeling paint, defective electrical systems, clogged toilets, unsafe drinking water and temperatures up to 120 degrees.

Schools without textbooks. Schools where several classes share textbooks so students can alternate doing homework.

Schools with high percentages of uncredentialed teachers. Schools where some classes have had no formal, long-term teacher for the entire year, only a series of substitutes, some for only one day.

Schools so overcrowded they've adopted multitrack schedules in which teachers and students take turns using two sets of classrooms, cutting the school year short for students by 17 days or nearly 4 weeks of instruction.

Classrooms with 30 desks and 65 students, leaving students to perch on counters or stand in the back of the room.

These conditions don't describe a poor, developing country. They describe schools in California, an outrage.

Where the administration of Gov. Gray Davis argued indefensibly that students in schools without modern textbooks or qualified teachers or adequate buildings suffer no educational disadvantages, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger came in and stated the obvious. Conditions at too many California schools are intolerable and interfere with students' ability to learn. Instead of fighting the Williams v. California lawsuit challenging shocking school conditions, Schwarzenegger settled it and agreed to put money toward solving problems.

That policy about-face will benefit students and the state.

The settlement's main feature: The state acknowledges its constitutional responsibility to ensure that all public-school children have access to the basic educational tools they need. In practical terms, the state agrees to take steps - such as inventories and inspections - to determine whether schools meet minimal conditions that affect the ability of students to get an education.

At present, we don't know what it will take to fix school buildings, to ensure that schools are staffed with minimally sufficient numbers of qualified teachers and to determine if schools have enough modern textbooks. That's because the state doesn't currently track that information. The settlement changes that.

The state also makes a down payment on fixing problems in the state's lowest performing schools, even as the state works to develop an effective system of oversight: $800 million over four years to make emergency repairs; $138.7 million for new textbooks; $20 million to inventory facility needs; and $30 million to build county superintendents' capacity to oversee low performing schools and pay for emergency repairs next year. The state agrees to phase out multi-track scheduling as a way to relieve overcrowding by 2012. Proposition 55, approved by voters in March, provides new money for construction to relieve overcrowding and do repairs.

The Williams settlement is just a beginning in remedying unconscionable disparities in school conditions, helping make the promise of educational opportunity in California more of a reality.

"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport." - Barbara Jordan

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 09:22 pm: Edit

A little bit more background: over the last several years, at evidentiary hearings, the state has brought in expert after expert saying, essentially, that it doesn't matter what the educational conditions are for kids in these schools -- they are going to fail anyway. Doesn't matter whether poor kids have books, or qualified teachers, or running water in their schools. One of the ways they used to justify the argument, believe it or not, was to point out that kids weren't getting into college! (don't laugh, it's true!) And the test scores only confirmed it! It was that the neighborhood was poor, the people were poor, and this was their destiny. Now mind you, this was the Democrats and the neoliberals making the argument.

The ACLUs case was built around showing that the kids were at "educational disadvantage", regardless of the results, which was also a very difficult case to make in the absence of schools that had actually gotten better.

By Icarus (Icarus) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 09:33 pm: Edit

The ACLU is a lawsuit-happy organization that I dont' attribute much credibility to. So it is disappointing to hear of yet another...

By Candi1657 (Candi1657) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 09:50 pm: Edit

What you have described sounds a lot like my high school in NYC. Alternating books for homework, series of substitutes, unusable drinking fountains, mice and their droppings, peeling paint, etc.. I sat in two desks that collapsed on me, on one occasion this happened while I still was recovering from my first hip surgery. Once they even shut down all the bathrooms for three days (for the students, of course, the teachers' were still open, because their union wouldn't allow something like that). Although these conditions were deplorable, I think what primarily kept these kids in my high school educationally disadvantaged was the fact that they came from broken, violent and abusive homes, their parents didn't read to them, and they were generally taught from all sources that pursuing school wasn't a particularly lucrative option.

By Mini (Mini) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 10:02 pm: Edit

It was the parents - who wanted an education for their children -- who brought the complaint to the ACLU and asked them to file it.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 10:08 pm: Edit

Same thing in Seattle, one of most expensive areas in country, highest rate of education, but even the schools in good areas don't have enough books, have unusable drinking fountains ( even the schools that are just a few years old), the classes are over crowded, no wonder we have to get our workers from India, they at least are educated.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 12:16 am: Edit

So whose fault is it?
I know there are deplorable conditions in some schools.In a big city near me I found a school library book lying in a parking lot in which the kids had used to write notes back and forth.There was writing vitually all over the pages of the book. And I know same city is leary of giving kids books because they misplace them and they become lost immediately. I have also heard that is the case in N.Y.C.How can kids learn to read if they cannot take home a book?I think parents should be made more accountable.I recall the frustration of both the principal and teachers at my child's school when a certain boy absolutely 'lost' every book the school gave him (library,texts,homework, etc.) and how although the parent promised to look for the books, none were returned.(I ended up giving the boy a sack of our used childrens books.) It is my feeling an approach should be tried where parents are accountable and hauled into court if they will not control or work reasonably with the school.It may not work but could be tried.
There does come a time when buildings must be replaced. Locally we are replacing 4 elementary schools.And if the water in the fountains is brown then bottled water schould be provided.I think here the blame lies with the state or district.(But I think it is wise to not drink from school water fountains in general.)

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 12:39 am: Edit

While there are certainly disparities (mostly because wealthier communities raise private funds to provide basics), the pathetic nature of public education extends to all CA public schools. It's important to note that we have funding equilization in CA--we can not, as in many States, tax ourselves to put more money into neighborhood schools. The public high school my son attended in CA's wealthiest town is also crumbling, also has unbelievably overcrowded classes and few resources. The danger is such that there is a police sub station on campus. There is a crisis in this State and it is quickly spreading to our much raved about institutions of higher education. It is truly unbelievable that we have let this happen. IMO, it all goes back to an unfortunate solution to rising property taxes known as Prop 13. During the dot com bubble, money flooded into CA coffers and was spent on everything but education. What are we thinking? The ramifications will be many as the article Emeraldkity posted speaks to.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 10:41 am: Edit

Mom101; What I don't understand is if your child's school is crumbing doesn't the community recognize this, and do something about it? I mean it became obvious in our community that 75 year old schools needed to be replaced.Aged pipes resulting in rusty water, a fire one day befire school in the electrical system, it became obvious to all and so the school board acted and unfortunately taxes go up. Aside from that, routine work is done on our schools all the time, often what I would call major work.Surely your school district works the same way?

By Mini (Mini) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 10:49 am: Edit

What happened with so-called "equalization" is this: the state share of school support was "equalized", meaning crumbling schools in poor neighborhoods, without books, without qualified teachers, etc., got left behind. A larger portion of the state share had to go into building "upkeep" (a euphemism of course), meaning even less money, relatively speaking, in the classroom. Neighborhoods residents in poorer areas couldn't pick up the difference - they run fundraisers like everyone else - but when your median income is $35k in LA, you are not likely to raise as much extra dough as in areas where the median income is $140k. Teachers would refuse to work there.Science labs disappeared a long time ago. Now, in some places, like east L.A., there are projects like Bob Moses' New Algebra Project, where hundreds of African-American kids are studying algebra in church basements in the community, because it just isn't happening in the schools.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:02 am: Edit

There's no doubt Mini, that that is what has happened. But the bottom line, to adress backhandgrip too, is no money. We spend far less per pupil in CA than all States but 2. My district has about a fifth of the money per pupil that the school districts I lived in in NY, CT and OH had. When we raise money to supplement the budget it goes for a music teacher, librarian, art teacger or PE teacher--things CA schools that can't raise enough private funds don't have. As a public school parent before the budget became as bad as it presently is, I bought picture books for my son's elementary school class because they were handing out xeroxed copies. Equate it to living in poverty--you don't worry about the house crumbling if you're hungry and cold.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:06 am: Edit

Sounds like a real sad situation.I would think it is impossible to raise money for building maintenance at school fairs or candy sales.That is an issue of safety and should be addressed through taxes.
Did they have the books at one time but the kids refused to return them?Locally, a big city is having trouble with the library books being extremely outdated. I'm thinking computers will replace them all.It was sort of scary to walk into a city library yesterday and see old encyclopedias they were giving away.A part of my past disappearing like the horse and buggy.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:12 am: Edit

Is anyone proposing any possible solutions? That sounds terrible.And here locally they were collecting picture books and easy readers to go to Iraq, or Afghanistan! Yet there is this problem right here in the U.S.!Do you think if there was a more cooperative relationship with parents learning would work better also?

By Dstark (Dstark) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:14 am: Edit

Backhandgrip, the problem is us.
Until we change our priorities, things aren't going to change.

By Alongfortheride (Alongfortheride) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:22 am: Edit

I so agree with Dstark. If education were a #1 priority with parents and voters in this country, things would change. Unfortunately, the posters on this board don't represent everyone in the nation.

An odd thing has happened though. We have let the politicians turn the schools into the next platform to run on. No child left behing has become the tail wagging the dog here in Texas. Sounds good in sound bites and camplain speeches, but the reality is we sound an awful lot like what Mini describes in California. Band aids to make some feel better until reality sinks in. We need for INFORMED educators to challenge these concepts.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:23 am: Edit
Now if you were in Seattle I would say that although families here don't have as much extra money as other areas and don't expect any( we regularly approve millions of dollars in levies to lower class sizes, repair schools and improve teacher salaries. Unfortunately because of"site based management" principals can choose to use the money to lower class size for teacher training, $ to repair schools is overspent so that neighborhoods full of attorneys get a new school while others barely get to change their lightbulbs, and of course while teacher salaries have improved the burden is on the kids to show with the WASL that they are learning not on the teachers to show that they are teaching.
The families with the big dollars either have their kids in private schools or have moved out of the area where the school districts are smaller and more responsive.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:36 am: Edit

Interesting Stark.As I see it for me, personally my family is paying their fair share.My taxes are high and we daily make personal sacrifices to live where we do.But we are approaching a crisis in education if the school buildings children attend are unsafe.That issue should be addressed.And taxes in these areas will have to be raised and folks will have to make MORE sacrifices.And there will be more violence associated with stress, more crime and more dire situations which require social welfare.Ever Christ said there will always be poor people and suffering.
And this 'no child left behind' business. I have never seen so much preparation being done in so many schools for those tests!I do think it IS good, not ideal but something IS happening. Any time you get so much action it is for the better.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:37 am: Edit

Our fund raising locally isn't school fair stuff. The most active districts locally have groups of parents who are very sophisticated fund raisers. Palo Alto raised over $2 million last year to supplement the budget. But again, it pays for things taken for granted in other States. Answers? I am a Ph.D. candidate in education. People ask if I will work to save the CA schools. The answer is no, because they will not be saved in my lifetime and probably not during my kid's either. I want to work somewhere where I stand a chance of making a difference. We talk on other threads about Californians not being as interested in top colleges. The fact is, for whatever reason, education is not valued here as much as it is any other place I've lived. Volunteering on the part of most parents in a fraction of what I've seen in other parts of the country. They trust the system here--drop off the kids and expect them to get educated. Then enroll them in a UC which few seem to understand aren't what they used to be. I guess CA might wake up when it's clear we've raised a whole generation of kids who are not globally competitive. A lot has to do with the crazy cost of housing. You have to be pretty darn wealthy here to be a stay at home parent. It also has to do with the rootless, iconoclastic nature of CA--everyone is from somewhere else and they're here to do their own thing.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:42 am: Edit

Even locally anyone who has any money send their children to private school.When you look at what's left after that there are plenty of problems.It's a very complicated situation.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:45 am: Edit

Mom101, the UCs got some of their funding back.
The UCs are not that bad.
Where are you considering moving to?

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:46 am: Edit

And Dstark, I hope that you and other prop 13 supporters will think about this problem and what our "priorities" are. We have chosen to keep property taxes low for all, not just those in danger of losing homes, at the expense of our schools. A travesty IMO.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 11:48 am: Edit

Mom101, We should fund our schools using other methods plus property taxes.
Are you really considering moving?
Where are you getting your PHD?

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 12:19 pm: Edit

While in general I agree that the CA school system has declined as a result of Prop 13 (caveat: I am generalizing from one year in the East Side Union High School District), I would also like to point out that a drop out rate of 20% means a graduation rate of 80%, which happens to be the highest in CA history. (

When my mother (born 1916) was in HS, only 1 in 7 students graduated from HS. It's possible to educate students very successfully when most of them can get decent jobs without graduating and only the very best go on to college.

The highest year EVER for female teenage pregnancy was 1959. Why wasn't it a problem? Well, most (almost all) of them were married and had a husband to support their child.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 12:34 pm: Edit

"Is anyone proposing any possible solutions?"

I'd like to play that game. Most seem to recognize the problems but if you were able to do anything you wanted to fix public ed.... what would you do?

For years I have wondered what would happen if we eliminated all possible bureaucracy, redistributed the funds to individual schools and put parents strictly in charge of running the schools their children attend. I tend to think most parents are invested enough in their children to do a great job in this scenario and can't imagine they would do any worse than what happens now. Too naive to work? Other ideas?

Mini's suggestion of schools run as libraries sounded pretty intriguing to me. I am sure he has other ideas about solutions and alternatives?

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 12:37 pm: Edit

ps, I'm sure my idea isn't original and that I read it someplace LOL and hope not in one of Mini's books but sorry if it is so...

By Texdad (Texdad) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 12:39 pm: Edit

Opponents claimed at the time that this would happened when they passed Prop 13. It may not be a Democrat, Republican thing, but it is a government hater thing.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 01:05 pm: Edit

I am wondering if CA is similar to this area in that students who do not enter high school are not counted as "dropping" out since they never began in the first place.
Many students in Seattle are "super seniors" by that I mean they haven't dropped out but they didn't graduate either, others have entered colleges or taken their GED but some have dropped out but whose to say the district will notice for months?

My grandfather never even attended high school but he had a very good job working at Boeing and paid cash for his view home in Magnolia ( a schmancy neighborhood in Seattle), he valued education though, and wondered what he could have done if he had been able to attend high school let alone college.
But when even a job placing orders at Amazon requires a BA to apply, what sort of life awaits these kids who drop out?

I hope Emmett Watson notices all these links citing Seattles difficulties- I am doing my part- KTBO)

By Mini (Mini) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 01:16 pm: Edit

"Mini's suggestion of schools run as libraries sounded pretty intriguing to me. I am sure he has other ideas about solutions and alternatives?"

Yup. That's one of mine. But I do not count myself as one of the school reformers - it just isn't a major focus of mine.

Fact is, I think the schools are highly "successful" in producing precisely what it is the system as a whole intends them to produce. The society as a whole needs a very, very small number of leaders, a slightly larger group of technocrats, a slightly larger than that group of bureaucrats and "teachers" to replicate itself, and a huge underclass of service workers and consumers with low expectations of life other than the little satisfaction to be found in the production and consumption of material goods and services. There needs to be continuing competition among those who would enter the bureaucratic class in order to drive down wages, and permanent ranks of unemployed and underemployed to keep those on the lowest ranks in fear. And, finally, there needs to be a safety valve, some very small ray of hope that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, one can in fact jump between the classes.

The system works as intended, which is why it doesn't change. (I have a lot more to say on this subject, but it gives you a sense of why I am not hopeful that significant positive changes will come through school reform.)

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 01:19 pm: Edit

I think we need to reduce class size
Classes of 30+ kids when some don't speak english, some haven't had breakfast ( or dinner), some are reading 3 or 4 grades above grade level and some might not be reading at all , just isn't working.
More "classes" for teachers", more race based initiatives haven't worked no matter how nice they sound in the paper. Better ratios of adults to students- that works.

In our school district the vast administration is so out of touch with students, I suggested that everyone who works in district offices volunteer in the schools one hour a week. A local hamburger chain pays its employees for volunteer time, the district could do the same.
I realize that disconnection was a real issue after learning that although the Seattle school district had lost ( again) its appeal to use race as a factor in assigning students to schools , the school board had voted to appeal it ( again) along with all the resulting costs ( loser pays) despite significant deficits in district budgets.
The school board president Mary Bass, told me that she fought hard against appealing the decision: it isn't cost effective, however it "sounds good". One of the attorneys for the district commented to her when she said that it wasn't making a difference and we couldn't afford it, " we don't have to use it, if we win". They just want to go to court, doesn't matter what is good for the schools.

many of the principals in Seattle don't have kids in school, some of the ones that do ( that I know of anyway) have their kids in private school! When the workers don't want the product, what is that telling us?

By Dstark (Dstark) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 01:40 pm: Edit

Mini, what is the name of your friend's book relating to your 1:16 post.

By Mini (Mini) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 01:54 pm: Edit

"Why is Corporate America Bashing Our Public Schools?" by Kathy Emery and Susan Ohanian.

Here's the link:

By Dstark (Dstark) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 01:55 pm: Edit

Thanks. Why don't you write a review on Amazon?

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 02:15 pm: Edit

The system works as intended, which is why it doesn't change. (I have a lot more to say on this subject, but it gives you a sense of why I am not hopeful that significant positive changes will come through school reform.)
If you have time please do say a lot more. Wholeheartedly agree with your entire post. It is an issue in my area between homeschooling parents and their school supporting friends that the homeschoolers aren't "concerned with anyone else's kids" and I tend to think that is a legitimate criticism though not necessarily a constructive one since so many homeschoolers think that the system won't ever change and any time spent on it is futile... perhaps not in the very short run for small groups of kids, ex. volunteering in your child's class makes a difference to those students but doesn't really impact that class next year. I would like to believe there is a postive solution. But this may be way too too OT

By Mini (Mini) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 02:31 pm: Edit

In brief, I think homeschoolers provide a HUGE service to all children and families by demonstrating what might happen if love were placed at the center of education. And in demonstrating that learning and the 'business of education' do not have to go hand-in-hand.

We reveal that the Emperor has no clothes. That to me is an enormous service, and one that is being provided by virtually no one else. As for myself, I run around the country helping parents see the wonder and power of their children's learning quests, and am happy to do so with anyone -- homeschooling or otherwise -- that invites me. (I have done in-service trainings on occasion for teachers.)

I'm not a school reformer, and never set out to be. Schools as we know them were born out of the Prussian military experience of the 19th century, brought to America by Horace Mann (who visited the Prussian schools in 1843, when they were closed), and adopted as part of a generally anti-Catholic movement in Massachusetts (the "Know Nothing" Party) to break down attachments to ethnicity and religion. They explicitly became a business tool in the 1880s and 1890s, funded by the Rockefellers and etc., to ensure a workforce that would not revolt, and would know their proper places in the pecking order. The pattern hasn't changed much since 1910-1920 because it is very successful.

As to whether the system will change or not, well, I have my doubts, but it is not a center of my concern. If the free market of ideas is to flourish, the best hope of change lies in the development of the largest array of choices, and let the chips fall where they may.

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 02:57 pm: Edit

Mini, as always an absolutely brilliant post! Thank you.

By Achat (Achat) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:10 pm: Edit

Mini, your post reminds me of '1984' in terms of schools doing exactly what is needed of it to have a "stable" society. This was exactly what George Orwell said would happen in his book '1984'. Only a few people would be rulers (alpha pluses in terms of intelligence) and able to question the general wisdom. But society needs only a few alpha pluses, hence their numbers were strictly controlled.

Not saying whether you are completely right or wrong, just throwing this out there.

By Mini (Mini) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:28 pm: Edit

Hey, at least for President, we need only one university (and maybe just one secret society at a single school.)

It's much more efficient. )

By Emptynester (Emptynester) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:39 pm: Edit

Back to the very first post. I absolutely agree with your view on public schools but is there anything positive in the short term that can be done for these children? Or are they just the inevitable victims of the system and we have to accept that until that system inevitably finally falls apart?

By Achat (Achat) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:40 pm: Edit

Yup. And the sense of "we are THE chosen" is what drives Skull and Bones, from what I've heard about it. Not that I would in any way know anything firsthand about it. (sorry in advance for any skull-and-boners lurking out there).

By Mini (Mini) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:42 pm: Edit

There are things that communities can do for themselves. The New Algebra Project is just one example.

By Backhandgrip (Backhandgrip) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:42 pm: Edit

Gosh Mini, your post is so brutally honest!
I really had no idea this situation exsisted in CA!
Questions for CA people;So if education has less striving value in CA, are the people there happier? Do they work less hours?I think not! Seems the system is just broken.And what effect does the large illegal alien population have also?Or isn't that not a factor, just wondering.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:48 pm: Edit

California is the most diverse state in the US.
We are generalizing on this board, but certain areas do better than others.
Certain parts of California have different feels than others.
The difference between Santa Cruz and Hillsborough is similar to the difference between night and day.
The large illegal immigration may be a factor.
The skeptic in me thinks the rich and business owners want this source of cheap capital.
They don't worry about the social costs.
Their health care and education is taken care of.
It probably isn't really this simple.
The middle class also benefits by cheap labor.
Cheaper agricultural products for one.

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 03:55 pm: Edit


FYI, The Algebra Project started at Ss'school. The teacher involved was still teaching when S#1 reached her grade (She has now moved to VT). After a few years, the program was adopted by the rest of the schools in the district. Now, all 8th graders in the district take Algebra 1.
I'm glad that it's made it to LA. Teaching it to kids in a church basement is better than nothing, but our school experience shows that it is better to integrate it into the school curriculum. What happened in our school is that its presence had an impact on math teaching in the lower grades as well as the upper-grades.

By Kluge (Kluge) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 04:05 pm: Edit

The basis for the problem is no different in California than anywhere else. People prefer to believe that there is a free lunch. Politicians never come right out and say that taxes have to be paid at a level sufficient to meet the demands for government services (on the state level in California, education is around 50% of all government expenditures.) While pointing to the venerable "waste and fraud" and complaining over details of specific spending decisions, the fact that total tax revenues at current rates won't cover the total realistic cost of services performed is simply ignored.
Harsh reality: in a modern, densely populated society, a larger share of our income has to go to taxes to fund government services than is necessary in an agrarian, predominantly rural society. And America (and California) has become more modern, more urban, more densely populated than it was when the expectations of most voters were formed. So we complain that taxes are too high, and ignore the existence of 24/7 EMT services, constant police patrols, the need to control release of pollutants so we can continue to breathe, and the fact that we don't teach high school students the subjects they're now studying by scratching sums and sentences in chalk on a blackboard in an unheated shack.

By Emeraldkity4 (Emeraldkity4) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 04:05 pm: Edit

when produce is cheaper doesn't everyone benefit?
I buy organic locally grown whenever I can and I will go out of my way to do so , (although I don't have to)
I think we should take the tax cuts and spend it on education. Robert Reich (former sec of labor) made some good points recently when he addressed the tax cuts that benefit the top %.
It isn't going to help America, it won't go into our economy. The rich already buy whatever they want, that is why we consider them rich! What they will do with their tax breaks is invest it! Investing in US companies doesn't pay as well as international investing so there goes the tax break! Why are we giving the rich tax breaks to invest overseas? :::::shaking head::::
Another thing that kills me since we are ranting. Bush extolling jobs that have been created since the industry losses after 9/11.
Ya, some people are back at work, but now they have to work two jobs to make up the loss in pay and benefits of their former job, but is it fair to count that two jobs were created?

By Dstark (Dstark) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 04:11 pm: Edit

Emeraldkity, like I wrote on the Williams thread, we have nominated the wrong person from Mass.
I prefer Reich.
Did you see the article in the Wall Street Journal?
The top 1% of the income earners got a tax break around $75,000 from Bush.
What does the average household make each year, in total?

By Carolyn (Carolyn) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 04:22 pm: Edit

I have mixed feelings about the school situation in California. I think there are some excellent public school districts and some awful ones. No different than other parts of the country probably. But even small districts can and do succeed with limited funds. Our elementary school district is quite small and receives very little funding from the state but does an excellent job.
What makes it work is that the administration has been kept to a bare minimum and most of the money goes to teaching and support programs that actually enhance education. There's also lots of parental involvement at various levels.

And, oh yes, voters in our district are one of the few who voted in favor of a multi-million dollar school bond a few years ago.

The district has done a very nice job of starting a homeschooling academy - parents get support, materials, tests, etc. from the district's teachers, the district gets some funds from the state. It's been so successful that they've expanded beyond our district borders across the county.

However, once you reach high school, the situation seems to change dramatically. Our local high school district (different than the elementary district) is plagued by problems. Because of this, my children attend a Catholic high school that has a very diversified student body, including many students that do not have English as their first language. It also has a fair percentage of students on financial aid. It is an excellent school - well run - typically gets 98% of its students into four year colleges. It even offers support services for learning disabled students.

I was surprised, therefore, to learn that the school's PER STUDENT expenditures were actually a bit LOWER than the typical PUBLIC high school in Calif.

Which raises the question: why can't public high schools do more than they are with what they're receiving?

Families send kids to my children's school because they place a high value on education. Back to school nights are packed with parents, parent-teacher conferences are fully booked, for example. The faculty sets high standards as well - kids may start at a lower level but they're EXPECTED to do better over time. You get an "A" only because you've done exceptional work. Teachers have no problem with giving out D's and F's.

The school administration sticks with the old-fashioned approach to education: writing, grammar, math, history, religion. The kids don't even get to take an elective class until senior year unless they fulfill a required course during summer school.

The rules are strict - do something like wear a non-approved shirt with your uniform and you get automatic all day SATURDAY detention. Break a bigger rule and you're tossed out. (Last year the big incident on campus was when one student was expelled for poking another student with a plastic spork during lunch).

It's not utopia but it seems to work. And, surprisingly, most of the kids absolutely LOVE the school.

I wonder what would happen if some of these same rules and standards were applied to public high schools - would it make a difference at all?

By Marite (Marite) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 04:28 pm: Edit

>>(Last year the big incident on campus was when one student was expelled for poking another student with a plastic spork during lunch).>>

Discipline is a big problem in public schools. But I wonder if all public hs applied these criteria, what percentage of their student population would be expelled? And how many of the parents would sue the district? And what would happen to the expelled students?

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 05:01 pm: Edit

"Mini, your post reminds me of '1984' in terms of schools doing exactly what is needed of it to have a "stable" society. This was exactly what George Orwell said would happen in his book '1984'. Only a few people would be rulers (alpha pluses in terms of intelligence) and able to question the general wisdom. But society needs only a few alpha pluses, hence their numbers were strictly controlled. "

I think you're thinking of Brave New World (Huxley) rather than 1984.

By Achat (Achat) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 05:09 pm: Edit

Sorry, you are right. 'Brave New World' it is.

By Dmd77 (Dmd77) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 06:18 pm: Edit

Carolyn, you raised this question:

"I was surprised, therefore, to learn that the school's PER STUDENT expenditures were actually a bit LOWER than the typical PUBLIC high school in Calif.

Which raises the question: why can't public high schools do more than they are with what they're receiving?"

Okay, let me ask you a few questions:

Does your local (Catholic, private) school provide special ed services for kids with learning disabilities? With physical disabilities? Does it remove "problem kids" from the system? Does it require that parents provide some number of hours of volunteer services? Do they perform state-mandated testing (which often applies only to public schools)?

Years ago in my small town (where I no longer live), there was a very nice family who had a child with Rhett's syndrome. Her schooling--required under the ADA--cost the town $50K/year, or the equivalent of 10 children without disabilities. There were only 400 or so kids in the entire school system, so her schooling had a major impact on the budget. Was it the right thing to do? Yes. Was it easy to afford? No.

Another example: teaching out here, our school had a student with cerebral palsy. Severe, wheelchair-bound. Very smart. He had a full-time aide assigned to him for the entire school day. Cost in salary and benefits: about $35000.

Another student was hearing-impaired: every classroom she attended had to have a speaker system installed. (Not all the schools had them at that point; that's been changed since.)

I taught at a school in Massachusetts that had many students who'd been sentenced to school attendance as an alternative to juvenile detention. Cost to the school: a full-time juvenile officer.... and an additional challenge to the teachers. Did those students have a right to be there? Yep. Did their presence change the ability of some teachers to teach and some students to learn? Yep.

Private schools by their very nature have fewer challenges than public schools. They are not a substitute for adequate funding of the public schools.

By Dstark (Dstark) on Wednesday, August 25, 2004 - 06:20 pm: Edit

DMD77, my kid's school district has those problems.
Plus, it is always getting threatened with frivolous lawsuits.

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