The economy crisis leads to an education crisis, which ultimately means our children are experiencing a series of crises.
(Part 2 of the Crisis series)
By Brian W. Carter
Sentinel Staff Writer
& Ismail Muhammad
Sentinel Contributing Writer
It is an unfortunate and sad state of affairs that continue to persist. The budget cuts that have come from our current economic crisis continue sending shockwaves through the education system. The damage is especially being seen and felt in the inner cities, and underrepresented areas as more funding, programs, and teachers are cut.
According to the NAACP, the New York education system has joined the fray in the fight for education. The problems are like a bad case of déjà vu as schools suffer from sub-standard environments, lack of resources and overcrowding. These problems are only magnified according to the state is in question. One of those states in question is California.
On the California front, Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Department of Education stated:
“There’s simply no other way to describe it: this is an emergency. Every day, teachers, school employees, and principals are performing miracles, but the $18 billion in cuts over the last three years are taking their toll. We have 174 districts teetering on the financial brink. If this isn’t an emergency, I don’t know what is. The law won’t let me call out the National Guard. So I’m saying to every Californian: ‘Your schools need your help. And they need it now.'”
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is definitely at war trying to improve the education process for the youth. Mayor Villaraigosa addressed some of those issues facing the LAUSD in his state of the city address in April. The staggering high school dropout rates, teacher layoffs and a struggling budget are among top concerns. Villaraigosa is definitely pushing ahead with a reform agenda for our schools and focusing on helping the youth.
“For six years, I’ve been saying that this issue of education is the civil rights issue of our time, the economic issue of our time, and the democracy issue of our time,” said Villaraigosa.
Creating an equal, fair and model education system has been one of the key topics in President Obama’s campaign. He has made it clear that quality education from kindergarten to college, is a must. In a statement to supporters via Internet, President Obama stated: “At this defining moment in our history, preparing our children to compete in the global economy is one of the most urgent challenges we face. We need to stop paying lip service to public education, and start holding communities, administrators, teachers, parents and students accountable. We will prepare the next generation for success in college and the workforce, ensuring that American children lead the world once again in creativity and achievement.”
As a result of the crisis in many public schools throughout the nation, Charter schools are now being seen as a beacon of light. Charter schools are not guided by the same rules and regulations as public schools and are funded by the public i.e. donations, non-profit organizations, universities, etc.
Some Charter schools are “co-locating” to public schools to relieve them of the economic burdens and downturns. Some public schools are even in the midst of possibly being turned into Charter schools. This latest act to save local public schools is being met with strong opposition.
The United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), which represents Los Angeles public school teachers, came to legal blows with the LAUSD last month. UTLA filed papers with the Public Employment Relations Board to halt a planned conversion of Jordan High School and Clay Middle School into charter schools under the operation of Green Dot Public Schools. The move highlights continued tension between the UTLA and local, charter school-oriented reform efforts.
The teacher’s union is not just fighting to protect teachers or obstruct reform, according to union president A.J. Duffy. “Our position is that it violates the collective bargaining agreement,” Duffy said. “They should be sitting down with us to come up with a plan.”
[Educational] Code on charter schools is very clear when it comes to already existing schools – it has to be a conversion, which means teachers have to sign a petition,” Duffy said. “But the school board seems to believe they can do anything they want.”
Seeing that both Clay and Jordan are located in Local District 7 – a long-time site of educational dysfunction – the potential lack of funds is a glaring possibility.
Marco Petruzzi, the CEO of Green Dot, sees things differently.
“Charter schools are public schools,” he argued. “We’re all part of the public school system. We give money back through oversight fees and rent.”
Villaraigosa touched on the charter schools vs. public schools. While he supports the idea and implementation of the best elements of successful charter schools, he does not want to forget the public schools. “What we want to do is learn from what they [Charter Schools] do, and take it to scale, but in the end, we can’t give up on public schools,” said Villaraigosa.
Whether Charter schools are the answer or not, is a continuing debate, but it is clear reform is needed. Villaraigosa recently announced $5 million in reform grants to the LAUSD. “The grant program awards creative and forward thinking in public education, and the $5 million in grant monies will go towards enhancing the Public School Choice program, as well as funding new pilot programs and initiatives,” said Villaraigosa.
As stated earlier, miracles are being made within our struggling education system. It is because of hard working people like President Obama, Villaraigosa, teachers, parents and students that we change baby step by baby step. There are strives being made in the quicksand, but we have a lot more pulling to do before we are free.