Poor schools shortchange all of us

‘Sooner or later, the educated will support the uneducated’

Chico resident Dick Cory taught in California public schools for 33 years, 23 of them as an off-campus supervisor for Butte College. He is a board member for the California Retired Teachers Association and the Bidwell Junior High Foundation.

Continual cuts in the California education budget have had a devastating effect. To compensate for this loss, districts have laid off employees, increased class size, limited field trips, and dropped allied activities. Schools are asked to do more with less.

All this complicates a system with a diverse population of students needing individual attention. The majority of learners speak English as a second language. Large classes are the last impediment these pupils need. Even bilingual classes are threatened as “frills.” Delays in remediation are more costly.

The federal program No Child Left Behind has failed miserably. Because of underfunding and poor design, its tests have served as a deterrent to learning. Teaching to the tests has replaced learning, as schools fear the financial penalty of failing. Dropouts have only been reduced 2 percent, and graduation rates stand at 67 percent. State funds have been diverted to compensate for federal failures.

Job security for beginning teachers is at an all-time low—last hired, first fired. Fewer students are choosing education as a career. Only the resilient, dedicated survive!

Feeble funding of our K-12 schools exacerbates these problems. We rank in the bottom quartile in national student funding. California is second to Utah in average class size, while ranking near the bottom in per-student spending.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has not helped the situation. His continual education budget slashes, increases in college tuition, and promotion of charter schools have had a deleterious effect on public schools.

Districts are forced to close and/or combine smaller schools. Neighborhoods are forced to create a charter school or have their kids bused. ADA (average daily attendance) money is siphoned to charter schools, which have the advantage of smaller class size, local control, less travel time, and fewer state restrictions as to credentialing and curriculum.

Charter schools can be creative with curriculum with a select group of students having supportive families. Unfortunately, not all families can afford the time or money outlay, and those left behind inherit the inadequacies of overcrowded, underfunded classrooms.

Many families appreciate the ethnic diversity and varied programs offered by public schools. Why should they be penalized?

Polarization of education based on money is discriminatory. Sooner or later, the educated will support the uneducated, whether through welfare or penitentiaries. It’s much more economical to spend tax dollars supporting education than maintaining exorbitantly costly welfare and prison systems.

Schools should provide the right of every citizen to an educated life with no one left behind.