The recent teachers strikes in California and the nation aren’t only about pay, though if they were, they would be entirely justified. These strikes have been about giving students a decent chance at education, something that is perilously in question under current conditions found in so many schools. After bargaining for 20 months with the district and hitting a wall, L.A. teachers went on strike to fight for smaller class sizes, librarians, psychologists, nurses and more – for their students.
School districts throughout California are under attack by the proliferation of charter schools, which in practice, act as private schools. This erodes the public school system and allows for-profit corporations to gobble up education dollars meant to help all children succeed, not just the ones accepted to these schools. The corporatization of our education system has degraded what it means to have a national public education system we can all be proud of.
Arguably the biggest tragedy of the charter school movement has been the emergence of a pattern of segregation and “white flight” as children from affluent homes fill charter schools, taking resources with them and leaving traditional schools and school districts to carry an unfair share of overhead with fewer dollars.
As the Supreme Court has ruled, there is no such thing as “separate but equal.” Yet in practice, both of these for-profit driven programs are a slap in the face of the concept of education being the great equalizer in our society.
I believe teachers have one of the hardest and most important professions in our society and are undervalued and underpaid. I am against vouchers. I believe we need more funding for all public schools, including our Community College, CSU and UC systems. I believe we need full funding for both transitional kindergarten and all-day kindergarten. I believe we need to protect teacher seniority rights and pension. I believe we need to curb this endless testing and prohibit test cores from being a determinant in teacher evaluations.
We must reclaim the original intent of public education using all the legislative weapons in our arsenal. Everyone must be in and no one left out.
More than 50 years ago, the state of California instituted the Master Plan for higher education, making the University of California and the California State University systems virtually free of charge for those seeking a bachelor’s degree. It increased overall efficiency and provided an education system that was available to all students, regardless of their economic means.
We need to work to eradicate current student loan practices and stop treating the cost of education as a for-profit industry. In California, the idea of free public colleges and universities is not a radical idea. It was, and must be again, our state identity. We did it until the 1980’s – we can do it again!