In just a few weeks, hundreds of Del Norte students will celebrate one of the rites of passage, graduation from high school. Their high school experience will have been so different from what their parents experienced that the only thing their parents will be able to recognize is the classroom. Almost everything else has changed.
When the parents of these graduates went to school, the educational tool of choice was a No. 2 pencil. Today, most of these students have been used to computer keyboarding since elementary school and have been computer literate since at least the eighth grade. They know how to use Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint terms that didn't even exist when their parents attended school.
Twenty-five years ago, their parents utilized an encyclopedia for research on most topics. Research sometimes took weeks. Today's graduates have thousands of research tools available to them through the Web, and through a Google search, they have access to resources that even college professors did not possess a quarter of a century ago. They can research almost any topic in minutes.
When their parents went to school, they were expected to write term papers and essays. Today, their children are not only expected to write those same papers, but they are expected to include photos, or other video within a Powerpoint presentation.
Twenty-five years ago, courses like algebra and geometry were electives and only needed for those going on to a four-year university. Today, algebra is required for graduation.
Speaking of graduation:when the parents went to school, graduation was a snap. If they passed their courses, even with a "D" average, they could cross the stage and pick up that diploma. That's not the case any more. Today each student must pass the California Comprehensive High School Exit Exam. If they fail, they don't get a diploma.
Today, we are more concerned with a student's physical health than ever before; that's why some schools provide free and reduced price breakfasts as well as lunch for many students. This insures that they get at least two well balanced meals each day.
The fact is our students are expected to know so much more in order to succeed in our ever more complex world, yet they are being taught within the same number of days and hours that faced their parents.
For years, California has just assumed that every student would go on to a four-year university and they made laws that forced the local schools to teach college prep courses at the expense of career technical education.
California is just now recognizing the fact that by the year 2014, we will need 132,000 new nurses, 73,000 carpenters, 25,000 electricians, 11,000 welders, 37,000 auto mechanics and hundreds of thousands of other skilled craftsmen. You will probably hear a lot about the governor's initiatives on career technical education, yet the funding will only be a fraction of what's needed for us to be successful. How much is it? Less than $1 per student per month.
Our schools are dealing with challenges that create a huge draw on our budget, like special education. We also educate non-English speakers in unprecedented numbers, with unprecedented expectations for their achievement.
In the coming months I expect that the governor will talk about his program to increase the state aid for the School Nutrition Program. It's true that he has proposed an increase in the budget for breakfast and lunch programs, but when you ask the question, "By how much?" The answer is by 4.7 cents per meal. This rate does not even keep up with the increased costs due to inflation.
Time to step up
Hopefully you get the point that the governor's education budget for this next fiscal year will short-change your children.
Let's face it, education has been underfunded for years. The governor points to the increase in the education budget year after year, and that's a true statement. He has increased the budget, but that's only because there are more and more children to educate every year.
It's time that the California Legislature stood up to the governor and fully funded K-12 education. Your kids deserve it. You deserve it. And future generations of Californians will depend on it to keep us competitive in our global economic environment.