Our Schools: three issues for our schools in 2012 By Dr. Julian Crocker, County Superintendent of Schools
s we begin 2012, I think there are three issues that will continue to command much of the discussion and attention for the public schools in our county this year. These issues are the continuing financial challenges that we face as part of the state budget crisis; the increasing role of the federal government in local school policy with specific reference to national academic standards for all students; and the continuing challenges associated with the appropriate usages of technology in our schools.
STATE BUDGET CHALLENGES Since local school district budgets are almost completely controlled by both the revenue allocated in the state budget and state policies and laws, what happens in Sacramento matters for schools in the county. Last month, Governor Brown announced his proposed budget for our state for the 2012-2013 fiscal year. Actually, it was two budgets. The first one is based on additional revenue being achieved if voters approve increased taxes on the November ballot. The second budget is one that would occur if those additional revenues are not approved. For schools, the budget that includes new revenues stops the decline in funding that we have experienced over the past five years and starts to reinvest in our children’s education. Schools in our county have lost approximately $50 million dollars since 2007 and we desperately need to reverse that slide. The Governor’s “reinvestment budget” would result in approximately $24 million additional funding for local schools which would allow school districts to begin to reduce class sizes, restore special help for struggling students and expand course offerings. On the other hand, if new revenues are not approved, then we stand to lose about $14.8 million on top of the very damaging cuts that our schools have already suffered. Our largest district, the Lucia Mar Unified School District, would lose approximately $4.5 million and our smallest district, the
Pleasant Valley Joint Union Elementary District would lose $50,000.
NATIONAL ACADEMIC STANDARDS California is one of over 40 states that have agreed to adopt a common set of academic standards, or expectations for students, in the areas of English/Language Arts and Mathematics. This is another very significant shift from what we have traditionally thought of as “local control” of our public schools. Actually, our state made this move over 10 years ago when we moved to statewide academic standards in most subject areas. The move to national standards is a logical next step. The reason for this move is the realization that education is a national interest and that the mobility of students now and in the future requires common standards for the nation’s students instead of a system of varying standards depending on where a student happens to be born. Common academic standards will also allow for common assessments (student tests) that will provide a valid basis for comparison among states that is not now possible.
challenge is for teachers to use and develop their skills in other areas, such as teaching students how to use information to solve problems or to collaborate with others not in their physical location. Finally, there is also a concern with the appropriate use of technology between students and how this impacts the school environment. Social networking sites are very popular but these sites can also be used for cyber-bullying and the unintended release of personal information. The reactions of students to these inappropriate uses often results in a disruption of a positive learning environment at school.
In the history of American public education, this movement to a more centralized system is certainly one of the more significant events and will have impact on all of our schools and classrooms. Our schools are currently in the planning stages for implementation of national standards by 2014.
APPROPRIATE USE OF TECHNOLOGY FOR LEARNING The advancements in technology that affects all of lives also impacts schools. 2012 will continue to see schools being challenged with how to use new technology in the most appropriate manner to advance student learning. The technological competence and expectations that students now bring to school is vastly different than just a few years ago. In the past, one of the major roles of the teacher was to dispense information. Now, that role is greatly diminished with the universal access to information that is possible with personal electronic devices. Our F E B R U A R Y
February 2012 Journal Plus