Enough reports, studies and blueprints: It’s time to act on them
Public schools in California are in a state of crisis and our students are suffering the consequences. Our children deserve and require more attention, resources and support. While there has been no shortage of plans and policies for what our schools need, there seems to be a lack of political will to actually institute the needed reforms.
Last week, as an example, California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson, published a comprehensive and reasonable series of recommendations coined “Blueprint for Great Schools.” Torlakson gathered a 59-member Transition Advisory Team, made up of teachers, parents, administrators, labor and business leaders, with input from thought-leaders such as Professor Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford University School of Education and David Plank, executive director of PACE, to craft the document. The recommendations address finance, curriculum and technology, to name a few, and the “Blueprint” could revolutionize the California public education system.
Nevertheless, Torlakson’s “Blueprint” is not particularly divergent from other reports put together in recent years by consortiums of the best-schooled in California education policy. For instance, “Getting Down to Facts,” an independent research project requested by Gov. Schwarzenegger’s Committee on Education Excellence in 2007, was authored by many of the experts who worked on Torlakson’s “Blueprint” and outlined many of the same reforms and improvements. This 2007 report received, and continues to receive, many accolades from policy makers, legislators and education advocates.
The problem seems to occur in implementing these ideas. In 2008, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley attempted to create a committee focused on making these recommendations a reality; her bill flew through both the state Senate and the state Assembly on its way to becoming a law, only to be vetoed by the sponsor of the 2007 report, Gov. Schwarzenegger.
During the past eight months since Torlakson took office and commissioned this “Blueprint,” California’s K-12 public education system has taken several large steps backward. School days have been shed, talented teachers have been lost, and the state’s achievement level is among the country’s bottom 10 percent. Moreover, California’s current budget will prove truly disastrous for schools wiping out even more money from schools if budgeted revenue targets are not achieved. In summary, California’s Legislature claims to value education, but the lack of action since 2007 tells a different story.
As a parent of three young kids in the California public school system, I am pleading with the Legislature, the public, and my fellow parents: enough planning, enough studies. It is time to BUILD! We don’t need more ideas – we need to put the plans into action. So let’s get our hard hats on and get to work. NOW!
Crystal Brown is co-founder and president of Educate Our State, a parent-led, grassroots, statewide campaign fighting for high-quality public education in California. She is a Bay Area native, 17-year resident of San Francisco, and mother of three young girls. She has served on the PTA Board at Sherman Elementary School and in early-2010, she and five other “PTA moms” organized a 1,200-person town hall meeting, Public Education–Funding Our Future, looking for solutions to the local school funding crisis.