By Jason Parham | Penn State Daily Collegian
"This epidemic isn't just affecting blacks or Latinos in inner city schools. The color of disaster is multifarious; it knows no one ethnic group, neighborhood or economic status."
Jason Parham is a senior majoring in journalism and is The Daily Collegian's Tuesday columnist. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 15, 2008
Et tu, Arnold? Et tu?
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently proposed a more than $4 billion cut in education spending for the 2008-09 fiscal year. Schwarzenegger, who once deemed 2008 as the "year of education" in California, said this effort is to help relieve a $16 billion deficit without raising taxes.
The California Department of Education estimates that nearly 20,000 employees have received pink slips. Many believe these layoffs will be finalized by summer.
The cut in spending will not only affect teachers, but students as well. One might think it would be as simple as dollars and sense -- poor student performance plus low test scores should equal more money to improve education -- but you would be wrong. Schwarzenegger is doing more to hurt students than to help them.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), my home district for six years, decided not to issue layoff notices to any "permanent" teachers, promising that they would return next year. But it turns out that "permanent" was the operative word. It was reported that the district could lay off its more than 6,000 "probationary" teachers without early notices.
This epidemic isn't just affecting blacks or Latinos in inner city schools. The color of disaster is multifarious; it knows no one ethnic group, neighborhood or economic status.
Even in the affluent neighborhood of Rancho Palos Verdes, 60 layoff notices have been issued. The school board is asking parents to come up with $1.2 million by May 15 so teachers can keep their jobs.
This dire decision by Schwarzenegger is even more serious when you connect it to the data.
Looking at the Los Angeles area, a recently released report by Editorial Projects in Education Research Center showed a marked disparity between urban and suburban graduation rates, with 78 percent of students in suburban districts and 57 percent of those in city districts graduating. Only 45 percent of the students in LAUSD completed all four years of high school. The national average is 70 percent.
Moving closer to Pennsylvania, the report showed that the major school districts of Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit and Indianapolis suffered from the lowest graduation rates in the country. All were below 40 percent, with Detroit at 25 percent.
And what does Schwarzenegger do in my home state to fix this problem? Give teachers the boot. Instead of providing the proper materials to get student performance, test scores and graduation rates up, "The Governator" does the exact opposite. This isn't just an education crisis anymore -- it's a national catastrophe. This is a debt we cannot afford to write off.
Nationwide, students face drastic education reform, and not the good kind: Fewer teachers, fewer textbooks and fewer resources. Students in afflicted school districts are now at an even greater disadvantage, as if they weren't already on an uneven playing field.
Education -- the once-great equalizer in America -- now seems to be more of a burden than a blessing.
Where's the Kindergarten Cop when you need him?