Tuesday, September 23, 2008



●●smf 2¢: It’s no different in Visalia or Tulare. Schools have not attained the level of excellence we expect.  There is further improvement needed in serving students.  Schools don’t have the resources they need.  Teachers are not fully trained and competent. Schools haven’t achieved the optimal ratio of administrators to teachers.

Editorial | Visalia Times Delta/Tulare Advance-Register

September 23, 2008 -- In an energetic election year with no loss of stimulating candidates and controversial issues, one issue has been missing: education.

National presidential candidates have given education mostly lip service, touting their respective parties' traditional response.

Democrat Barack Obama says he wants to put more money into education and to reform No Child Left Behind.

Republican John McCain touts the value of vouchers and charter schools.

As a report by the Washington Post noted last week, neither candidate has presented specific measures on how to address No Child Left Behind, the six-year-old bipartisan reform measure by the federal government.

In California, education has been the missing component in the three-month-long budget battle between Republicans and Democrats.

The November statewide ballot is dominated by other issues. There are 12 propositions on the state ballot, and not one of them deals in any way with education, which is rare.

Locally, College of the Sequoias has proposed bond measures for its college farm in Tulare and improvements to the main campus in Visalia. Few other conversations about education are taking place, even with a COS trustee seat up for election and a county Board of Education seat contested.

Why has education retreated from the political landscape?

It is certainly not because our schools have attained the level of excellence we expect of them or that there is no further improvement needed in serving students.

It is certainly not because schools have all the resources they need or that teachers are all now fully trained and competent or that schools have achieved the optimal ratio of administrators to teachers.

Most teachers will tell you it is not that the test-heavy, structured curriculum embraced in schools for the past few years is achieving what is best for learning.

We're concerned that more discussion is not taking place in California and the nation as a whole regarding the improvement of education. Like many residents in Visalia and Tulare County, we consider education among the community's priorities.

We have saluted some of the advances that schools have made with students in the past couple of years, but we have also acknowledged that much needs to be done.

Meanwhile, with state and local budgets constricted, local educators are reluctant to propose innovations or improvements. They are looking forward to holding the line for a year or two.

Yet California will elect more than 40 new lawmakers this year. This is a time when we should be challenging the education status quo and not simply accepting the results we are given.

Teachers will tell you that they are testing too much and sacrificing the teaching of critical thinking. The state has done nothing to relieve local school districts of categorical programs that provide no leeway for local decision-making. If anything, it has become worse because of the added accountability from No Child Left Behind.

Growth in California will become a factor in this state in the next few years, but not just because it will cause overcrowding: Some school districts, such as those in the Central Valley, will grow. Others will shrink. Because California allocates funding based on enrollment, adjusting to that trend will be a challenge. Our local lawmakers must be prepared to advocate for our local schools and their share of funding.

Six years into the program, there are no plans on the table for adjusting No Child Left Behind, although nearly everyone concerned recognizes the need for it.

We intend to offer specific remedies to these conditions and others as we move toward Election Day. We hope that they will gain some traction, because for the first time in recent memory, this is an election when nobody seems to be talking about education. We definitely will not make any improvements in schools that way.

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