You've probably heard how California spends more money on inmates than students. According to the Legislative Analyst Office, California spends nearly $50,000 per year on each prisoner in our jails and less than $8,000 on each student in our schools.
No one would design a system like this purposefully, right? Think again. Under the latest budget proposal from Sacramento, prioritizing courts over classrooms would be official educational policy. The Governor's latest Trailer Bill, which details his proposed school funding formula, provides that Silicon Valley property taxes collected explicitly to found education would be transferred to fund the state court system.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that schools should be big winners after Governor Jerry Brown releases his revised budget plan today. We applaud the spirit of his legislation and its mission for more equity in school funding. But if you look at the fine print – some education entities will actually lose money. Here in Silicon Valley, the proposed changes to our local school funding formula will actually freeze surplus revenue from being spent on education.
How can we protect our kids?
There’s a simple solution to making sure our schools receive the funding they deserve. We propose taking out just one line in the Trailer Bill legislation that restricts access to our local funds. That way we can keep funding programs that go towards closing achievement gaps within our counties.
Brown would replace 60-odd "categorical" or restricted funds districts are required to use for things like textbooks, technology and training with three basic pots of money that they could use mostly how they choose. Districts would get a base grant in the range of $6,000 to $8,000 for each student, depending on grade level. On top of that, English-language learners, foster kids and poor students would generate a supplemental grant of an additional 35 percent. Districts with high concentrations of disadvantaged students -- more than 50 percent -- would get an additional bonus. All the grants would gradually increase over time.
Overall, the governor's approach is a huge step in the right direction. But there are many devils in the details.
Joe Ross, trustee on the San Mateo County Board of Education, announced this week the launch of a new initiative in tandem with a White House effort to further emphasize science and technology education. Ross will be working pro bono on US2020, which aims to engage 20 percent of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workforce in at least 20 hours per year of mentorship or teaching by the year 2020. Cisco Systems and SanDisk are among the first in Silicon Valley to make the commitment.
Getting chief executives on board is key, Ross said, whether it be the president of the United States or CEOs of high-tech companies. Oftentimes, workers don’t realize that mentoring young folks is an option as part of their work.
“US2020 is intended to get people’s attention and create a culture shift,” Ross said, adding that, in other professions such as law, there is no question there will be some pro bono work.
Ross will now assist in finding locations for the mentoring, whether it be in schools or in nonprofits such as the Boys and Girls Club. STEM, and project-based learning in general, is becoming more prevalent in education — especially around here. This effort might be the incubator that gets it to expand in other parts of the nation. Having the White House on board doesn’t hurt either.
Today the White House helped launch a new initiative I helped start to engage technological professionals as mentors in our public schools.
US2020 (www.us2020.org) seeks to engage 20 percent of the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce of leading companies in at least 20 hours per year of mentorship or teaching by the year 2020. In Silicon Valley, Cisco Systems and SanDisk are leading by example by being among the first to commit to US2020.
In 2020, current first graders in the Silicon Valley will be graduating from middle school, current sixth graders will be starting college, and current ninth graders will be graduating from college. It's up to Silicon Valley to inspire these kids. They can be our next generation of engineers, scientists and discoverers.
Our next technological workforce can and should be home grown.
I happened to flip on the TV this January when Governor Brown was giving this year's extraordinary State of the State address. He grabbed my attention early on with a reference to Pharaoh's dream in Genesis of lean cows eating fat cows, which Joseph interpreted as a warning that famine will follow feast. Better not waste resources in times of surplus, Brown said, sounding an optimistic note about next year's budget. Times change.
Anyway, after recounting in about 40 seconds the history of California, he turned to education.
Introducing his education budget, the governor sounded two key themes that continue to reverberate across school districts across the state: subsidiarity and equity.
Subsidiarity is a pretty technical term for a political speech, and it's even hard to pronounce, so Brown helpfully defined it. "Subsidiarity is the idea that a central authority should only perform those tasks which cannot be performed at a more immediate or local level," Brown said. In a nutshell, Brown explained, it's about letting local school districts make their own calls about how to teach kids. It's time to strip away as much meddling from Sacramento as possible. Pretty straightforward, you would think.
Brown's second theme, equity, was less intuitive. "Equal treatment," Brown said, "is not justice." Students in more challenging circumstances deserve more robust resources, not mere equality. Not intuitive, perhaps, but also not untrue. English language learners and high-poverty kids do deserve extra support.
How are these two seemingly straightforward themes playing out for San Mateo County? Not well, unfortunately.
Stanford's most popular philosophy prof, Rob Reich, has come out with a provocative case for what foundations should be doing. Unlike (and unanswerable to) politics or markets, philanthropists at their best could invest in unpopular, long-term public goods, he argues. After all, politicians generally follow polls. Markets want hockey-stick returns on investment. Foundations, on the other hand, could be focused on funding innovation, projects with long horizons, and other things that voters and financial investors don't typically reward.
Welcome to my blog. I am deeply honored to have been elected in 2012 to serve on the San Mateo County Board of Education. My commitment is to bring energetic advocacy and fresh ideas to strengthen our San Mateo County schools. I know firsthand that the economic future of San Mateo County depends on the education and job training we provide for all young adults, children, and lifelong learners.