California’s schools have seen a 20% reduction in expected funding from the state since 2007. And, with another $1.4 billion in trigger cuts looming, school board members came out in force at the California School Boards Association (CSBA) annual conference to advocate for a commitment to public education.
Members from around the state traveled to San Diego last week to share best practices, celebrate successes in student achievement, and discuss the best way to deal with the challenges facing California public schools.
“Public education is not a priority of our state,” said Ron Bennett, president of School Services of California.
Mike Madrid, founder of Grassroots Lab, encouraged school board members to take the lead in building local coalitions – including chambers of commerce, environmental organizations and good government groups. He also encouraged members to use social media, which has been proven to “change governments.”
CSBA director of government relations Rick Pratt discussed the menu of state initiatives in various stages of qualification. “The crystal ball is cloudy,” he said of their potential impact on public education.
“We’ve got to get our structural house in order before we even ask the question about what it takes to be first in the nation,” added Kevin Gordon of School Innovations & Advocacy.
Executive director Vernon Billy lauded the “three-days-in-print,” provision in California Forward’s proposed Government Performance and Accountability Act – requiring all legislation be available to the public for three days prior to the Legislature taking action. He said it would have benefited school boards last June, when AB 114 was drafted and passed “in the dead of night.” AB 114 temporarily suspended board authority to prepare for potential cuts when adopting their 2011-12 annual budgets.
Collaboration among cities, counties, school districts and non-profits was a common theme at the conference. The community school model was embraced by incoming CSBA president Jill Wynns, the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. It sets up partnerships that integrate academics, health and social services, youth and community development, and civic engagement to improve student learning and to develop stronger families and healthier communities.
Susan Lovenburg is California Forward’s Sacramento regional partnerships lead.