By JESSICA JONES and MICHAEL APARICIO
Michael Aparicio is chairman of the Philosophy Department at Santa Rosa Junior College. Jessica Jones is Associated Students vice president of programs and president of Students for Sustainable Communities.
Crises do create opportunities. One need only look at California’s education funding crisis. Our K-12 school boards continue to face serious budget decisions, increasing class sizes, shortening the school year and cutting such vital resources as library access and support counseling.
After a decade of repeated tuition and fee increases, California’s Legislative Analyst Office is projecting this fall’s California State University students will pay more than 40 percent of their education’s costs and UC students will pay 50 percent of their education’s cost. Such economic obstacles will affect students’ access to our universities.
Of course, many qualified students won’t even be accepted because our universities are decreasing enrollments. Many of these students will turn to California’s already crowded community colleges, where students not only face additional fee increases for fewer services, but are finding more closed doors.
As open-access institutions, our community colleges admit all qualified students. However, they’re being asked to re-prioritize their class enrollments, to decide which students should be allowed to enroll before others.
As Santa Rosa Junior College President Robert Agrella recently noted, this means “thousands of students who have heretofore attended California community colleges will no longer be able to do so.”
Unfortunately, some seize upon an education funding crisis as an opportunity to scapegoat educators and misleadingly undermine our public education systems.
We saw this when a Press Democrat editorial, (“Failing grade: Parent trigger law deserves a fair test, not more roadblocks,” Feb. 22) criticized “underperforming schools,” then promoted firing their principals and turning these institutions into charter schools.
If we accept this editorial’s oversimplified caricature, underfunding is irrelevant to underperformance, and the way to improve performance is an under-regulated charter system that, to date, has performed significantly worse than our public schools.
Of course this is mild compared to what’s happening outside our state.
Wisconsin’s governor is trying to outlaw teachers’ bargaining rights. If successful, Wisconsin will join South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Virginia as the only states outlawing such rights. They also produce the lowest SAT scores in the country.
New Jersey’s governor is going further, misleadingly targeting teachers in an effort to abolish that state’s tenure system, leaving educators’ pay and job security susceptible to a vaguely defined evaluation process.
Thankfully California’s governor, Jerry Brown, has been encouraging a different approach by promoting frank discussions about our states’ budget crisis without scapegoating educators and other public employees. His leadership is creating an important opportunity for us to work together rather than against one another.
For these reasons, we’re delighted that Assembly members Jared Huffman and Michael Allen will be leading a panel discussion at Santa Rosa Junior College on April 8. The event will bring local elected officials together with students, educators and other members of the public interested in understanding California’s education crisis and its plausible solutions.
It’s why we’re also excited that Norman Solomon will be coming to SRJC on April 27 to discuss the ways our national spending priorities are affecting our education crisis.
These events provide us opportunities to resist opportunistic scapegoating and promote informed and collaborative problem-solving.