WatchSonoma Watch

GUEST OPINION: Promote understanding, not scapegoating, on education crisis

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.

Jessica Jones

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.

23 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: Promote understanding, not scapegoating, on education crisis”

  1. Skippy says:

    @ Grey
    We agree.
    The bottom 50% of taxpayers actually pay no taxes.
    These freeloaders are receiving money from productive citizens on a permanent basis, and the % of Americans on the dole is growing annually.
    This great nation should and does have plenty of wealth with which to support those who cannot care for themselves, but we waste it on those who will not work.
    Deficits? Debt? Revenue enhancement?
    The answer is simple.
    Tax the poor.
    Then they would have a stake in the economic health of our country and be producers rather than purely consumers.
    Plus it would teach the work ethic to folks who are on their 3rd or 4th generation of dependence and helplessness.
    No, I am not kidding.

  2. Grey Whitmore says:

    You want to know what’ wrong with America?


    Almost 50% of Americans don’t pay ANY tax!

    Next, lovely Prop 13 and its abuse by corporations who have found ways to transfer property to purposefully avoid paying a new rate.

    The list goes on and on. The real deal is that American’s don’t want to pay taxes, they want to buy crap they don’t need.

    Fine. Keep doing it. And watch your children’s future fall to pieces dollar by dollar, cheap thing by cheap thing.

  3. tdawg says:

    I agree Petaluma resident. Seems that many in Academia, celebrate the Pro-Palestinean terrorist agenda. Also, racist hate groups like MeCHA exist on campuses throughout the U.S. who advocate racial seperatism.

    At SRJC’s Santa Rosa campus, all one has to do is stand outside the front of the Bertolini Student Center, and displayed through the window in dayview presumably from one of the counselors’ windows, is a banner with the face of Che Guevara openly displayed. Communism, Anti-American and Anti-Semetic hatred seems to be celebrated on a campus that advocates “tolerance”.

  4. Petaluma Resident says:

    Why is the SRJC allowing it’s Petaluma Campus to host a hate festival? After the carnage that happened in Israel where a family of five was slaughtered in their sleep by “Palestinians” and the “Palestinian” people were celebrating why is a public campus allowing this? Is this 1938 Germany when the Nazis were pushing for the extermination of Jews? Is the propaganda of the “Palestinians” now to be pushed down our children’s throats as the Nazis did to the Children of Europe? As a tax payer and a parent of two children who go to the JC, I am against using my hard earned money to fund a pro-terrorist group that for now may have free tax status but may it be revoked as it is not what they stand for but for terrorism.

  5. Petaluma Resident says:

    For the past 18 years I’ve been in front of the Petaluma School Board, wrote and called Sacramento over the lack of substance that exists in the Education System. My children have suffered like others have as well. There weren’t any Charter Schools and I could not Home School as I was working part time so my children still had someone at home for part of the day.

    My son who is now 23 close to 24 had a teacher that had suffered a breakdown. She was not given leave for her health but allowed to stick around where she was more or less a vegetable. He didn’t learn anything in second grade but was passed. I insisted he be held back so he can be taught something by someone else.

    The curriculum had changed constantly during the years – first it was phonetics then it was whole word, then it was back to phonetics – they suffered so much by being confused today many cannot spell or even know how to form sentences. Geography was not taught and History would be revised a few times. Via older encyclopedias and trips to museums in NY and in Oregon did my children learn the facts of American History and of the Native American history.

    My daughter in 7th grade was being taught that the Holocaust didn’t really happen. Upon going to the principal in regards to the teacher stating that the Jews planned this – I found out I was not alone. The fact that they were going to be learning how to pray like they were Muslim made it even more outrageous. The principal upon learning that after reciting the Shahadah makes a person Muslim as per Sharia he cancelled the session. The teacher was FINALLY excused after a small group of us parents protested. There were protests going on throughout the State over this. Turned out the TCI (Teachers Curriculum Institute) had received a huge “gift” from Saudi Arabia ONLY if they would teach Islam).

    As a parent of a child who has a learning disorder due to a handicap I was shocked when a fifth grade teacher taunted her by calling her terrorist kid (her birthday is Sept. 11th). The tauntings by this TEACHER and the kids was nearly too much for her to handle and her health was deteriorating. Nothing was done to this teacher.

    I could go on and on but I won’t. I’m one of many who have had to fight the schools. I come from another state where California was always looked upon with envy for being the leader in education. Now it’s one of the worse states next to Mississippi (49 out of 50) of the quality of education.

    In my day, we had over 40 kids and one teacher. Today there is less than 30 and you have multiple helpers and teachers. The teachers did earn their salaries and for the most part were there for the kids. Today from what I have seen – the majority may not be. Instead of getting rid of the bad ones and keeping the good ones, the schools via the Unions/PTAs are doing the opposite.

  6. Really Big Fish says:

    The public education system in California is essentially dead…it just has some people roaming around keeping the gates open. The percentage of graduates that make it out to college is very small and getting smaller. People who can afford to are moving their kids out. Now that unions are allowed on campuses the public schools will soon be recruitment centers for the unions so the Democrats can contnue to steer the elections and raise taxes.

    Mr. Aparicio’s haphazard extreme left commentary may sound wonderful in the hallowed halls of union coffe rooms and wine feasts but is far from reality. California was the leader in the country and prized in the world for its higher education but under Jerry Brown in the 1970′s the parade started down the hill. And we all know that parades move faster down hill.Since that time the “melting minds” of the academic and political world have absoultely failed the public in providing high quality education. Not only failed us but are continuing to destroy it hoping that it will the best third world union school in the U.S. Sadly and pathetically Mr. Aparicio and Jessica Jones actually believe that the cast of left wing characters highligthing the SRJC 4/8 will have viable solutions.

    The group should be challenged to identify the top three problems and the costs associated with those problems and publish them in PD. Any bets?

    Thank God, my kids just made it out in time.

  7. Reality Check says:

    //Do you want an education system like those countries?//

    I’m not sure. But I am sure that America has a shortage of skilled workers. We import them from those very countries whose education system you disparage. Why?

    Meanwhile, we have a surplus of people with degrees in fields for which there is little demand. Young adults (with degrees) struggle to pay off student loans, while jobs for skilled workers that pay well go begging for a lack of qualified applicants.

    Something is wrong with American education, and regrettably teachers seem to be first and foremost about protecting their benefits and seniority. Read up on what’s going on in Compton, California.

  8. Horace Mann says:

    @Reality Check

    Do you want an education system like those countries? Really? Most separate the sheep from the goats by age 14, and funnel the smart kids to college and everyone else out into the working world.

  9. Reality Check says:

    When one believes education in California faces a “funding crisis,” the point of view of the writer is not subtle. Neutral it isn’t.

    There is another possibility, that we have a spending crisis. And while that point of view is not popular (yet) in Sonoma County, it may become so. We are–as Margaret Thatcher so indelicately put it–on the cusp of “running out of other people’s money.”

  10. tdawg says:

    “The Teachers” are always used as a scapegoat by THE UNIONS! Most of those that work for schools are in administrative capacity and many of those positions are unnecessary. Counselors getting paid to sit in their office and play Solitare all day, for example, obviously are unnecessary or could afford to take on a bigger workload. Yet the unions aren’t talking about cutting the “cubicle rat” positions.

  11. I’ll be happy to answer any questions anyone has. In the meantime, I would recommend folks read the column carefully. For example, it does not take any position on education cuts, pension reform, or any other funding issues. The point of the column was to recognize that these funding issues truly are a crisis, and that it is important to promote collaborative solutions based on an informed understanding of the issues. I happen to favor many pension reforms; and I think “how much the state can afford” is a reasonable consideration when discussing these matters. There is no need to demonize public employee unions, the institution of tenure, or our public school system to make that case. Let’s just have frank, fact-based discussions about our state budget, the education budget’s place in the state’s budget, and our options when trying to address these issues. Best, Michael

  12. Reality Check says:

    We’ve long heard that we spend more money for health care in the U.S. than other countries, yet get no better health results for the extra money spent. Therefore, our medical care system needs fundamental reform.

    Why shouldn’t the same logic apply to our system of education? We spend more, yet get no better, and possibly worse, outcomes than countries that spend far less.

    But, reform is not what anyone wants to talk about, err, at least not reform that doesn’t also include a chunk more money. The idea that maybe we might need to better examine why education costs more in the U.S. is, apparently, a taboo subject.

  13. Phil Maher says:

    This editorial fails to differentiate between “scapegoating” and “targeting”. Brown may not be “scapegoating” teachers and schools, but his budget proposals certainly are “targeting” the public education system, first and foremost. Does he mean it, or is it just the tried and true form of coercion we’ve all become so accustomed to in using the threat of “targeting” the things we cherish most as a society as a way to gain leverage in parting us with our money? The State needs more money, not more enemies. Who needs scapegoats when you can focus your attack squarely between the eyes and deliver a much more resounding blow?

  14. Josh Stevens says:

    Nowhere in their “piece” do Jessica & Michael address (in any significant way)the budget deficit.

    They’re simply trying to make sure “theirs” doesn’t get cut.While taking dishonest shots at educators who aren’t employed by the status quo.I would,in particular,like to know the source of their “data” concerning charter schools.

    A very self serving and unfortunate guest opinion.

  15. truth in news says:

    Lets all send a message to the NFL and BOYCOTT every thing they do. Instead go see a local high school football game. The kids will be much more thankful than the professional bums we are used to watching. And you will have a first class seat in seeing how teachers and coaches work with the kids! BOYCOTT THE NFL SUPPORT LOCAL SPORTS!!!!

  16. SRK says:

    Everyone wants to blame teachers, parents, the state, well when I was a kid and wasn’t doing well in a subject it MY FAULT.

  17. Ochun says:

    @ the 6 people who posted A comment . So please correct me if I’m wrong here..are you saying that our students are not worth having good teachers..and that teachers (with all they have to put up with) are not worth the sacrifice all in the good name of Efficient and Effective Education? Please enlighten me!


  18. Pearl Alquileres says:

    “taxpayer is not a customer but in fact an owner”
    More like the “shareholders” of a Corporation. Only our Corp. is run by people who are dependant on Union contributions to keep their jobs.
    NOBODY is fighting for us.
    It’s time to ban Public Employee Unions completely. You people can protest all you want, you’re only delaying the inevitable. WE ARE OUT OF MONEY!

  19. observing says:

    the reason why abolishing tenure is so popular–everyone remembers incompetent teachers in their schooldays. Now that we ourselves have years experience in the workplace, thoughtful people are appalled to discover that so many of those bad teachers are STILL teaching.

    The teacher unions have refused even the most moderate and reasonable reforms to “due process” that would allow schools to fire incompetent teachers. Now that the public has had enough, the teacher unions are scapegoating the taxpayers, claiming they are “underfunded.”

    Slandering charter school educators is not the answer, nor, likely, is anything useful coming from this April 8 “summit” of supporters of the status quo.

  20. Mitch Fowler says:

    The problem with our schools has nothing to do with teacher pay and benefits or collective bargaining agreements. I seriously doubt that the bonafide good teachers in the many school systems nationwide are in it for pay and benefits.

    When I attended public schools in Sonoma County, my class sent students to Harvard and Yale and Princton. We had some who went on to install carpet or drywall and some became roofers. We had some that died in car crashes because they were drunk. There’s a few doctors and lawyers and several who are drug addicted and/or alcoholic bums. A politician and at least one super-model.

    We all had the same teachers. The homeless drunks and the computer experts who started their own business. The success or failure rate had nothing to do with teachers.

    The differences now are the same then. Different parents and different priorities in life. While I spent my weekend drinking Mickey Big Mouth and having a good time, others might have been studying all weekend for that B+. I could give a darn I got the C- because I was having a good time and wouldn’t trade the fun I had on the weekend for the B+. But it nothing to do with teachers.

    I had some great teachers and I had some that turned out to be pedophiles. But what about those students that went to Harvard? The pervert who taught history didn’t change a thing. The inspiring and brilliant English teacher didn’t alter the course of a single homeless former Sonoma County student.

    The fault lies squarely on the parents and the individual student. Some cultures, like the Latino culture simply do not stress education. It’s just not as important. However, in the Chinese culture, that kid might get reamed by his parents if he gets an A-. They will push for that A and those kids will work their buns off the get the A. The Jewish families likewise prioritize school and education and their kids end up in Harvard while another culture might end up picking strawberries.

    Some cultures (most) ridicule academic achievement and most people revel in their ignorance creating the market for Books for Dummies.

    This is a sociological problem. It has nothing to do with teachers. The teachers that are looking out for themselves and their benefits aren’t the best. The best teachers are easy to spot. The free market should be rewarding them. But we just keep insisting that everyone is some kind of shade of gray and give out a trophy for participation.

    The teachers don’t deserve a participation trophy. It has to be a merit system. Not that it’s going to make the slightest difference in student performance for the reasons I just explained. But it’s a start.

  21. AMT says:

    Play me the violin. I am so over the victimization game. There simply is not the money to continue paying these unrealistic pensions & benefits. Jerry Brown is no savior. California needs to wake up and follow suit with other states who have true leaders. If you haven’t noticed the state is bankrupt. No employee should have guaranteed tenure. A vaguely defined evaluation process? Amazing that any of us in the private sector have a job? Duh….the best employees don’t worry and the slackers are canned. It’s a pretty clear process that most folks understand. I’ll say it again….behind every bankrupt school district or state, you’ll find a union.

  22. Reality Check says:

    Rather that simply focus on the rising retail price of education–the painful tuition increases–it’s unfortunate the authors didn’t mention the problem of rising costs on the delivery side.

    Public schools and colleges seem to have built-in cost escalators that demand yearly budget increases above the natural growth in revenue or the underlying economy. When that revenue fails to keep up, we get the annual demand for higher taxes to prevent the dire consequences of “cuts.”

    Yet, the U.S. spends far more on education than comparable countries. Its 17.1% of GDP compares favorably to: Canada (13%), U.K.(12%), France (11%), Germany (10%), Japan (11%). The questions that needs to be asked and answered is why other countries do as well (or better) for far less money?

  23. Beef King says:

    SCAPEGOAT- a person or group made to bear the blame for others or to suffer in their place.
    No one is blaming union members for wanting good pay and security, the blame is aimed at unsustainable financial practices.
    Aparicio is employing the tired old tactic of change the debate if you can’t win the argument.
    Public sector employees, that is, people who are paid with taxpayer dollars, must understand the taxpayer is not a customer but in fact an owner, and has the same need for protection against financial misdeeds and malfeasance of the type that comes with union contracts.
    Don’t turn taxpayers into scapegoats.