WatchSonoma Watch

GUEST OPINION: Take a look inside our schools


Driving by a Sonoma County school, you might hear happy recess sounds and see children running across the playground. Then the bell rings, the students line up to go inside, the door closes and work begins.

But inside our Sonoma County schools, you won’t see the school that you remember attending. That’s because today’s public schools have lost more than 20 percent of their funding since 2007. On top of that, the money the state has allocated for education is being paid through a system of delayed payments, which means that schools are only receiving 60 cents for every dollar promised to education for a given year.


Behind the doors of our schools, you’ll discover that there are no new textbooks for students — and none will be available until 2017. Students are spending less time in the classroom because the academic year has been cut. On average, there are now five fewer days of school than in the 2007 school year.

The shortened academic calendar is expected to be the norm until at least 2016. Today’s students are missing out on 45 days of school — five days per year over a nine-year period — which means that every one of our children is losing classroom instructional time equal to one-quarter of a school year.

Classes have grown larger, and many teachers are responsible for five or more additional students in their classroom. The impact? Students are receiving less individualized help if they are having trouble grasping a new concept or learning a new skill — or if they are ready to advance to new learning ahead of their classmates.

School nurses, librarians, music and vocational teachers, counselors and other staff who used to provide essential support to students have lost their jobs or seen their hours reduced.

School buildings and grounds are in need of repair. Funding for building maintenance has been reduced or eliminated. Purchases of technology, infrastructure and equipment needed to help prepare college- and career-ready students for the 21st century have been repeatedly delayed.

For students needing extra help learning to read or missing credits for graduation, there is no after-school or summer program that will give them the instructional support they need to succeed.

This is the way California is educating its students today.

Sonoma County schools have done a remarkable job in these circumstances. Our county’s students continue to score well above state and national averages on standardized achievement exams. More than 80 percent of our high school graduates advance to higher education at community colleges or four-year universities. More than 75 of our schools have earned recognition from the state for the high quality of their academic programs.

But the financial stress is taking a toll that you can see when you enter our schools.

As educators, we ask for your support to help ensure that Sonoma County is a place where families want to raise and educate their children. Join us in the effort to strengthen school funding by supporting the state tax initiative to restore California schools.

Claudia Frandsen is president of the Sonoma County Association of School Administrators and superintendent of Cloverdale Unified School District. Jeff Reed is president of the Sonoma County Educators Council and a history teacher at Windsor High School.

20 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: Take a look inside our schools”

  1. Smart Fish says:

    Workshops should be on Saturday or over the summer not during school year.

    The big question is why support education at all. The unions are on campus and Obama and the unions want kids, whether they finish high school or not, should have the same income for public employees than educated private sector employees. They want the public sector to pay higher taxes to pay for this. Kids are saying why go to college and spend or borrow all that money when I can become a cop, fireman and so on. Kids are dropping out, the labor unions are allowed to come on campus but the military which is offering millions of dollars in scholarships is not. Wealthy and smarter parents are moving to private schools and if not for the top 15% of public school kids, who would succeed anyway, public schools would be vocational schools.

    The teachers unions are about job security and clearly not about education.

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  2. Harsh criticism of educators coming from such abominable spellers…says it all, doesn’t it.

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  3. Californian says:

    I see my grandkids regularly throughout the school week. Many times when I ask them how their day was, they tell me they had a substitute. If the teacher is out sick with the latest bug going around, that is one thing. Sometimes they have kids that are sick. All too often though, I’m told the teachers are attending workshops. So the school district has to pay the teacher and a substitute for the same work day. That has to be costly. Why does it happen so frequently? Aren’t the minimum school days for workshops and such? Seems like schools should be able to reduce all of the meetings and workshops during the school day to save money on constantly having substitute teachers. I always read that classroom instruction minutes are so important. Why not have the actual teacher in the classroom more often then? I’m not sure the districts are flipping over every stone here.

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  4. Commonsense says:

    No, No and No again. How about before they ask for new taxes, they explain how and where the current money is spent. Over 60% of the current budget goes towards public education (K-12 and above) and the State has raised taxes in the not so distant past, so where is it all going??? And, if one were to read the letters to the editor, they would read about an alleged retired education administrator who was receiving an obscene amount in retirement and is now appealing the CalPers correction of his retirement. Education is a priority, not an excuse to pilfer more tax dollars because you can’t effectively and effeciently prioritize the current spending. And, why do we have so many districts within a county?? I also agree with the poster who pointed out that we have been a little lenient on the language issues and created more expense for ourselves. When I grew up back east we had many immigrant students and they were required to have basic english language skills before entering the mainstream, what’s so wrong with that??? Somethings really do fall on the family to do in preparing their little one for an education.

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  5. Social Dis-Ease says:

    Listen to Charlotte Iserbyt, very prolific on line.
    She’ll tell you exactly what’s going on in our schools, she should know.
    Top down, bottom up, and most effectively; inside out.
    The educational landscape is not immune to the globalists totalitarian tip-toe.
    If it’s important to our well being; it’s under assault.
    There will be some accomplished educators at the steps of S.R. City Hall Tues. @ 3:00. Ask them about our educational system. Misappropriation. No Constitutional history,
    another Agenda 21 manipulated landscape.
    It’s time to ask THE QUESTION.
    Because the kids will be asking us why we didn’t question this chapter in our history, if we don’t.

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  6. J L Anderson says:

    Explain this first – what have you done with the tens of billions of dollars spent on public education over the decade, not to mention the additional millions in lottery money?

    Think of all the bonds that voters used to pass so readily. Billions of dollars worth. Was it wasted? Where did it go? To a $600 million public school in LA?

    Before shedding any tears, explain how the money was and is spent (or wasted), tell us if illegal immigrant children benefit from our tax dollars, and clearly state what you are willing to do to fix the pension system.

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  7. Iron lady says:

    It is a fact that for decades California Government has spent more than the revenue they take in. The difference has been borrowed. California is projected to spent $5.4 billion on loan repayments next year. That is compared to the $6.7b on higher education. Where is all the money going? A report by the California Public Policy Center finds that 87% of general fund expenditure is in the form of salary an benefits to state workers. (http://unionwatch.org/what-percent-of-california-state-and-local-budgets-are-employee-compensation/)
    I have not had a pay raise in three years and all my expenses are rising rapidly, not least the cost to send my kids to college. At the same time the governor is proposing to gut education further, he is proposing to increase the pay of the the Corrections department by $64m.
    I will not support higher taxes for any reason, and resent the use of our kids to extort increases. California already is over-taxed.
    Government MUST learn to do more with less, as all the middle class taxpayers outside the Government gilded halls have had to do. Pay freezes, pay cuts and pension reform for a start. Does any politician have the guts to stand up to the unions and save this great state, and give our kids a future?

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  8. Sheryl says:

    NO MORE TAXES! Right now we are preparing to be asked for more money by the state, county and city. NO NO NO!!!

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  9. Jim says:

    I’d like further details on the figures posted by some responders. Does the spending per student include the MASSIVE pensions that are paid? Does the spending per student include the pensions paid to the child molesters in Los Angeles who were allowed to resign and collect a pension because the union wouldn’t let them be fired??

    I’m so sick of the ENDLESS seeking to take more and more money from the people for “schools”, “police” and “firemen”. It is a complete scam that there isn’t enough money. 100% LIES.

    There is plenty of money to provide education for citizen children. The problem isn’t “revenue” (i.e. money STOLEN from the economy), the problem is expenses and mismanagement.

    $10 BILLION wasted per year on illegal aliens. To those who think this is ok, why not let 100,000,000 illegals into CA and pay for their medical, schooling, food, crimes, etc? Because that would be ridiculous, right? Would be impossible financially, right? They WHY is it ok to spend on the 10,000,000 already here who create children who are extremely likely to not graduate from high school and sap off the system for life?

    Secondly, the school system in CA is one big money pit. There is ZERO accountability for the money that is spent, sorry, wasted. The pension system is bankrupt. The administration is immensely overstaffed and overpaid. And the SHEEPLE are easily duped by the union driven media propaganda into believing that there isn’t enough money.

    Think about it, every time the budget is talked of being cut the Democrats quickly go to “schools”, “teachers”, “police” and “fire” because they know the Sheeple are too stupid to understand the truth. Every one of those professions is highly paid and every one has a massive pension (unfunded pension) attached. And most importantly, EVERY ONE is a union job, ad we all know unions control Sacramento.

    Forget the tax increase. C-U-T SPENDING!!!!!

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  10. Debbie says:

    As a public school teacher and fellow taxpayer, I sure understand the public’s frustration. The answer is not just that CA public schools need more money because that is too simple of an answer, BUT we do need basic minimums to operate.

    Consider these sad statisics put out by the CA goverment (These statistics B-T-W are several years old and CA is in far worse shape currently):

    Spending per student:
    $9,015 Ca
    $9,509 National average
    31 CA ranking

    Student/teacher ratio
    20.8 CA (definately higher by 4 or more)
    15.3 National average
    49 CA ranking

    We won’t continue to survive successfully under these circumstances. The current generation of students are not getting the education they deserve and this unfortunately will not be fully realized until they are adults and embark on their careers.

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  11. Sarkyfish says:

    An administrator and a teacher seeking feathers for their nest while all their little hatch-lings never learn how to fly.

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  12. Closed Shop Years Ago says:

    The teachers associations and school administrators are always carping about how much more tax money they need and deserve. But seldom if ever do we hear about how much they are spending in each school and on what subjects.

    Where do all the funds go that are spent on Sonoma County schools? General answers, but specifics fall short.

    What many of us see are funds spent on teachers and administrators salaries, benefits and pensions. How much is acturally being spent on student learning? How many students that graduate know who fought in World War II? What was the Civil War all about?

    How many students are enrolled in foreign language classes? How many are taking chemistry and classes beyond basic math?

    When the emphasis is on English as a second language and pop culture, there isn’t much real education going on and that is the problem.

    Radical change in the system is well past due. Crying about text books will not fix a 21st century problem when the day of the text book and many other books are going the way of the dinosaur.

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  13. Mrs. Kravitz says:

    Skippy -

    “Let true education entrepreneurs build a system that works and is effective and affordable”

    If you think the real estate bubble was bad wait for the “education entrepreneurs” to work their magic. Not to mention replacing credentialed and dedicated teachers with Amway sales reps.

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  14. Holy Fish says:

    I with you Skippy!

    Liberalism,politics and unions have destroyed public education and more money will not help. The culture and system have to be changed but there is no leadership to bring about such change. It’s not the teachers fault as there are many talented teachers who truly want their students to be successful. This is frightening because as the education goes so does the country. Ironically it will further imbalance society.

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  15. Follower says:

    When I was in HS we had our showers taken away after PE. We had our Math teacher laid off & Math class was taught by a VERY DISGRUNTLED Music Teacher.

    They said it was because of Prop 13.

    But they still had money to expand welfare, social services, increase pensions, increase pay, decrease work load, increase pensions some more and on and on!

    But we had to sit in our own filth being “taught” math by a pissed off music teacher.

    I’m SURE they were confidant that the “education” they were phoning in too us everyday would pave a road of stupidity they count on later.

    But SOME of us actually learned DESPITE them!

    We learned that no matter how much money you give the Government, they will ALWAYS NEED MORE.

    I would think that with all those Collage Degrees they could think up a new angle after 30 years.

    After all, haven’t they been telling us that all the money we pour into the Department of Education is attracting the “best and the brightest”?

    Apparently NOT!

    Disband the Teachers Unions.
    Cut pensions.
    Close down the DOA.
    Enact a 50% reduction in ALL Admin staff.
    Sell or lease the admin buildings.

    And if the teachers don’t like it, they can learn Spanish & go clean hotel rooms for a living.

    BTW… I HAVE “taken a look inside our schools”. I WORK inside our schools and they look a HELL OF A LOT nicer than ANY public school I ever attended!

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  16. Dan Drummond says:

    Yet another call for more taxes to pay for things we’ve already paid for and not a word about fixing the public employee pension fiasco that has bled the system dry. I have no doubt these writers are well intentioned and care greatly about the students in their care, but their short-sighted approach only passes on to our children and grandchildren the burden of higher taxes and unsustainble public employee pensions. Is this really the best we can do for our kids?

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  17. teri says:

    I read that most of this tax increase money will go toward “contractual obligations”. Only a few pennies left over for education. But they will sell it as being all money for education. We’ll see how many people are duped.

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  18. Skippy says:

    I have voted for dozens of Bond issues, the Lottery, the 50% minimum State budget towards education, and other measures to “save our threatened schools” for 36 years.
    I am all done.
    If the Big Govt educrats have been unable to keep their gravy train rolling in spite of being the Head Hog at the taxpayer trough, they never will be.
    Time’s up; game over; turn in your mortarboards.
    We must dismantle the entire Big Govt maleducation system as it has nothing to do with education and everything to do with the system.
    Dissolve all levels of school boards, fire all employees, sell all facilities and cut all State taxes by half.
    Give parents back their money and their kids and let true education entrepeneurs build a system that works and is effective and affordable.
    The answer to the “education crisis” is exactly the same as for the “healthcare crisis”.
    Capitalism and competition are the only things that ever have or ever will improve quality and reduce cost for anything.
    The appalling part is that I have to say these things.
    As a nation and a culture, every American used to know this was true.
    Thanks to 50 years of Big Govt education, now nobody does.

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  19. NoQuarters says:

    when they can show me there educated enough to balance a check book, then i will vote tax increase
    when they can show me that they pay for the books my kids need i will vote for a tax increase
    every time you increase tax you take food out of my kids mouths, make it harder buy the books for my kids, i pave the streets i build the schools
    now you want me to support a lunch program too
    cut admin payroll

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  20. GAJ says:

    Nationally there is hand wringing over the fact that students today are not as well prepared as in the past…so, obviously, the solution MUST be more money…and one of the commonly tossed out themes is that reducing class size will improve the situation, (albeit at the increased cost for teachers as a percent of the budget).

    The facts, however, don’t seem to bear that out.

    “For public schools, the number of pupils per teacher—that is, the pupil/teacher ratio—declined from 22.3 in 1970 to 17.9 in 1985.

    After 1985, the public school pupil/teacher ratio continued to decline, reaching 17.2 in 1989.

    After a period of relative stability during the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, the ratio declined from 17.3 in 1995 to 16.0 in 2000.

    Decreases have continued since then, and the public school pupil/teacher ratio was 15.3 in 2008.”


    I will, however, acknowledge that a huge problem since the 1970′s is the massive increase in students who don’t have command of English.

    Perhaps the European example should be followed, even though it would result in hand wringing among the politically correct. Parallel schools that focus on increasing native language skills to such a point that the students are introduced to the main stream school only once they have reached language proficiency!

    Makes far too much sense to have any hope of being implemented in the increasingly dysfunctional public school system.

    Easier to simply ask for more money.

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