Archive for the ‘Education Coalition’ Category

Winter Push

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Now is the time for the big push in a long month to move through the 4th grade curriculum.  Students are in class with few vacation days until mid-February.  How to keep things lively when the days are dark and dreary (and this is California, not wind-swept, snowy Minnesota) is the question.

Part of my gloom comes from the continuing bad news from the district office, preparing teachers for the sad, sad state of affairs in the district’s school budget for next year and probably for this year at “pink slip” days in March.  So far, the gap has widened by another $500,000 just since September.

A letter from our superintendent just before the holidays, illustrating the funding dilemma, suggested going to the Education Coalition website, supported by all the education organizations in the state, to see news from California’s 989 school districts, almost all concerning school finance.  What else to talk about?

I read an article in the Sunday paper that named “public schools, once the nation’s best, … now among the worst” as the first of many problems facing this state.  I think, like ours, most school districts are just trying to stay afloat, reducing the number of teachers, custodians, classified staff; cutting summer school and special programs like GATE; using the parcel tax funds agreed to by the local community to offset huge state budget cuts; then cutting counselors and library funds.

The article advocated a constitutional convention to reorganize the state government, the goal being to untangle the horrible budget fight in the legislature that takes up almost the entire session each year.  Trouble is we have to wait until the November 2010 election to vote just to agree to have a convention.  In the meantime, the fury over public schools keeps building.

(See “”Time for a constitutional convention?” by John Grubb, San Francisco Chronicle, January 3, 2010.)

I suppose the best thing is to remember the humorous picture book I read to my class by the well-known New Yorker cartoonist James Stevenson called “It Could Be Worse!”

With that aphorism in mind, my class is in the middle of studying California missions, certain to lift the gloom of January.  Almost every 4th grader takes a field trip to a mission and learns how California grew into the wealthy agriculture and cattle country of the west, even before gold was discovered.

It’s a wonder how wealthy California now finds itself in such an abysmal fix.

Before the holiday, we finished studying functions, pre-algebra preparation.  Now we’re in the middle of the practical mastery of 2 and 3 digit multiplication, learning to estimate to see if the answer is reasonable.

Should I tell my students that the school district budget is an estimate? Maybe a sudden unrestricted grant will be passed on to our district, resolving some of the bad decisions we must make.

Maybe a rich uncle will endow the district.

Maybe the state legislature will learn to cooperate, like 4th graders are asked to do every day.