By Jason KUROSU
Budgetary issues and increasingly strict testing standards have altered the state of education, such that parents and educators alike have expressed uncertainty over what to expect. To address such concerns, the PTA hosted a Community Forum on Public Education this past Saturday at the Pacific Park Community Center in Glendale. A large gathering was in attendance to not only hear presentations on the impacts of the new state budget and No Child Left Behind on schools, but also field their own questions and concerns.
The first presenter was Mary Perry, the deputy director of EdSource, a nonprofit organization that emphasizes the clarification of education issues for the public. Perry’s presentation focused on the state of education in California from a financial perspective. Perry supplied the audience with facts, some of which were unsettling, such as California spending $1,444 less per pupil than the national average and having a low staff-to-student ratio (seven staff for every 10 students.)
More of the presentation served to inform the audience on how funds are allocated and what the new state budget’s effect will be on the entire process. Through multiple slides of facts and statistics, the conclusion was that money has and is being cut from schools and more cuts could be on the way.
Perry quoted Governor Jerry Brown, saying, “Sixty percent of Californians don’t want taxes, but think schools should have more money.”
This was, in essence, referring to Governor Brown’s request for voters to approve a tax increase in an election this June. Perry’s presentation was clearly in favor of the tax increase, as she impressed upon the audience that K-12 education could stand to lose another $2.3 billion next year if the June ballot measure did not pass.
“Educators and parents have often made a difference in Sacramento,” Perry said. “When everyone gets on the same page, they have changed things.”
The second part of the forum was a presentation by Dr. Morgan Polikoff, an assistant professor of K-12 Policy and Leadership at USC, on the No Child Left Behind Act and its effects on instruction within the classroom and funding for schools. Polikoff’s presentation analyzed the act from several different angles, examining its origins as an act meant to address low student performance and inequality in educational achievement to examining the pros and cons of No Child Left Behind and similar standards-based educational reforms once implemented in schools.
The cons, however, seemed to far outweigh the pros in Polikoff’s estimation, a sentiment which appears to be shared by a majority of people. His presentation did not address his personal criticisms, but rather the more well-known arguments against No Child Left Behind, such as the ineffectiveness of standards-based education for addressing real learning other than test taking skills and the ineffectiveness of the act’s tough sanctions for schools with low test scores for making any real academic gains.
As with Mary Perry’s presentation, Polikoff’s presentation concluded with advice on how to get involved, citing those politicians involved in the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (which includes President Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and those in the House Education and Workforce Committee) and urging the best way to get in contact with them.
For those who want more information on these subjects, Perry’s and Dr. Polikoff’s PowerPoint presentations are available online at ptaforum.info. The forum was also taped and it is hoped that it will be televised on Glendale and Burbank’s local television channels soon.