Don’t let millionaires dictate fate of California’s schools

This piece originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee

Millions of California schoolchildren are starting another important academic year. This includes my daughter, a high school senior who along with her classmates has been buffeted by changing policies and budget cycles that have had a profound impact on her education.

While our public schools still lag far behind the national average in per-pupil spending and average class size, since Proposition 30 was passed by voters in 2012, our schools are in much better financial shape with more teachers, counselors and course offerings, and smaller classes.


Compton College Accreditation: A Decade Later

One of the principles of our democracy is the right to elect our representatives. In California, one of the most basic decisions we make is about our children’s education through the election of local school boards that govern both K-12 and community college districts. This may not receive the same fanfare as statewide or national elections, but in more than 1000 K-12 and 70 community college districts, community residents make key educational decisions that matter to them.

Alarmingly, it has now been a decade since Compton College lost its accreditation. Since 2006, Compton residents have been disenfranchised from making decisions about the community college that has served them with distinction since 1927. While community members technically still vote for their local board of trustees, because the college lost its accreditation, those elected officials have no authority over the college.


Make Classified School Employee Week Meaningful

Schools can be amazing places. Institutions that focus on the education and nurturing of young people have a special place in our society. While the interaction of students with their teacher is obviously an essential part of the educational process, it really does take a community of people to make learning possible and schools successful.

An essential part of that community is the team of classified employees who work in and around the classroom to enhance learning and make the school environment attractive. Their work often happens in the background but without these people doing their job, teachers wouldn’t be able to teach effectively and kids wouldn’t get the education they need.


Originally published in the Orange County Register on February 28, 2016:

Don't let gains of Prop. 30 slip away

For years now, I’ve been saying that Proposition 30 is an essential component of California’s public education system, and needs to be extended if we want to continue providing the state’s students with the infrastructure they need to succeed well into the future.

But you don’t have to just take my word for it. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office recently released a report forecasting the impact a Prop. 30 extension would have on the state’s economy. As we have seen since California voters passed Prop. 30 in 2012, an extension continues to provide additional revenue benefiting millions of people by asking the wealthiest to pay a bit more in personal income tax.


Originally Published in the Sacramento Bee:

Teacher-tenure lawsuit distracts from real issues

Last month, the state 2nd District Court of Appeal heard arguments in Vergara v. California, the lawsuit challenging the state’s teacher employment rules. The trial judge in the case erroneously concluded that five provisions of state education codes violated the constitutional rights of all students in California, particularly those who are poor and minority.

Teachers see firsthand how racism and economic disparities have a profound impact on a child’s education. Particularly during recessions when school budgets are cut, working-class kids and children of color are disproportionately hurt.


State of the Union Speech by Joshua Pechthalt, President 

> Watch the video on YouTube.

The Grapes of Wrath written by John Steinbeck powerfully told the story of one family’s challenge to survive the devastation of the Great Depression of the 1930s. It's a story that continues to resonate eighty years later. As they begin their journey to California, the Joad family asks Reverend Casey, who in the film version is played brilliantly by the great American actor John Carradine, if he would like to join them. Carradine, with his deep voice and wide eyes responds, “I'd like to. There's something happening out there in the west and I'd like to try to learn what it is.”