Education Desk: March 20, 2103
By Carolyn Schuk

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Education Desk
Basic Math: Children - Critical Public Services = Declining Academic Achievement

If you look at Santa Clara Unified’s 2005-2012 California school accountability progress report for Santa Clara Unified, there’s one thing that hits you right off: student progress starts dropping in 2008-2009. This pattern is district-wide, with two mainstream elementary schools bucking the trend: Laurelwood and Sutter.

New Valley Continuation High School also bucks the trend, which is all the more notable because its population is largely students who have had difficulty in mainstream schools.

Santa Clara’s two alternative elementary schools, Washington Open and Millikin also don’t show the same test score drop. However, the self-selected nature of population attending these schools makes comparisons questionable. They’re not "apples to apples."

For example, fewer than five percent of Millikin students have disabilities and even fewer are economically disadvantaged. Washington Open parents must work in the classroom several hours every week - dramatically increasing the amount of one-to-one attention individual students receive. Compare that with George Mayne where 75 percent of the students are economically disadvantaged and 13 percent have disabilities, and the average class size is 20 to 29 (www.city-data.com).

So what happened during the 2008-2009 school year? The California state budget crisis. Over the last five years, children have been disproportionately "slashed" from the state budget, according to the Children’s Defense Fund of California (www.cdfa.org), and their lives have been directly impacted by cuts in education, health services, social services, and other kinds of family supports.

Between 2007 and 2010 alone, K-12 schools lost $7 billion. That adds up to 32,000 fewer teachers, reports the CDSA, and fewer school days, program cuts, higher student-teacher ratios, and an end to classroom size reduction programs - as we’ve seen in Santa Clara Unified.

Students are also hit by almost $4 billion in cuts in the CalWORKs cash assistance and job services for low-income families - including 1.1 million children. Medi-Cal, which serves about four million low-income children, has seen its budget drop by $3.6 billion, and children’s health coverage in the Healthy Families program lost $145 million from 2008 to 2012.

Early childhood care and education - arguably one of the most critical factors in children’s later success - also have seen draconian cuts; with state child care and development programs losing nearly $1 billion over the past five years.

State educational data can be found at. www.cde.ca.gov. Santa Clara Unified information, including the chart above can be found at www.santaclarausd.org/overview.cfm?subpage=145153 as part of the board agenda packet for 3-14-13.

SCUSD Board Governance Offsite Sets Out Priorities

When the board met Mar. 16 for an all-day meeting to grapple with governance issues, it was safe to say that given the turbulent history of the past two months, board members were cautious in their expectations. But after a long day, the seven trustees had come a long way, with clarity about their top priorities for short-term action, and well as some new - or re-vitalized - committees to provide focus on key issues.

The priorities are:

  • Clear, documented agenda procedures
  • Open enrollment issues, questions and policies
  • Board and staff roles and responsibilities
  • Superintendent evaluations and goals

The board also established two new sub-committees: a legislative committee and a budget and finance committee. It also re-activated the dormant policy and bylaws committee.

That committee is going to start work immediately updating the district’s woefully out-of-date bylaws, by starting with a California School Board Association (CBSA) template, and tailoring it for SCUSD, according to Board President Christine Kolterman.