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Time to deal with dark clouds over education
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Budget cuts do not doom the quality of education that one receives.

The only person who can do that is you.

Teachers, without a doubt, are an essential part of being a life-long learner. Often they are the ones that spark a light in those who seem oblivious to the great gift they can access through education or fire the imagination of those who aren’t struggling in class to reach new plateaus of knowledge and understanding.

But to argue that the painful cuts that have taken place - and unfortunately will continue - somehow dooms one to a sub-par education makes no sense.  The pages of history are filled with men and women who used what little education they could get in a formal setting and have been successful beyond their wildest dreams.

That is not to say that additional budget cuts to education aren’t going to be brutal.

But when all is said and done it might just make all of us understand the real value of education.

We have spent the past 20 years investing great sums of money in the Manteca Unified district to make sure every high school has its own lighted football stadium.  If we value education so much, why didn’t we cut that back to one field for every three high schools and perhaps create a cutting edge state-of-the art science lab complex at one high school and possibly a cutting edge fine arts facility at another and allow the other schools to utilize them or access them via open enrollment?

Like other districts we paid homage to the idea that quantity equals quality so therefore more teachers are better which brought us class-size reduction. But wouldn’t it have made more sense to either make full use of teachers by supporting each one instead with a well-trained classroom assistant? Or better yet, increase the salaries in critical subjects such as science and math to lure the best possible into the teaching profession?

That is not to make any disparaging references to science or math teachers in the district. But given the huge demand for engineering and other similar disciplines requiring a strong foundation in those two areas of expertise, less and less young people with a passionate grasp of those subjects are choosing teaching.

Granted, how the money for class-size reduction was doled out was the state’s call and not a local decision.

We also have gone out of our way in California to brow beat teachers to the point it can make teaching a joyless experience more often than it should be. We require them to be social workers, deal with kids who don’t want to be in school, and - if they have time - to squeeze in some serious teaching. We also blame them for low test scores.

Test scores are not the end all in determining how effectively a child is learning.

And given all of  the huffing and puffing about whether schools are good enough to provide the education a young person needs to succeed in life, one would think some parents that criticize would step up to the plate a bit more and help their child succeed. Teaching isn’t something that should be relegated exclusively to a teacher. They are the ones that provide the structure and guidance. It is up to parents to do their part and for students to step up to the plate as well.

A lot of parents do that as do a number of students. But if education is so valuable to us, why don’t we show it? Yes, we probably never will fill a stadium for a math competition yet we demand that all students be able to grasp math as if everyone is a genius.

California must deal with reality. And a big part of that reality is a $26 billion state budget deficit.

A lot of financial-based pain lies ahead. There is no other way. But at the same time there needs to be a serious movement to rethink our attitude and commitment to education and think out of the box to create a system where vocational high schools are in the mix as much as academics.

The goal must be to provide students of all talents the ability to succeed. That doesn’t mean all students being able to pass the SAT with flying colors but to build on each student’s’ interests and abilities so they can succeed in life

We must trust teachers to teach while at the same time restructure how schools operate and are funded.