Flashback 1849- California ratified its State Constitution. Lawmakers stated that “the Legislature shall encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement. (Article 9 Education, Section 1) They acknowledged that “A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence (is) essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people”(Article 9 Education, Section 1).
Flashback 1960 – State lawmakers passed the Master Plan for Higher Education, which promised a nearly free education to resident students who were able to make grades. Across the nation, this master plan was heralded as a visionary approach to public education.
Flashback 1981 – I entered San Diego State University as a freshman, my first semester of education cost me $99. When I graduated a few years later ( I wasn’t quite on the four- plan) I was paying close to $500 a semester. Tuition was handily outpacing inflation. I was fortunate, my parents were able to help me and my siblings through our college years.
This year – my son paid $400 for just his books at our local community college. We are a middle class family hit hard by the recession, I couldn’t afford to send him to a four-year college, nor did I want to saddle him with the burden of student loans. Fortunately for us, he was able to enroll in all four of his classes and should be able to knock 16 units of his General Education requirement out of the way this semester.
Today – Students, parents, faculty and supporters of the original vision for public education in California participated in a Day of Action to defend education. This day was much more than just a protest against tuition increases. It was a stand for the future of our country. We can say all the negative things we want about out-sourcing of jobs, but until our lawmakers understand that our education system is the bulwark against the tide of jobs being lost to better educated people overseas, we will continue to see these jobs wash away from our shores. Higher education is not a burden on our society, but an investment in our future.
From the university greens down to our local schoolyards, spending has been frozen or cut for education. Teachers, their aides, and support staff have lost jobs and benefits as well as having increased responsibilities to do more with less. We are not discussing producing the latest widget, we are discussing the system that creates our future leaders. How can we justify this rationale?
Schools no longer can afford to provide the educational balance of electives and core classes. Why should we care? Lack of a diversified subjects creates boredom, which leads to frustration, which in turn leads to taxpayers paying more money into court systems to help these “troubled youth”. There is a direct relationship to the reduction of education monies and the increase in spending for our jails. Yet another reason to invest in education.
Governor Schwarzenegger promised in January to increase the state’s funding of public universities. Let’s keep him to his promise. Even more important, let’s make sure we are asking the hard questions about education to the contenders for the governorship in our next election. Let’s make sure our representatives in the State Legislature understand that we citizens stand for a quality education for our children and our children’s children.
There are many issues facing us during “these troubling times”. The state of our education system is one that not only affects us now, but will affect us for years to come. We can not ignore the needs of our students.
Investing in the future is non-negotiable. Make your voice heard. Support your student, their teachers and ensure that the lawmakers do the same. Let’s encourage the lawmakers to get back to their roots and encourage by all means the diffusion of a more than suitable education for the leaders of tomorrow.