President's jobs bill could help schools

Local educators have mixed reaction to education pledge

As President Barack Obama began touring the country in an attempt to sell his new $447 billion jobs bill, the head of the National School Boards Association applauded those provisions within the proposal aimed at strengthening the nation's public schools.

The jobs bill, which the president forcefully encouraged Congress to pass "right away," proposes $140 billion for modernizing schools. Exactly what that would entail is still unclear.

Mountain View education officials said they were encouraged by Obama's words.

Barry Groves, superintendent of the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District said that he was eager to see what the president's plan could do to support teachers and staff at his campuses and around the country.

"It would certainly be short-sighted if we continue cutting school funding," Groves said. "As a nation we need to invest in education."

Craig Goldman, superintendent of the Mountain View Whisman district, said he hoped that if and when federal assistance arrives that it does not come with a slew of restrictive caveats. Goldman said that the federal government should learn a lesson from the No Child Left Behind Act -- a program, he said, whose rules and regulations have overshadowed the accomplishments he believes his campuses have made.

"We appreciate the administration's support for education and the desire to ensure a quality education for all children," Goldman said. "At the same time, federal money often comes with strings attached that don't respect the integrity of local school boards and the school administrators. I hope that the (Obama) administration will acknowledge that local communities are in the best position to determine the needs of their students and give broad authority for the use of any funds."

The No Child Left Behind Act has been a particular burden for Goldman's district recently, he said. Under the law, schools primarily composed of low-income students are punished with unfavorable "Program Improvement" designations even when they show progress year over year, Goldman said.

The Mountain View Whisman superintendent said it was good for Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to publicly acknowledge that NCLB is flawed, but so far, he said there has been little done other than to admit the system is broken.

"It's too bad that schools have to continue to abide by directives that the government acknowledges are flawed," he said.

Both Groves and Goldman's districts have been hit by state and federal cuts. Retiring staff members have not been replaced, extra-curricular activities have been pared back and teachers on one-year contracts have not been rehired.

Some very optimistic words on the president's education plan came from Anne L. Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association.

"In the face of massive budget shortfalls and education layoffs at school districts across the country, this new funding would provide necessary aid to America's schools," Bryant said in a press release. "Our school children deserve a quality education and that cannot happen when their teachers are getting laid off and their school buildings are in need of repairs and upgrades that keep getting postponed due to budget cuts."


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Posted by MV citizen
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Sep 20, 2011 at 6:34 pm

We can only hope that a Federally funded school program will not interfere with education.
I had a high school teacher who grew up in a tribal village in Nigeria and had the privilege of attending a school taught by missionaries in a thatched roof hut. He loved geography and learned his lessons well enough to emigrate to the USA and become a fully credentialed high school teacher. This teacher spoke in a crisp British accent with perfect grammar.
We don't need more money for schools, just better teachers and more motivated students.
It is a crying shame that a pro basketball player earns 1,000 times more money than a medical researcher or a rocket scientist.

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Posted by Martin Omander
a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 21, 2011 at 3:36 pm

While I agree that student motivation is important, it does worry me that California's spending per student is 47th in the nation, and that we are in 50th place for number of students per teacher. In the 1960s California spent 5.6% of personal income on schools. We now spend 3.5%. At some point we have to stop mortgaging our future.

(Statistics taken from a recent article in The Economist: Web Link)

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Posted by KD
a resident of Waverly Park
on Sep 21, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Martin - Thanks for the (excellent) link to Economist article.

Not sure how some of the under-funding arguments apply to the local school high school district, which has 1 employee for every 10 students. Clearly, not all of these employees are teachers. Perhaps more of them should be.

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