In his State of the State address Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown depicted an optimistic outlook on education, deeming it a critical part of the success of California’s future.
“Nothing is more determinative of our future than how we teach our children,” Brown said in his speech. “If we fail at this, we will sow growing social chaos and inequality that no law can rectify.”
Brown’s commitment to education was a message appreciated by many educators, following years of cuts in state support of schools.
“I appreciate his continued commitment to education and his determination to support local control and address the complex funding mechanisms that are currently in place,” said Nevada County Superintendent Holly Hermansen. “I admire his courage in sticking to his commitment.”
Various education-based organizations also supported Brown’s message.
“In many ways, the ideas, pride and respect for educators revealed in the governor’s State of the State speech today are an inspiration for California’s teachers,” Dean E. Vogel, president of the 325,000-member California Teachers Association, said in a news release.
“We thank him for recognizing the hard work educators do in their classrooms every day to inspire students to learn, dream and be the best they can be. It is not about test drills and filling out bubbles.”
Brown’s speech also noted the flaws in focusing too heavily on standardized testing, to Vogel’s approval.
“The governor’s criticism of state and federal micro-managing of our schools is refreshing,” Vogel said. “And he’s right that we have to move beyond obsessing about standardized tests to focus on well-rounded education.
“Putting our schools and communities on the road to recovery is what voters wanted when they passed the governor’s Proposition 30 in November. His recognition of Californians who worked to pass that remarkable measure was a thumbs-up to unions and their members working to put our state back on track.”
Brown focused on the challenges of children who speak a language at home other than English and those who live in poverty, as well as the localization of school funds allocation and not delegating such responsibility to more distant and less knowledgable forces.
“Higher or more remote levels of government, like the state, should render assistance to local school districts,” Brown said. “But always respect their primary jurisdiction and the dignity and freedom of teachers and students.”
In order to do this, Brown suggested a budget summary cutting categorical programs through his Local Control Funding Formula “which would distribute supplemental funds — over an extended period of time — to school districts based on the real world problems they face,” Brown said.
“This formula recognizes the fact that a child in a family making $20,000 a year or speaking a language different from English or living in a foster home requires more help. Equal treatment for children in unequal situations is not justice.”
Brown also made statements linked to his budget proposal which would halt tuition hikes in universities.
“I will not let the students become the default financiers of our colleges and universities,” Brown said.
The speech was criticized by some Republicans for its exclusion of a spending cap and realistic financial goals.
“Although the Governor argued for fiscal restraint, he was silent on critical budget reforms like a hard spending cap and a real reserve,” said State Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber). “The budget is not fixed; it is funded with temporary tax increases.”
Until the budget is passed and finalized by the legislature, the terms of Brown’s speech still leave much in limbo, Hermansen said.
“I still think there are a lot of unknowns in terms of how this will play out specifically in funding for schools,” Hermansen said. “But there is no doubt it is the right direction.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.