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The Elephant on the Mountain:

Posted on | March 23, 2011 | Comments Off on The Elephant on the Mountain:

or how to talk about public education without mentioning the financial crisis hardly at all

I had a good time at Tuesday’s self-styled Education Summit.  United Way, which put on the meeting, did a fine job of organizing and packed a lot of content and good will into a half-day.  I’ve written a cover story and some thoughts for Thoughts on Public Education and Conditions of Education in California.  But I was taken by the failure to join the issue of the current financial crisis.

Maybe I don’t get it, but as I recall, school districts in the state issued 19,000 layoff notices last week and a very large percentage of these will become real layoffs if two things don’t happen soon.

First, the legislature has to authorize an election in June.  Second, voters have to agree to extend current taxes…not raise them, simply extend them.

Anyone who read today’s papers knows that there is a stalemate in Sacramento.  Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to close the state $26 Billion deficit through a combination of tough love expense cuts, which come on top of last year’s cuts, and extension of existing taxes has garnered a solid wall of Republican opposition.

At the summit, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa pled for help with revenue as did incoming Los Angeles Unified superintendent John Deasy.  But I did not hear one person from the business community, the Chamber of Commerce, the United Way or anyone else get up and say: “we can deliver a Republican vote.”  No one even threw a snowball at the elephant.

I do not believe that a new round of civic engagement in education will get traction until the business community comes to the table ready to make a deal with the elephant on the mountain.  Unless they are willing to speak truth to the power of the Republican Party, the folks at the summit will have a disappointing view.


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Charles Taylor Kerchner is an Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Fellow at Claremont Graduate University. My daily musings appear in the blog. The archives of my EdWeek blog are available via link under the 'On California' head. Some of my photography can be seen by clicking on 'Gallery.' And numerous links to academic work and other research and commentary can be found by clicking on 'Projects.'


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