We are writing on behalf of the Monterey Bay Educational Consortium (MBEC) to strongly encourage the members of our state legislature to cast a courageous vote to allow the voters of California to determine whether to postpone tax cuts as part of a balanced approach to addressing California’s massive budget deficit.
The members of MBEC include leaders from education throughout the region, including the President of CSU-Monterey Bay, the Chancellor of UCSC, the president of Cabrillo College, and the superintendents of Santa Cruz City Schools and the Santa Cruz County Office of Education. Some legislators already support a combination of deep cuts and delayed tax reductions to meet our budget challenges, but there are others who have not yet reached that conclusion. We stand ready to support those elected leaders who act to preserve educational opportunity and quality, and we encourage voters to contact legislators to encourage them to let the people decide this important issue.
If the voters are not allowed to determine whether tax cuts should be postponed as part of the budget planning process, the impact on students from pre-school through graduate programs will be devastating throughout the region. Tragically, the cuts to our schools and colleges will likely increase dramatically if the people are not provided an opportunity to endorse the balanced approach of deep budget cuts coupled with a delay of scheduled tax cuts. Students at our schools and colleges would experience a dramatic decline in educational quality and access, and the path to the middle class will no longer be available to thousands of men and women in our communities.
We appreciate the service of Senators Joe Simitian and Sam Blakeslee and Assemblymembers Bill Monning and Luis Alejo on behalf of the schools, colleges and universities represented by MBEC. Please reach out to your elected representatives to assist them in reaching the decision to let the voters of California decide whether the current state fiscal crisis is a compelling reason to defer tax cuts.
Chancellor, UC-Santa Cruz
Superintendent, Santa Cruz County Office of Education
Superintendent, Santa Cruz City Schools
President, Cabrillo College
Note from the Superintendent
Noteworthy presentations by government policymakers:
The past few weeks have been busy for Santa Cruz County educators. On February 25, Tom Torlakson, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction and Dr. Thelma Melendez, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education, were keynote speakers at the Curriculum Instruction Steering Committee Leadership Symposium in Pacific Grove organized by our own Theresa Rouse, Associate Superintendent, Educational Services. Educators from all over California came to rainy, but beautiful Pacific Grove for the three-day conference.
Superintendent Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Education, who is just getting his feet wet after he was elected in November, is launching literacy and health campaigns for California’s students. The literacy campaign will include recognizable faces from Hollywood and professional athletes and encourage kids to turn off the TV. Torlakson’s a runner and believes that healthy bodies and healthy minds go together. The health campaign is a push to get all kids signed up for healthcare and encourage fitness by moving kids away from the front of the television.
Funding is the central issue and Torlakson also announced that he’s preparing to launch a bond campaign for education in 2012. A major component of this bond push would be Career Technical Education and implementing use of more Technology in the classroom. Things like training at the high school level in medical science, pre-engineering and construction would be funded by bond monies as well as an investment in online learning.
Dr. Melendez, delivered a report on what the U.S. Department of Education is taking on in 2011. She said the top priority in 2011 is to revitalize the pre-kindergarten system in the country. The Obama administration is reworking the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) by changing the maligned No Child Left Behind Act to reward schools that achieve through the Race to the Top program. You can read the summary here.
Melendez made an interesting statement, calling today’s budget problems “the new normal.” She said educators must get used to having fewer resources than in the past, but to utilize what we do have by sharing ideas and practices.
Last week, Sen. Joe Simitian presented the keynote address at the County Office of Education’s “Together for Kindergarten” forum at New Brighton Middle School speaking on the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010 (SB 1381). The bill, authored by Simitian, was signed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at the end of 2010 and will require that children be 5 years old by Sept. 1 to enter kindergarten. The current policy allows kindergartners who turn 5 by December 2 each year to enter school. The legislation has not yet taken effect, but will save about $700 million by eliminating some kindergarten classes. Half the money will fund preschool classes for the students with birthdays after Sept. 1 and the other half will pay down the state’s budget deficit, Simitian said.