Christy Smith: State must reaffirm local education control

Christy Smith

Since its inception, the U.S. Department of Education’s primary function has been to facilitate state and local education systems by providing financial support in strategic areas.

Given the current state of affairs in our nation’s capital, now is no time to stray from this doctrine.

The Constitution’s 10th Amendment empowers states to exert authority over local issues, with education serving as one of the more salient policy areas.

Our country’s founders, in establishing our public institutions, delegated control over schools to localities believing education should reflect a community’s distinct values.

As Secretary DeVos and President Trump use the federal budget in an attempt to encroach on state jurisdiction over education, our representatives in Sacramento must reaffirm their control over our schools and prevent out-of-touch billionaires in Washington from imposing their values on our students.

In the wake of these federal cuts, we will be forced to reevaluate budget priorities, preparing for a reduction in federal supplement and matching funds without sacrificing the programs that make California feel like home.

If a budget represents government priorities, we need new priorities.

As recently as 2015, California ranked 42nd in per-student-spending, with less than $11,000 per student. There is no justification for such funding levels, especially when compared to our state’s spending on prisons, which hovers at $45,000 per inmate.

Both individually and when taken in aggregate, these facts accentuate our irresponsible government spending in an area where our state shoulders responsibility.

When California fails to properly fund our schools, it’s our children who suffer. California students rank 45th in test scores, with only 28 percent scoring at or above proficiency in math and reading.

This is unacceptable. We should be a leader in education, nowhere near the bottom 10 percent statewide.  Coupled with federal level funding cuts, which are purely political, we are on an unsustainable course.

Unfortunately, it is no mystery why our schools rank so low in test scores; the top 10 states in education spending will allocate more than $7,000 more per student than California each year.

Over the course of a child’s education, this amounts to a significant deficit, forcing our students to play from behind as they compete for opportunities in an increasingly globalized world.

We can do better, and we must do so now. We will not be able to maintain the world’s 6th largest economy by maintaining the status quo.

Increasing our spending on education does not have to mean more taxes. It does not have to mean implementing undue regulations.

By redirecting outlays to align with our priorities, we can enhance our educational landscape without placing undue burdens on families, businesses or the budget.  Our local school districts do this every day, but the challenge to keep up continues to mount.

It is imperative that our state lawmakers fight for the authority to exercise discretion over our education system. As a school board member, I understand first hand that the needs of our community drastically deviate from those in downtown Los Angeles – our schools should not have to abide by the same parameters.

Moving forward, with Prop 98 serving as the foundation of our state’s education spending, our representatives must use this funding in a way that maximizes efficiency without sacrificing efficacy, and we must step up pressure on our federal officials to ensure federal education dollars aren’t cut.

Our own local school districts have met the challenges of deep cuts and unstable funding sources for years, and our local schools excel at serving every student regardless of need while leading the curve on academic achievement.  We consistently rank at the top of statewide achievement measures, and local educators and school boards have much to be proud of.

We are a great example of doing more with less; however, a huge loss of federal dollars cannot be sustained locally.  Every local district relies heavily on federal resources to help our most vulnerable students achieve, and state funding should reflect our state’s role in the global economy and the priority we place on our children.

Let’s work together to keep funding steady – and control local.



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