Local leaders discuss efforts to improve education

Congresswoman Katie Hill speaks at the Legislative Reception held in the lobby of the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center at College of the Canyons in Valencia on Thursday. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Elected representatives, local school board members and residents of the Santa Clarita Valley gathered at College of the Canyons Thursday to discuss their ongoing efforts to improve local education.

Described as a distinguished gathering of educational stakeholders, the College & K-12 Education Legislative Reception allowed figures like COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook, Rep. Katie Hill, Sen. Scott Wilk, and Assemblymembers Tom Lackey and Christy Smith the opportunity to discuss how they are addressing the educational needs of stakeholders in the local community.

With board members and representatives from local institutions and nearly all five of the local school districts in the audience listening, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger took the podium as the reception’s first speaker.


Barger used her five-minute speech Thursday to share the county’s educational priorities, which includes addressing the adversities that the thousands of foster youth in L.A. County must face on their path to success.

Often when a child is removed from a home, they are forced to also change schools, Barger said, acknowledging stability is a significant factor in a child’s success.

This is why she feels the county has an obligation — both ethically and morally — to allow any child who is pulled out of their home to remain in a school of their choice.

Barger would later ask for the community’s thoughts on a proposal that would allow homeless children who reside in motels to also remain in a school district if they are provided with permanent housing outside of their original district.

“This is something we’ll be bringing forward,” the supervisor said, adding she expects it to be controversial. As a result, Barger asked for the community to come forward with any input they may have on this — or any other matter.


Rep. Hill, who hosted a discussion on Medicare and infrastructure earlier in the day, returned to her alma mater to speak about the progress she’s making at the federal level to assist SCV schools.

Hill shared a statistic that two-thirds of COC students are part-time, which is why she is working to ensure federal subsidies for all students are more accessible.

“We know these are working families,” and others who can’t go to school full-time because of their responsibilities, Hill said.

“The number of students that are housing insecure, that are actually living in their cars and still working to put themselves through school is unbelievable, and we have to be doing everything we can to make sure that pathway to the middle class and to the American Dream is possible,” Hill added.


Sen. Wilk began his time at the podium jesting with the crowd, but by the completion of his speech he would nearly cry as he spoke about his efforts to focus on homeless students.

“I’m so glad Kathryn brought up foster youth,” Wilk said, sharing the details of Senate Bill 219, which seeks to create a pilot program that will allow foster youth to receive grants for extracurricular and enrichment activities.

Wilk said he had heard from others who said they wish a program like this was available while they were younger.


Assemblyman Lackey commended College of the Canyons for preparing skilled workers for jobs of trade, which is a growing demand in states across the country.

One of the problems with the education system is there is going to be a severe shortage of talent in trades programs, Lackey said, but COC is addressing this.

“I’m very very thankful for the partnership they provide in meaningful careers,” he said to campus officials in the audience. “What you do is very very important.”


Like many in the crowd Thursday, College of the Canyons has helped Assemblywoman Smith tremendously throughout her life, and the former Newhall School District trustee is using her newfound position in the Capitol to try and fix the flaws in the education system.

Smith said she is proud to serve on the state’s education committee and intends to ask the governor to revise the base funding granted to schools.

After speaking on how local districts are tasked with doing more with less, Smith said she has also appointed Chancellor Van Hook on a statewide panel that will review the implementation of a new state funding formula for colleges.

Van Hook

Van Hook ended the ceremony by thanking everybody for attending and supporting the local community’s educational goals.

Whether it’s programs like College Promise or those housed in the university center, the community has shown it’s willing to support education, Van Hook said. “We would not be what we are today…without the support of our collective representatives over the last several decades.”

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