Scott Wilk | One-Party Rule Fails Our Students

Scott Wilk

California parents know something that the state of California is afraid to admit: One-party rule is failing our students. 

Take our shrinking enrollment numbers and horrific test scores as case in point. 

My kids and I are all products of California’s public school system, but the California public school system you and I came from is vastly different than the one in place today. Once world-class, our schools now rank in the bottom 20% of the nation. 

According to US News and Review, our K-12 education is most closely ranked with West Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama, states that consistently rank poorly in nearly every category. 

At the same time, Florida and New York, states with similar populations, demographics and wealth to California are ranked 16th and 19th, respectively. The issue is not Republican versus Democrat or urban versus rural. The issue is priorities and reliable leadership. 

While my family was blessed to have the opportunity to have our kids enrolled in public schools in the Santa Clarita Valley, far too many California families are left without any acceptable options. Preparing our students for the jobs of the future by giving them a quality education should be our priority. We owe that to our kids and we owe that to the state’s economic future. 

Data from the Department of Finance shows that California experienced the fifth consecutive decrease in total public K-12 enrollment in the 2021-22 school year, with 110,000 fewer students enrolling. 

If current trends hold over the next 10 years, total enrollment is projected to decline by another 524,000 students, resulting in a total enrollment of 5,368,000 by 2030-31. To put that in perspective, 524,000 is equal to the total population of the fifth largest city in California, Fresno. 

While Democrats have been in charge of California, they have failed to put students first. This reduction in enrollment is no surprise to those who follow the news. The majority party should be ashamed of how they are running our public school system. 

Instead, they are trying to spin or massage the data documenting their failures. The education information organization EdSource reported in late September that California Department of Education officials planned to withhold release of the state’s latest annual test scores (2021-22 school year) until “at least November,” a completely intentional move in an attempt to hide student performance results until after the election. 

When that news hit the public, there was an uproar about state officials playing “hide-the-pea” with what was assumed to be horrible test results. After calls from Senate Republicans, CDE officials backtracked, saying the data would be released “sometime in October.” 

It’s no wonder they were trying to delay the release, because once they did, the news was not good. Just take a look at the 2021-22 school year results:  

• 53% of students didn’t meet English standards. 

• 67% of students didn’t meet math standards. 

• 71% of students didn’t meet science standards. 

In addition, California ranks dead last in literacy rates. Within last year’s budget, the Democrats created a new literacy program but only appropriated a paltry $250 million within a $95 billion K-12 education budget. Allocating only 0.25% of our education budget to improve the California literacy rate is out of sync with the needs of our students. 

English and literacy are not alone. A glaring 67% of students are not meeting the state standards in math. And worse, 71% of our kids are failing the state standard in science — an embarrassment for a state that considers itself a worldwide leader in technology and science. 

California includes some of the most innovative industries on the planet, yet we fail to prioritize preparing our students for those jobs. Those industries all require rigorous and early exposure to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to develop an educated and qualified workforce. 

Democrats are not giving students the tools they need to attain our high-paying aeronautical science jobs by allocating a pathetic one half of 1% of the total state education budget to STEM programs. 

California’s schools are performing dismally. I am only one voice on the Senate Education Committee, and one vote on the Senate floor, but know this: I will fight tirelessly to ensure our concerns about the state of our education system are heard and addressed.

Sen. Scott Wilk represents the 21st Senate District, which includes the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Victor valleys. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Saturdays and rotates among local Republicans.

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