Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

In case you haven't been out of the house lately, it's back to school time.

I was one of those kids who couldn't wait to go back to school. Except for the baseball field, that's where I was most comfortable growing up.

I hope that's the case for most of the youngsters heading back to school next week in Long Beach. Note I didn't say excited to go back, just comfortable when they get there. And not pampered, just comfortable.

My folks used to tell me school was my job. They'd go to work, I'd go to work. It seemed fair to me. I'm not sure, but if memory serves, most of those around me felt the same way.

Today, there's more of an entitlement feel coming from students (and many parents), a sense that teachers and administrators are there to serve the kids, not to offer an education. It may just be cranky old man stuff, but a little more attention and gratitude and a little less victim syndrome would go a long way to a better education.

But enough pontificating. I was intending to point out just how important education has become in our society. Long Beach is a perfect example.

When the city lists its major employers, Long Beach Unified School District is the first. Second and third? Cal State Long Beach and Long Beach City College. The state of California will spend $10,291 on each K-12 student this year — about $1,900 less than the national average, but still.

Then there's all that money spent on higher education. Once upon a time, not all that long ago, California was the promised land for college students (and especially in-state students), with what came close to a free college education. That's not the case anymore.

According to that most credible of sources, Google, "Gov. Gavin Newsom's latest budget plan projects $101.8 billion in total spending — which includes both local and statewide operations — for K-12 schools. That's a $4.6-billion boost from last summer's enacted budget and an astounding $35-billion increase from what lawmakers approved in 2014."

That's making education a priority.

I admit that at times I wondered whether our education system wasn't just a job creation mechanism. After all, isn't turning out more teachers one of most universities' primary goals?

Then I hear tales about business owners begging for educated, trained workers, and I realize what most educators are trying to accomplish.

It's clear that it's going to take tons of highly educated people to make our high-tech world run. And that's not just "book learning," as my mother used to say. Learning a skill is an education just as valuable as that bachelor's degree I carry around, maybe more.

In lots of ways, back to school time is the start of a new year. And it holds the same promise, the same potential that any new start provides.

I'm looking forward to seeing what comes from the students entering the hallowed halls of academia — okay, the elementary school doors — this year. It's back to school time.

I'm excited.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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