As a parent, teacher, and chair of the Assembly Education Committee in the California State Assembly, I have made no secret about the fact that I believe the key to California’s future is a strong public education system. It is essential for Sacramento to ensure that school districts across the state have the resources they need to provide an education that moves people and the California economy forward.
My many years as a classroom teacher give me a unique perspective, which doesn't always make me the most popular person in Sacramento. I stand by my belief that classroom success is achieved at the local level, and I think the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) is a prime example of the kind of innovative approach that results in educational excellence.
The LBUSD welcomes any student who steps onto the playground and provides support to students, as well as their families, as they navigate the public education system. No single law from Sacramento can ensure student success on the intimate level that local leadership can. When students succeed, California succeeds.
President Trump’s recent announcement to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program threatens the state’s strong, innovative workforce. Students will not succeed if they are constantly in fear. My bill, Assembly Bill 699, would provide a safe learning environment where all students can thrive.
The effort in Sacramento should be to support our students by providing adequate resources and more opportunity. To this end, I have the following to report:
• Increased School Funding: The 2017-18 budget provides an increase of more than $1 billion to per-student funding through the Local Control Funding Formula.
• Middle Class Scholarship: Not only did the Legislature prevent the elimination of Middle Class Scholarships, we provided an increase. This was something I fought hard for.
• Teacher Shortage: The budget provides increased state and federal funds for recruitment of teachers and school leaders as well as additional funds to support classified school employees to become classroom teachers.
• After School Programs: For the first time in a long time, the budget provides an increase for After School Programs. It is really important to keep kids busy during the golden after school hours; a tired kid is a good kid.
• Career Technical Education/Vocational Education: The budget continues funding for the Career Technical Education Grant Program, but this is the last year this program is slated to be funded. I am a strong supporter of career programs because California’s diverse set of students require multiple paths to success. On Oct. 2, the Assembly Education Committee will be holding a hearing on career technical education programs to highlight the values of such programs.
We have done well to strengthen education in California so far this year, but there is much more to be done. I look forward to working with the community in advancing effective programs and local efforts to support our students, families and schools.
State Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell represents the 70th Assembly District, which includes most of Long Beach.