It’s time to stand up for public education

August 4, 2010


In May of this year, the Board of Trustees of San Luis Coast Unified School District, the largest district in San Luis Obispo County, voted unanimously to inform the California School Boards Association that no local legislator was worthy of the annual distinction of “Legislator of the Year.”

The trustees passed a resolution stating that “our local legislators have failed the children of the state of California,” and that “no local legislator has adequately represented the interests of public education.”

As state legislators missed the budget deadline at the end of June, it got worse: Six San Luis Obispo County school districts let state education officials know they may not be able to meet their future financial obligations due to California’s budget crisis.

Days later, the North Monterey County School District adopted a budget that is 20 percent below what’s called for in the state’s funding formula. “It’s very frustrating that the state government doesn’t have the wisdom to invest in the future of our state,” district board President Gary De Amaral said after his board’s budget vote.

In Santa Cruz County, Scotts Valley Unified School district has seen a $2.6 million drop in funding since 2007, while in Pajaro Valley Unified School District, spending has been cut a net of 13 percent in the last three years, amounting to about $827 per student.

Right now there is legislative gridlock in Sacramento. No budget again. They are more a month late, with no end in sight. And yet there is not a public discussion on the Central Coast of what’s at stake. Californians are rightfully angry at the annual circus in Sacramento.

According to the non-partisan national publication Education Week, California passed a new milestone this past year – dropping from 46th to 47th among the states in per-pupil spending, earning California an “F” from Education Week.

At the heart of this year’s Sacramento deadlock is Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal to cut $250 more per pupil from state support for K-12 education, a reduction of 11 percent for local schools over the past three years.Republicans in the state legislature support the governor’s proposal. I don’t.

Alternative legislative ideas propose more K-12 education support. Teacher layoffs, higher class sizes – and the basic ability to educate our children for the challenges of the changing job market – all hang in the balance. I support this proposal.

The winner of the Aug. 17 special election for the 15th District Senate seat may cast the deciding vote in this choice over the future of California’s schools.

Rather than flooding the airwaves with false and misleading negative ads that don’t address California’s education crisis, education is what candidates should be talking about. Voters have a right to know each candidate’s plans for turning around California’s school system.

As we begin to come out of the Great Recession, one thing is clear: We will create jobs only to the extent we have a work force coming out of the public school system prepared to take the complex jobs that are the basis of the information technology world. We must also have career tech programs for students who choose hands-on vocational jobs as their alternative. Both of these directions are threatened by the governor’s budget proposal.

As has been pointed out by author Thomas Friedman in his work on future economic trends, our ability to compete with the economies of other nations depends on our ability to turn out students proficient in math and science. We are falling behind.

That is why I supported initiatives by the University of California to mentor high school students on math and science. That initiative, and others like it, is at risk in the current state budget. We can’t lose sight of the state’s long-term economic competitiveness. We must do more to compete in the world economy – not less.

This is my challenge to all the candidates in the 15th Senate District race: What are your specific plans for public education? If you don’t like my position to add money in this year’s budget and stop the cuts of the last three years, what is your specific proposal?

Platitudes don’t educate today’s students. Our kids’ futures – and that of California – are at stake in this budget and this election. Let’s start talking about that.

In the Aug. 17 Special Election, I ask for your vote. Together we can – we must – change public education in California.

John Laird is a former state Assemblyman and Democratic candidate for state senator in the District 15 special election on Aug. 17.



  1. rod says:

    If Education is the answer, then Why is China with a 3rd rate, 3rd world educational system
    kicking our butts ? It is simply because of SLAVE labor wages. No amount of Education or
    currency manipulation will change this.

    The only ones that want more barrowed money from China to go to Education are those that
    benefit from it. Teacher Unions, Bus Driver & Lunch room workers, ALL of which do much
    better than the private sector Burger King people that have to pay for them. All they are really
    accomplishing is to raise the expectations of graduates. Boy are they going to be disappointed.

    (5) 7 Total Votes - 6 up - 1 down
  2. ThomasPaine says:

    Excellent article Mr. Laird. Good luck in the race. Teachers are vastly underpaid and under appreciated. Pre Reagan California was #1 in education, now we are 47 or so. Time to reverse 30 years of failed trickle down and start thinking about trickle up.

    (-4) 18 Total Votes - 7 up - 11 down
    • racket says:

      I am not sure teachers are underpaid. If that were the case, they might trade in their abacuses for shovels, or stethoscopes, or microscopes, or telescopes.

      They don’t. They “endure” the pay because they feel there is equity between the package of what they give (time, care, lost opportunities, etc.) and what they get (pay, benefits, good feelings, etc.)

      If they viewed it any differently, they would find a different line of work. Some do. If they viewed it any differently, universities would quit minting so many new teachers.

      (9) 11 Total Votes - 10 up - 1 down
  3. easymoney says:

    This politico is a perfect example of why this state is in the economic mess that is is today. Approving entitlements, union obligations, uncontrolled spending, personally taking taxpayer monies for attending only 12 meetings, voting to raise his own salary by 17%…
    This is the old face of California legislators, we deserve better and need new blood to serve the public not themselves.

    (5) 25 Total Votes - 15 up - 10 down
    • BeenThereDoneThat says:

      This sounds like you got the information from the P.A.C. commericial? Still agree just curious.

      (-8) 10 Total Votes - 1 up - 9 down
      • easymoney says:

        I get my information by reading about the candidates voting records, history of legislation or lack of, who they get their donations from, and what they have actually done since in office that is positive…

        (8) 10 Total Votes - 9 up - 1 down
        • marypress says:

          Like this from
          Mr. Laird received “100%” or “A” ratings on his legislative record from numerous organizations, some of which included the California Congress of Seniors, the Consumer Federation of California, AFSCME, the California Alliance for Retired Americans, the California League of Conservation Voters, the California Labor Federation, the Children’s Advocacy Institute, the National Association of Social Workers/California Chapter, Asian Americans for Civil Rights & Equity, the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the California Park & Recreation Society, or the San Jose Mercury News designation for “Most Effective Legislator.”

          Or on
          In Blakeslee’s race, JobsPAC spent $864,000 to defeat Laird; the California Senior Advocates League spent $103,000; and a PAC calling itself Real Solutions, Sponsored by the Republican State Leadership Committee, provided $91,000. That group is based in Virginia, and gets much of its money from oil companies around the country.

          Oil companies are OK, but school teachers are not?

          (-3) 15 Total Votes - 6 up - 9 down
          • easymoney says:

            “Or on”
            You mean like:
            1) “Big money from special interests attempts to sway three elections? Which lists Jobspac donated to both candidates?

            Or 2) “Time to cleanup wasteful patronage” ? “For a number of former legislators, term limits no longer mean the end of a political career, but an extended, paid furlough until they can run again and resume office.”

            Or 3) and 4): Government watchdogs have criticized the board for its high proportion of highly paid political appointees.

            “These type of sugar-plum jobs have been a senior fellow program for politicians who are termed out of office,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.

            Or 9):” Spring break means overseas travel for some lawmakers”
            “Also on the trip are Assembly members John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, Joe Coto, D-San Jose, Michael Duvall, R-Yorba Linda, and Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar. ”

            Or 10) “Chevron Hosts Day of Meetings for Gov’s Chief of Staff, Assembly Speaker and Others On “Rascals In Paradise” Tour of South America” “This is Jack Abramoff’s golfing trips to Scotland, only with more bathing suits,’ said FTCR Executive Director Douglas Heller. “These luxury vacations paid for by special interests and dressed up as study trips just confirm that government officials are guided by a culture of corruption. The companies on the trip got days of uninterrupted lobbying and socializing with these public officials who will certainly remember their all-expense-paid vacation to the Copacabana when the lobbyists demand special favors in Sacramento.” “Assemblyman Laird and Senator Lowenthal also went along on the ostensible study trip. ”



            “We are a nonpartisan political organization for women and men which encourages informed and active participation in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. We do not support or oppose any political party or any candidate.”

            “California National Organization for Women Endorsements”

            These types or organizations have loads of interesting information if wants looks…

            (6) 8 Total Votes - 7 up - 1 down
          • easymoney says:

            I will refrain from any further posting…

            (1) 3 Total Votes - 2 up - 1 down
            • Moderator says:

              easymoney, I found your linkage deep within the dank confines of the house spam filter I have no idea why it went there, please email me if/ when you have a site issue regarding posted links, thank you for posting, WE LOVE LINKS! if for some reason your contribution is not displayed Email me . we very rarely delete for editorial/partisan reasons, moderation complaints in thread are never welcome, and are considered a derail to the discussion at hand. :-)

              (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  4. racket says:

    John Laird might be a reasonable senator when we are all rich with a strong economy.

    His ideas and opinions are out-of-date and out of touch for our current crisis.

    His turn as a legislator ought to wait until the state has a more robust economy that can support “good” ideas like his

    (-1) 23 Total Votes - 11 up - 12 down
  5. racket says:

    Nice fluffy feel-good back pat, Mr. Laird.

    Yes education is important. As is transportation, environmental protection, prisons, etc.

    Your ego-stroking editorial might be more germane is you ranked the importance of educational spending against other government expenditures. Is higher education more important than keeping the bad guys off the streets? Is it more important than stormwater run-off? Is it more important than home healthcare? Or is it just a generally important sound bite?

    (4) 24 Total Votes - 14 up - 10 down
  6. Sally says:

    We should spend more on education, we need to spend more on jails, parks, ect.
    The problem is THERE IS NO MONEY.
    California is broke. We have allowed public employee salaries to get totally out of control compared to private industry.
    California, the cities and the counties have promised benefits and pensions that are not even close to what private companies offer. This unfunded liability is drowning us.
    Mr Laird does not say how he will pay for this.
    We could raise taxes but more business will leave the state and revenues will go down, what should we do?
    Put a hold on all existing pensions, give them what they have earned up to date and from today on give them a 401K like the rest of us have.
    Form a board that will compare private sector income and benefits to public employee income and set income at the same rate and benefits everyone else gets.
    Get rid of “prevailing wage” rules.
    This should apply to all state county and city employees.
    Of course this will not be done so the BK judge will have to do it.

    (3) 23 Total Votes - 13 up - 10 down
    • marypress says:

      Just a comment on the fear big business would leave the state. John has talked about CA being the only state with oil that does not charge an “oil extraction” tax. Even Texas, has funded their tax roles with an extraction tax. Oil companies are not going to leave CA. They will, however, donate hundreds of thousands to candidates who will guarantee to protect them from any tax.

      (-1) 9 Total Votes - 4 up - 5 down
  7. srichison says:

    Spending MORE doesn’t get better education. Never has, never will. Raising taxes and spending more money is not a plan to fix education. Freeing the superintendents and business managers from onerus state regulation about HOW existing dollars can be spent and giving control of education back to local districts and school boards would be an actual plan. All Laird is about is spending – and currying the favor of teacher unions who are the ones who will suck up all of his “extra spending” in salaries and benefits. As for an on-time budget – it didn’t happen on Laird’s watch in his previous stint in Sacramento, either. Neither he, nor the current crop in Sacramento, are really interested in solving problems – just getting elected with promises they have no intention (or ability) to keep.

    (-1) 27 Total Votes - 13 up - 14 down
    • marypress says:

      Well you certainly won’t improve public education by firing teachers, increasing class size and making college so expensive only the wealthy can attend. And your comment about teachers sucking up money in salaries – do you really think young people go into teaching to become wealthy? Most teachers come out of their expensive fifth year of education with a $50,000 to $100,000 student loan. Investing in education should be our number one priority. Instead, protecting big business and oil companies from taxes has been more of a priority.

      (2) 20 Total Votes - 11 up - 9 down
      • Sally says:

        Remember to follow the money, Mr. Lairds money comes from the teachers union.
        It seems like my children graduated from college with student loan debts also they are having to pay them back and not finding jobs with salaries any higher than teachers, and certainly not with the benefits or pensions.

        (5) 27 Total Votes - 16 up - 11 down

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