Starting with an expression of his life-long appreciation for education, Jerry Houseman covered the challenges facing public education in general and the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) in particular. Although a board member of the SCUSD, Houseman spoke as much, if not more, about federal and statewide education policy than SCUSD-specific issues largely because they affect so greatly, individual districts like his own.
The picture Houseman painted was one of declining revenues, unfunded mandates, reduced teacher hours, and greater staffing costs. As a result, since 1978 when Prop. 13 was passed, thus reducing property tax revenues, California has gone from spending more than any other state on education to a current rank of 46th. Meanwhile, the California Teachers’ Association has negotiated greater salaries and richer benefits packages and fewer hours for its members. These and other budget pressures have led to some astounding ramifications for education. The SCUSD school day now ends at 2:30 pm. Elective classes have been slashed. Extracurricular activities like music and athletics are being cut. Nurses are no longer at each campus whenever students are. Libraries do not necessarily include a librarian. In addition to financial pressures, a good deal of time was spent discussing No Child Left Behind, home schooling and how societal norms have affected educational methodology.
Despite the negative pressures on our educational system, Houseman expressed some optimism grounded in observations of students and teachers who are dedicated and excelling despite the obstacles placed in their paths.
Report prepared by Brian Jones, Recorder