The San Mateo County School Boards Association is publishing a series of position papers on relevant and important topics related to public education in California. These viewpoints are shaped by the collective experience and perspective of over 100 school board members who serve in San Mateo County, all for little or no compensation but rather for the passion of serving students in Pre-K through grade 14. Local school board members are charged with ensuring that our public education system fulfills its goals of providing opportunities for each student to reach his or her highest potential and to be a productive and responsible member of society.
Unfortunately, the debate around public education policy often simplifies complex and nuanced issues, unfairly bifurcates positions (e.g. “reformers” vs. “traditionalists”), and often ignores the perspective of those individuals who are responsible for the governance of our local school systems. Having all gone to school, most citizens have an opinion on how to fix schools, so the debate often gets sidetracked and fails to focus on the most critical topics. The goal of these position papers is to give context and perspective to these debates and propose impactful solutions for the highest priority issues.
The first in a series of position papers is meant to serve as an overarching summary of the greatest issue that plagues our public education system in California — a finance structure that systematically both underfunds almost all public schools while at the same time perpetuates inequities across communities within the state. This paper will address briefly a number of sub-topics and related topics, and many of these issues will be presented in more detail in subsequent position papers.
The second position paper focuses on the most important change that could address many of the systematic inequities in our public school system — providing universal early childhood education. The paper presents the evidence and the case for preschool, but also argues that for the system to become scalable and truly universally effective, these early learning years must be incorporated into the existing public school system.
SMCSBA’s third position paper addresses one of the biggest changes in a decade to come to public school pedagogy in California: the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). There is much confusion and angst about CCSS, but this paper discusses the background, rationale, and benefits of CCSS. There is no doubt there is significant work to implement CCSS and that there will be bumps along the way, but SMCSBA is convinced that as compared to the “mile wide and inch deep” nature of California’s previous standards, CCSS will better promote critical thinking, analysis, project-based learning, and effective communication skills for all students.