Written by Senator Bob Huff
Unfortunately, the battle against educational inequality is far from over. A report released by the California Department of Education in 2011 found that, statewide, the average graduation rate was 74.4 percent. However, this figure drops to 67.7 percent for Latino students, and 59 percent for African-Americans. In addition, the average dropout rate for African-Americans statewide was found to be a staggering 30.1 percent, just behind that of English learners at 31.1 percent.
In the Los Angeles Unified School District, 14.8 percent of white students drop out, on average, while 25.8 percent of Latinos and about 30 percent of African-Americans are sadly missing out on the benefits of a high school diploma. The Academic Performance Index (API) measures the academic performance of schools based on state test scores. The 2011 Los Angeles API for whites was 671, for Hispanics 624, for socioeconomically disadvantaged students 624, and for African Americans 563. Clearly, there is still much work to be done before we can claim to have reached a state of equal opportunity.
To make matters worse, we currently have a Governor who was willing to gamble and threatened public education with devastating trigger cuts.
If children do not receive the educational experience they deserve, they are disadvantaged for life. Inaccessible or poor quality education negatively impacts the likelihood of seeking schooling beyond the high school level, lifetime income, criminal propensities, etc. Schools should prepare children to be successful and productive citizens.
I believe that state government had and still has the resources to solve this problem; the real problem lies within how the state is spending its money. This is why we must continue to offer solutions to protect education and all Californians.
We must invest in our children’s futures by offering better mentoring, tutoring, and vocational programs. Charter schools play a role in providing education to disadvantaged communities and all California children. Brown vs. The Board of Education passed sixty years ago but we still have a system whereby your residence and therefore your zip code literally determines your educational destiny. That is why we must continue supporting charters and other school choice programs to expand the number of schools available to students and parents to fit their needs.
These services are particularly effective for those of low socioeconomic status or who would otherwise have a high propensity to dropout. With extra attention and broader course offerings, we can keep students engaged and help them thrive. No child should be denied the chance to reach his or her full potential.
It has been said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We all can appreciate the selfless sacrifices of our past civil rights heroes; no longer can we accept inequality.
I have stood shoulder to shoulder with the President of the California NAACP in an attempt to reform education, as she avowed to the Senate Education committee “education is a civil right.”
Unfortunately many in the state capitol still don’t treat it as such.
The first step is admitting that the status quo is flawed, and make efforts to move forward and learn from past mistakes. Pretending that inequality does not exist or is not a severe problem only serves to perpetuate it.
Senator Huff serves as the Senate Republican Leader and represents the 29th Senate District covering portions of Los Angeles, Orange and San Bernardino Counties.
Follow Senator Huff on Twitter @bobhuff99.