The American Freedom Alliance hosted “From Gold to Dust: The Destruction of California,” over the weekend that featured an all-star lineup of conservative experts outlining why the California dream has been evaporating and how to bring it back.
The conference’s morning session focused on how the financial and political clout of liberal teacher’s unions that now dominate California politics while destroying the competitiveness of California’s students.
Lance Izumi of the Pacific Research Institute opened the discussion with a review of his new book, ‘The Corrupt Classroom,’ that argues for school choice as the best vehicle to dramatically increase student academic performance, while countering the liberal bias, indoctrination, violence and social engineering that permeates California schools.
Izumi calls the California Teachers’ Association the fourth branch of the state government. With $246,249,805 in annual revenue and $260,496,068 in assets last year, the teachers’ unions spend about $40 million on political campaigns and social action initiatives.
The United States’ standing out of 72 nations that have their 15-year-olds take the Program for International School Assessments, has crashed from the 28th place in 2012 to the 35th place in 2015.
Despite California’s huge increases in public school funding versus other states, only 37 percent of its 4th and 8th graders met the National Assessment of Educational Progress grade-level standard for mathematics and only 48 percent met the English standard.
Izumi argues that a major cause of student academic underperformance is the deterioration of classroom safety. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there were 757,000 crimes at public schools during the 2013-2014 school year. About 453,000 crimes involved a fight with a weapon.
This unsafe environment was not limited to a small number of disadvantaged schools; 78 percent of high school, 88 percent of middle schools and 53 percent of elementary schools reported at least one or more violent crimes in the 2013-2014 year.
Rather than removing troublesome students and convicted criminals, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson demanded that school districts adopted a policy of “effective solutions” aimed at restorative practices to avoid suspending or expelling students.
Terrible performance in California’s K-12 schools is also having a negative impact on the preparation of students for college. Data from the California Community College Chancellor’s Office show that 70 percent of freshman students who meet math and reading proficiency graduate; whereas just 40 percent of those that must take remedial classes ever graduate.
Although the California teachers’ union policies that have academically failed students, they have been successful in reshaping millennial’s ideology. According to a YouGov survey, Millennials now have an equal view of the merits of socialism and capitalism.
Izumi concluded his remarks by arguing that the only way to achieve real political change in California is to defund public teacher unions by allowing all parents to have school choice vouchers to chose the school that would be best for their son or daughter.
He emphasized that school choice is favored in the latest polls by 60 percent of adults; 66 percent of public-school parents; 67 percent of Republicans; 56 percent of Independents; and 46 percent of Democrats. The issue crosses racial and ethnic lines with 73 percent of African Americans, 69 percent of Latinos, 56 percent of Asians and 51 percent of whites supported school choice vouchers.