Report: State’s children suffer

first_imgKatherine McLane, a spokeswoman for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the governor has always believed the education system needs major improvements – but not just adding more money to the budget. “We are investing record amounts of money in our schools – where are the record results?” McLane said. “Fully half of our entire budget goes to education _ making sure our kids learn in clean, safe schools, rewarding hard-working teachers who take on tough assignments, improving vocational education and supplying core-subject textbooks for students. Still, much remains to be done to fix the system.” Earlier this year Schwarzenegger made several proposals to change the education system, including instituting a merit-pay system for teachers and tenure reform. The merit pay plan was later withdrawn, while voters rejected his tenure proposal. But education leaders remain angry at the governor for what they believe was a broken promise to fully fund education in this year’s budget. Schwarzenegger has said he increased education spending by $3 billion this year, but the Education Coalition, made up of teachers unions and other groups, has said the governor still underfunded education by another $3 billion over the past two years. The California Teachers Association and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell have a pending suit against the governor, alleging that he broke state law in shortchanging education by $3 billion over two years. The case is still in its early stages and the first major hearing is not expected until early next year. A spokeswoman for O’Connell said he generally agrees with Children Now’s report. “Superintendent O’Connell agrees with the observations and recommendations in this report,” said spokeswoman Hilary McLean. “He has strongly believed that we need to invest more in our schools, address the need to close the achievement gap and improve overall student achievement. “Providing quality preschool for all students is an important element, and increasing investment in our K-12 system is critical.” Among its recommendations, Children Now urged the creation of free, publicly funded preschool for all California 4-year-olds. Earlier this month, Hollywood director Rob Reiner announced he had collected more than 1 million signatures to place an initiative on the ballot in June to raise taxes on wealthy residents to fund preschool for all California children. But beyond education, Children Now also gave the state near-failing grades for economic and food security, noting that one in five children in the state lives in poverty. “There is no question that too many children in Los Angeles County and throughout California live in families that struggle to meet their daily needs,” said Phil Ansell, director of program and policy for the county Department of Public Social Services. The organization gave the state a mix of B’s and C’s for such issues as dental insurance and access – estimating about 18 percent have no dental insurance – and after-school and early-education programs. The state’s grade of D for childhood obesity came as the report noted that 28 percent of fifth-, seventh- and ninth-graders are overweight. “The D is a charitable grade for a problem that continues to get worse,” said county Health Officer Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding. “It’s already a terrible epidemic. There is no magic bullet to cure the problem of obesity. One thing I’d like to see is labeling of all fast foods so people know when they order how many calories and how much fat they are getting.” Meanwhile Tuesday, another children’s advocacy group graded state legislators’ voting records on children’s issues this year. The Children’s Advocacy Institute of the University of San Diego School of Law tracked voting records on 20 bills aimed at improving children’s lives, including 11 signed by the governor. (213)974-8985160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals Despite efforts to promote fitness and healthier foods, the number of obese children in the San Fernando Valley and statewide has soared over the past three years, alarming experts who predict a health crisis if drastic measures are not taken. Estimates are that more than 800,000 children in the state lack health insurance – nearly 235,000 in Los Angeles County alone – and education, state and local officials continue to wrestle over funding for schools as dropout rates and student performance continue to sag. Lempert noted that while California’s education spending is near the bottom nationally, the state spends well above the national average on general government services, welfare and other social programs, health care and the criminal justice system. And despite the state’s low overall spending on education, Lempert noted a recent Palo Alto-based EdSource report that found the state paid its teachers the highest salaries in the nation at $56,283 in 2002-03 – 23 percent above the national average of $45,891. “According to the U.S. Census, we have the highest-paid public employees in the nation,” said Kris Vosburgh, executive director of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “Sacramento does not do a good job of setting priorities. The majority of the Legislature tends to put the well-being of public employees over that of the recipients of government services.” Despite all the talk about children coming first, California has failed to meet many of the basic health and education needs of its 10.5 million children, with education spending ranking 44th in the nation, obesity soaring and economic and food security faltering, according to a report to be released today. The report card by the national nonpartisan, nonprofit Children Now assesses a variety of issues related to children’s well-being and gives the state Ds for its K-12 education, childhood obesity and family economic security. The report comes amid heightened attention to children’s health and education issues and gives the state’s highest grade – a B+ – in infant health. “The overall message is that kids are not faring well,” said Ted Lempert, president of Children Now’s state office in Oakland. “What we are finding is there is a lot of rhetoric given to making kids a top priority, but what this report shows is that the needs of kids are not being given attention they need.” last_img

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