I support Bill de Blasio for mayor. Too bad he lives in New York and not San Jose. He gets “it.” After his primary rival conceded, de Blasio officially became the Democratic candidate for mayor of America’s most populous city. He’s practically a shoe-in to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg. This is a very good thing for the children, families and teachers who live in New York. If only San Jose had such a candidate for its upcoming mayoral race.
During de Blasio’s successful primary campaign, he published a 9-page position paper on public education titled, “Preparing Every Student For Success In College and Career.” De Blasio writes: “New York City will not thrive if only some of our schools meet the needs of students. We need a commitment from City Hall to ensure every child can succeed.” He knows this, having been a public school parent, a former school board member and currently serving as the public advocate for New York City.
In April of this year, I wrote that the next mayor of San Jose must get “it,” when it comes to education. All other issues are related or pale in comparison. Mayor Chuck Reed is a strong supporter of SJ/SV 2020, the initiative to eliminate the achievement gap in the next seven years, and the next mayor will need to continue that effort. San Jose cannot afford to leave public education off the top of the list of issues in the mayoral race. One need only look to New York City to see how de Blasio has successfully done this.
Fifty percent of all students in San Jose score below grade level proficiency in math and reading. The high school dropout rate is 35 percent for Latinos. STEM careers in Silicon Valley are going unfilled because we are not producing the students our local corporations need. We need immediate action.
Education results are the key to a strong economic engine, reduced crime and increased quality of life for all. De Blasio’s vision includes this education platform:
*Create universal pre-kindergarten and after school programs for ALL middle school students.
*Expand and improve career and technical education.
*Increase parental engagement and communication.
*Stop bullying in schools.
*Address student behavioral issues.
These are the same issues I ran on in 2008. We have made slow incremental progress on each goal, but not enough. Education can no longer be perceived as out of bounds or in another institution’s purview when it comes to the mayor’s race. I have had positive conversations with a few of the candidates about their interest in becoming an education mayor first and foremost. But I’m still waiting for one of the announced or unannounced candidates to state the importance of the issue publicly with a sense of urgency. Nothing less will garner my unwavering support.
If no one fills that void before the filing deadline, Feb. 5, 2014, I will consider filing the requisite papers to become an official candidate. My sole intent as a minor candidate without financial backing would be to spark a dialogue about the importance of quality public education in San Jose. A candidate must be a voice for all children. After all, they are the most important constituents.
Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native.