Kids Should Be San Jose’s Top Priority

You would think that providing for the needs of children would be everyone’s top priority. But that’s not always the case in the City of San Jose. 

In a recent editorial, the Mercury News called for the San Jose Unified School district trustees to shift funding from adult education programs in order to restore five K-12 school days that were lost to furloughs:“S.J. Unified must make hard call to cut Adult Ed.” Yes, it is a hard call, and ESL and GED classes are very important. But the needs of children should always be met first in our city and society.

While we’re on the subject of kids and classes…why do so many San Jose schools have early dismissal on Wednesdays? What’s the value in that? Consider: If students get out 90 minutes early every Wednesday, the hours turn into many days missed. Ninety minutes a week equates to six hours a month. Six hours a month for eight months is 48 hours per school year, or the equivalent of nearly seven days of potential schooling. That’s like giving the kids an additional full week of vacation (plus two days). How are the kids enriched by missing seven days of instruction?

Let me add one last topic to the discussion. It involves exercise and physical fitness. Why don’t schools require students to exercise on a daily basis, rain or shine? A school does not need goal posts, whistles, or teachers with masters degrees in physical education. Simply have the kids walk, march, skip, jog, and or run around the school yard twice daily.  You don’t need a curriculum to go outside and move.

9 Comments

  1. Let’s take this further: why are kids getting summers off? It’s an outdated practice, and a terrible waste of resources. Kids almost always dumb themselves down over the summer break, and then need to be retaught what they forgot from the year before. And although extending the school year into the summer might seem expensive, in practice, we would be taking our collective resources away from summer camps, day care, theme parks and daytime kids TV, and redirecting it towards our schools. Which seems right.

    • Sorry.  I’ll have to disagree with you on this.

      I think summer “sabbaticals” for kids are a wonderful and valuable opportunity for kids to get away from the fundamentally oppressive and repressive institutional education system and go out and recharge their batteries and learn things that are completely surprising and unexpected.

      I spent my summers building tree forts in the woods and sifting through piles of abandoned junk on old farmsteads.  I learned biology, ecology, history, technology, agriculture, architecture, and lots of other stuff.

      The constant whine about summer vacations being an “outdated practice” and a “terrible waste of resources” is ONLY the bureaucracy’s perspective.

      Kids benefit immensely from summer vacations.

      We need summer vacations much more than we need bureaucrats.

      • You both make valid arguments but I have to agree with the second response more. Summer vacations can help students relax and engage in other activities besides the harsh conditions of today’s intense academic learning to pass tests every year for NCLB. This gives students the opportunity to experience life hands on without being secluded in a classroom.

  2. California and local government will be in budget crisis for at least next 5 years or more and it is time to face reality

    Why does Santa Clara County have 32 school K-12 districts with many district not Unified Districts where children can go to same school district schools from kindergarden to high school graduation which increases academic performance, accountability reduces overhead to include eliminating most of District Boards to reduce costs

    Consolidation within reason is best method to get additional classroom funds

    There are 261,945 students in

    Districts:
    Elementary 21
    Unified 6
    High School 5
    Community College 4
    Total 36 School districts

    Schools:
    Elementary – 239
    Middle – 55
    High School – 51
    K – 12 –  2
    Total 347 school sites

    * Excludes: Continuation (n=18), Community Day (n=9), Alternative (n=10), Special Ed (n=1), Juvenile Hall (n=1), and County Community (n=1) Schools; Includes Charters (n=34).

    Sources: CDE 2008-2009 data and California School Directory

    See #Schools / district, # students and 17 School districts with 1-10 schools which should be first districts consolidated

    http://www.sccoe.k12.ca.us/newsandfacts/sccpublicschools/

    Community Colleges should also be consolidated into 1 from 4 Santa Clara County community college districts to administer the existing campuses
    eing multiple small districts increasing the overhead, administration staff and costs taking needed money out of classrooms

    The budget shortages have made many government funded adult education programs a lower priority for taxpayer funding or ” nice to have ” that if there is user interest the costs should be paid by adult education users not at expense of K-12 education and if no interest to pay for adult education then cancel the classes

  3. If the state is going to fine parents $2000 per unexcused absence and they are having 7 days worth of early dismissal does that mean taxpayers with children who have perfect tuition can get a $14,000 tax credit from the state?  That sounds reasonable.

    I’ve said it in Joseph DiSalvo’s columns and I’ll say it here too.  The culture surrounding education needs an overhaul.  Teachers need more respect, Schools need to provide more flexibility for families, and Teachers in turn need to produce more in terms of hours at school, and achievement. 

    I recall my days in school and compared to my younger siblings I was amazed at how many days off they got, how much early dismissal there was and so on and so forth.  I like summer vacation but I think we need a system that is more accessible to the “Diverse” lifestyles that is the American landscape. 

    Summer vacation schedules cater to the top tier of income earners.  Whom are the minority. And Forsake low income families.  Whom are the majority.  The Majority cannot afford tutoring, extra classes, much less an exotic summer vacation, in no small part because of a rigid and inflexible scheduling.

    I suggests having 4 schedules. Let Parents opt for Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter vacation schedules. 

    Private Employers love Employees with “Flexible Schedules”  Police and Fire fighters have “Flexible Schedules”  And it should be no different in Public Education.

    Very few people work 9-5.  Especially in the Bay Area.  Even those that do typically cannot make home until 6 or 7 in the evening.  Low income families are in a worse boat because most jobs they can get that will enable them to provide for their families sufficiently have schedules that do not accomodate the system…  This is not right.  The system needs to accomodate the culture at large. 

    If public schools were to also provide morning, afternoon, and night classes available to families they would be able to work more, and be more involved with their childs education and be more involved as parents.  The parents would be working more and be able to afford tutoring and extra classes to help advance their students.

    If you want kids to get physical exercize you have to give them sports they like.  Plain and simple.  There is nothing wrong with setting up some ping pong tables, billiards, bowling, badminton, or other less stressful sports.  The fact is that not everyone is built to be a football player or basketball player.  Isn’t the city considering selling the golf course?  Why not turn it into a beacon of public sports and recreation?

  4. About two years ago, the Mercury-News ran a wire story on the kid boom in the nation’s larger cities. New York and San Francisco, among others, had seen a significant increase in families with children; overcrowded schools in upper Manhattan are just one indication. The only city that did not experience this phenonmenon was San Jose. I was surprised, because I think of it as an uber-middle-class family city. Now that I live here,though, I understand. Instead of a ballpark, how about an all-city, multi-purpose sports facility, with a playing field, basketball courts, fitness rooms, track and field area, etc. Whoops that means kids and their parents would have to run around and play not just sit on a bench, boozing and watching.

    • A central facility is a good idea that costs money.  Another cost effective, and long and short term system would be to open public schools to the public for sports and recreation.  We pay for it,so why shouldn’t soccer moms be able to play on the field with their soccer teams too?  It’s already done in other countries and the schools even make money by renting space to fitness trainers to conduct classes. It’s not much but it’s enough to subsidize a copy paper and toner.

      • Nicholas that’s a great idea, and some U.S. cities already do it. Schools are open not only for sports but also for evening classes for adults. Some of the problem is liability. Schools don’t have the insurance to cover after school, and they would have to shell out money for that. Then the schools have to pay for personnel to monitor the situation. None of this a serious problem if cities and schools can develop good joint operating agreements.

        Yes, a fully built central sports facility could cost plenty of money, but we tend to overbuild everything, because engineers, architects and laborers want the jobs, and cities want monuments. But a facility can start out at a minimal level, with ballfields and a track and a single building with basketball courts.It would grow organically from there as we recover from this recession. Consider the faciities that were built during the Great Depression. Just take a look around San Jose, and you’ll see what I mean. In some towns, the crafts unions donated labor to build a swimming pool or theater. First, it takes imagination and leadership, and that is what San Jose lacks in spades.

        • You just gave the reason why something like this can’t happen. With the budget squeeze a multi-use facility like the one you’re describing would be very expensive to run and would be an immediate target of cutbacks.

          In downtown there’s a shortage of playing fields, we all know that. You don’t need to travel far to find them. South Campus has its track. Columbus Park has playing fields. Why build more when the current ones are underutilized? Are they too inconvenient? Get on your bike.