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After witnessing the stunning recall of three trustees in a very progressive San Francisco Unified School Board in February 2022, many in the media began to marvel at the political power disenchanted parents and public school advocates were capable of wielding. After all, San Francisco has the fewest number of children per capita of any major city in the United States. Such a stunning political event could only occur when people began to intentionally pay attention to what was happening at taxpayer funded schools in their community and take parents’ concerns seriously.
A few astute journalists are covering education issues and officials slightly better since the San Francisco trustee recall process began in earnest. Although there is much to be exposed, a vast majority of the California press corps and editorial boards struggle to hold most of the state’s education-industrial complex accountable.
Most papers employ ideologically progressive editors and do not want to cross the teachers associations. And journalists write enough of a story to please management but are unlikely to do the hard research that will shine a light on complex problems that our academic institutions refuse to address. Or they flat out get the story wrong. Deep-diving, investigative stories over the last few years have been the exception, not the rule.
That is why Emily Hanford’s “Sold a Story” podcast has been a sensational hit across the nation. Her relentless reporting uncovered the worst, but most persistent, literacy teaching methods still being used in most of our public school. This multi-episode podcast validated the frustration parents had been articulating for decades over inadequate reading programs. Yet, literacy “experts” and our state Board of Education continue to peddle snake oil reading programs like “whole language” or “balance literacy,” which are proven scientifically not to work. Ask your school district if they use a similar curriculum. It’s likely they do and have no plans to change even as kids fall further behind in reading.
It’s no wonder parents and education advocates feel like they are fighting a battle for better public schools all on their own. The media is unwilling to tell the tale.
Even after parents organized and built formidable campaigns for a thousand school board seats across California in the last November general election—and won some stunning races—major newspapers reacted poorly to the election results. Instead of celebrating the candidates, they warned politicians to be on the lookout for parents who dared to challenge the failure of our public schools.
Where is the media’s outrage on the millions of dollars unions spent on statewide, legislative, and school board races in support of establishment candidates? Where are the thought pieces reconsidering the government’s monopolistic control of public education?
Perhaps mainstream papers should be more concerned with holding the districts in their own backyards to account rather than haranguing parents who demand accountability and a high-quality education for their children?
As an example, how can the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) go from an enrollment of 737,739 students in 2002 to 422,276 last year and so few papers tell the story? The district lost over 315,000 students in two decades. That’s not counting the nearly 50,000 kids who didn’t even show up to class at the beginning of this school year.
The state’s most recent student achievement tests reveal two out of three LAUSD students can’t meet the state’s math standards, and six out of ten can’t meet state English Language Arts standards. Only 22 percent of LAUSD eleventh graders met the state’s science targets. All of this despite the fact that the district is spending an average of $30,514 per student this year.
Recent financial reports show LAUSD is upside down $16.4 billion. No matter, the district’s unions are now threatening to strike for the second time in three years if they don’t receive a 20 percent pay raise.
Broken Public Education System
People used to move to California so their children could receive a world-class education, but the state’s public education system is broken. Every single academic metric shows the state is failing its 5.9 million public school students. Families continue to leave the state in droves.
Parents shouldn’t have to initiate recalls and run for the school board every time union-funded trustees and inept bureaucrats ignore legitimate academic and safety concerns. These parents are not “domestic terrorists” because they dare ask hard questions. The news should cover these brave parents rather than vilify, harass, and bully them for doing their civic duty.
It would also benefit the media to have a little more humility and understand how they, as an institution, perpetuated the failure of our public schools. Parents learned a lot of important lessons from November’s election. I will be engaging with them to identify wholesale education reforms. Nothing should be off the table.
And when the media won’t cover these discussions, I ask parents to keep raising their voices.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.