The Magic Wand

Written by Neeru Khosla on June 15, 2009
Have we all not once or twice in our lives wished for a magic wand?  Well here it is.

It boggles the mind when I think about the fact that someone is responsible for distributing $140 Billion for education. BILLIONS. That kind of money should be able to change our lives.  Many countries could change the lives of their citizens if they had access to a fraction of that money.  How did we get to this?

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was at an event sponsored by the San Francisco Unified School District recently.  The room was packed.  Tables, usually for 10 people, had 12 people sitting around them and they were jam-packed, making it difficult to serve lunch.  All this to hear what this man had to say about how he was going to dole out these monies and hoping, “maybe I may be one of the lucky ones!”

The program was very touching as at the center of it were the children; their singing performances, a video with students displaying placards that thanked the sponsors as well as the Secretary.  The room was filled with school superintendents, school board members, teachers, charter school representatives and many more.  I even ran into CA Secretary of Education Glen Thomas, Joanne Weiss (who has been appointed for the distribution of the stimulus funds), Ted Mitchell, (Head of the Board of Education, CA), and Martha Kanter (Federal Assistant Secretary of Education).  Secretary Duncan gave a fairly short and to the point speech which was followed by questions about his plans from three students who were from disadvantaged families yet had done well in the system.

Secretary Duncan was very consistent with his message.  He believes that we have to fix three things in our education system: (1) more hours in school, (2) more opportunity, and (3) higher expectations of our students.  During the period that the secretary was speaking, a piece of paper was handed out.  This piece of paper gave the details of The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, detailing the funding for education, jobs and reform.  It gave the details of how the money was going to be distributed:

•    $77 Billion direct funding for stabilization funds to avert education cuts to move towards reform, Title 1 improvement, IDEA, higher standards, quality assessment, data systems, early childhood education, and other education investments
•    $30.8 Billion are set aside for college affordability for low- to moderate- income students for grant money and tuition tax credit
•    $33.6 Billion for additional funds for school modernization

One of the lessons learned from this economic crisis is that we need to take some things into our own hands.  Secretary Duncan asked that we “stop subsidizing banks” by making them the place that we send students for financial aid.   We in education can save up to $4 Billion a year by not providing funds from banks loans.  These bank loans are causing the system to become unaffordable.  We need to think differently about resources and subsidizing other businesses through education.
Secretary Duncan had a very loud and clear message to California.  California, once the leader, has lost its edge and is now one of the lowest performing states.  California needs to step up:

California can come along with what is happening or watch history go by!  California needs to have the political will to make it happen.

Let’s just hope that we Californians can stop pulling each other down, step up and work together to help our children to be productive and performing citizens of the nation as well as the world.    Now is the time.