Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Diane Lenning's Response to Alan Bonsteel's Article "Reiner Initiative Bad for Preschoolers"

In response to Alan Bonsteel's February 6, 2006 article in the OC Register,
"Reiner Initiative Bad for Preschoolers"

Bonsteel's article left the reader wanting more information about why
Reiner's plan is flawed. I believe the debate will be won over factual
representation of the issues. Voters are tired of the old attack and run
tactic used by both sides of the political spectrum. Unfortunately, it has
worked in too many cases for politicians to easily let go of this tactic;
however, as an educator for over thirty years, I would like to make this
issue an item of intellectual discussion and debate rather than political
wrangling. Educational issues are too important to be designated for
political posturing, maneuvering, and "winning" for political reasons. Our
kids suffer, our economy suffers, and our society suffers when kids are used
as pawns of the battle.

We need to look at what is best for our kids, our communities, our state,
and indeed our society. All of us need to understand why this issue is or
is not good for our children and our communities, and whether the costs
incurred are worthy of this plan for spending our hard earned tax dollars,
whether they be a "rich" or a "poor" person's tax contributions toward the
education of all of California's children.

Some historical facts for us to consider concern the conclusion that
statistics show over the last twenty years that the bureaucracy of public
education in California has lowered the achievement levels of California
students. Academic achievement scores have only recently begun to slowly
rise due to the implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) through
national federal government regulation. There are many reasons the academic
achievement decreased many years ago from the once nationally rated
top-notch public school system California provided.

The women's movement allowed more opportunity for highly-educated and
high-achieving women to move into other professions such as law, medicine,
and business; leaving a different population from which to draw today's
educators. There has been a high influx of population in a short period of
time since the 1970s, which has caused stresses and strains on a
fast-growing educational system. Many of these new students have arrived
with unique disabilities, language differences, and different societal and
educational goals and expectations than had previously been held in high
esteem by the general population of California.

It is important to consider that including public preschools within the
current public education system of California such as the Reiner Plan
suggests, would very likely sedate the educational process for preschool
children in a status of mediocrity and mass conformity; stifling creative
and high-level educational opportunities for our children. Statistics over
the last twenty years have shown that bureaucracy in public education has
lowered the achievement levels of California's students. The achievement
levels have only recently begun to rise due to the implementation of No
Child Left Behind (NCLB) within the states through the regulation enacted in
NCLB by the federal government.

Studies continue to point in the direction most high level increased
academic achievement is best derived from healthy competition such as exists
in the free-market enterprise of a democratic society. A monopoly in
education that Reiner's Plan inherently provides, would harm the free choice
and free development of an educational menu for parents and communities that
currently exists through before and afterschool programs; thereby stifling
the rapid rise of academic achievement and development.

There are proponents of the Reiner Plan who would say the children of
minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged families will benefit, and
thereby benefit society due to student improved educational skills and
abilities. However, the question arises, is this really intended as a
mechanism to provide "child-care" for economically disadvantaged families,
or is it truly to improve education? If so, why not call it what it is,
childcare, and let voters decide on the real issue. What other hidden
agenda items are inherently built into the Reiner Initiative, such as
societal structuring and engineering?

The real issue is whether our current public education system in California
provides a free and equally accessed education for all students within
California that meets the level of expectation of our society as stipulated
in NCLB. The reality is that our students compete every year in a
ever-growing and competitive market for jobs. As our world becomes more
interconnected, it become increasingly important our students are
academically prepared to compete on the national and international levels.

More and more, businesses are finding it necessary to re-educate their
entry-level job applicants before they can fully function at a profitable
level for their companies. If companies do not make profits, they cannot
hire new workers.

The fact that income of public education is provided by tax payer dollars
contributes to an unfortunate side-effect that causes public education to be
a politicized item. It also includes over half the expenditure of the state
budget. Therefore, public education is of great concern to all people of
California. It has become a struggle between the key players of educational
funding and distribution. This has become a serious problem in need of a
serious resolution. As citizens, taxpayers, educators, parents, and
neighbors, educational issues have become a top priority for all voters in
California today.

Diane A. Lenning, Ed.M.
Candidate for CA Superintendent of Instruction, 2006