I’ve been reporting on California schools for 35 years, watching them go from bad to much worse. So I’m shaking my head over the video of Gov. Gavin Newsom today receiving the 2022 Frank Newman Award for State Innovation. It was given by the Education Commission of the States, a compact among the 50 states.
The group said the award was given to the Golden State “in recognition of its coordinated approach to educating all students from preschool to postsecondary, with explicit attention toward whole-child supports and services, as well as its historic financial investments to ensure educational equity.”
Newsom clearly saw beyond the November election and his run for the presidency. He said, “I believe that education has been under attack in ways I have never seen in my life .”
He mentioned “banning Books, Suppressing Speech”, a reference to parents across the nation, as well as school board members in California, who object to Critical Race Theory or other brainwashing techniques. He also mentioned “the othering our students”. I had never heard of that expression before. However, I doubt he meant students of traditional families being discriminated against.
He called this defending “freedom of expression and speech,” and said, “1,586 books have been banned just in the last 12 months,” including 42 children’s books. This is not about Amazon.com’s increasing bans on conservative books, nor other liberal corporations. It refers to the growing number of schools boards and libraries banning these books in an effort to protect kids from naughty teachers.
In America, there’s no censorship except for liberal businesses. It is possible to publish or read anything you like. Public schools are owned by the citizens, who, through their elected school boards, determine curriculums. Newsom would be shocked if teachers insisted on recommending books that promote Nazism for their students. Is that “free speech?” He would be a fan of “censorship .”
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He criticised “Tucker,” to which Carlson was referring, Fox News’ host for raising “Critical Race Theory,” a theory Newsom claimed didn’t exist in California. Except as the news site Critical Race Training detailed, “California has adopted many aspects of CRT at all levels of education. In March 2021, the state Board of Education passed an ethnic studies curriculum based in large part on CRT that applies to all public schools. Many critics have cited it as being explicitly anti-Semitic. Many California’s public and private institutions of higher education could be considered as test grounds for Critical Race Theory, pushing it into mainstream .”
Then Newsom brought up “the real meme of the moment, social-emotional learning,” which he says was banned by the School Board in Florida as part of the 42 books it prohibited. This is the status of Ron DeSantis, his Republican rival. As I reported in The Epoch Times, Newsom launched a campaign for Governor of California, Florida on July 4.
Newsom stated that “social-emotional” learning is beneficial because it “about the whole person.” This smart man knows what he’s doing. Anybody who has paid close attention to education policy as Newsom did as San Francisco mayor, lieutenant governor and governor knows that these trends come and go and make millions for “innovators”, who will finally turn dunces into geniuses.
I remember, to cite just a few, the California self-esteem movement of the 1980s, a national laughingstock; President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind; Whole Language reading; the New Math; followed by the New New Math; and Common Core.
But my favorite education fad was the Quality Education Project of Bill Honig, California Superintendent of Public Instruction from 1983-93. According to a California Bar Journal summary, “In 1992, he was charged with four counts of participating in making state contracts in which he had a financial interest.” And, “Convicted of four felony conflict of interest counts in 1993, Honig was placed on interim suspension by the bar that year.”
Returning to Newsom’s speech, he said Texas banned 713 books and, “Education reform doesn’t come with gag rules.” He said 183 bills to “gag free speech” have been introduced nationally since last January.
After 15 minutes of his 23-minute speech, Newsom finally got to academics. Newsom boasted of all the new programs and spending he had made from the unprecedented state surplus:
- $4.7 billion for mental health and wellness;
- $4.1 billion dollars for community schools;
- “created a brand-new grade, pre-K for all,” an echo of his California for All slogan;
- $5 billion for “universal after school and universal summer school”;
- 3.5 million kids will get “child saving accounts,” for college, actually a good idea;
- Universal meals twice a day, so kids can avoid the “stigma” of getting welfare; but the problem is doing so further reduces the influence of families, where meals always have been a locus of conviviality, instead putting the government in charge of the kids’ nutrition; this is pure socialism;
- Moved the pre-K student-teacher ratio from 1-24 to 1-10;
- $3.6 billion in grants for arts and music instruments and supplies;
- $38.7 billion more invested in education since the beginning of the pandemic.
He ended his speech with another discussion on “the suppression free speech…what kind of country?” This time, he wasn’t referring to the chilling effects of U.S. Attorney. Gen. Merrick Garland’s FBI investigating parents for speaking up at school board meetings.
What Newsom did not mention in his speech was any improvement to California’s poor academic performance. California suffers the country’s lowest literacy rate, according to a study by World Population Review.
On the National Assessment of Educational Progress for 2019, the last year available, just 23 percent of Golden State students scored “At or Above Proficient” in reading. For mathematics, it was 29 percent proficient.
Ethnic harmony and diversity are still issues for black students. One way to fix this is to increase merit-pay to teachers and use all the new cash to pay the top teachers. Newsom’s most vocal supporters are the teachers’ unions.
These students are being let down by the Newsom System. Newsom is promoting posturing rather than real reforms in academic education. The state now is spending an astounding $24,000 per student in K-12. That’s $720,000 for a classroom of 30.
As I’ve said, Newsom appears to not be running for President of the United States, but rather to get the Democratic Party nomination. Should he get that nomination, his Republican opponent will scorch him for California schools’ academic failures and whatever nutty fads are being imposed on the poor suffering students in November 2024.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
John Seiler, a California veteran opinion writer. He has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. A U.S. Army vet, he was also the former Press Secretary for California State Senator John Moorlach. He blogs at JohnSeiler.Substack.com