Our Long Beach schools are leading many children onto the path to success. As a matter of fact, LBUSD ranks highly when compared to other school districts of a similar size. Long Beach teachers deserve a world of praise for the sacrifices that they make day in and day out for their students.
It is no secret, however, that the educational system has not worked for many.
The state of California has given LBUSD the lowest possible rating when it comes to the graduation rate for our students with special needs. Four of every ten students with special needs are not receiving diplomas. This is not because these students lack the ability to graduate, but because we have not provided them with the necessary support to reach their potential.
Our teachers are working hard to provide quality education for students with special needs and disabilities. The School Board should allocate more resources to Special Education programs and support teachers in their efforts to reach every student.
The School Board also needs to provide more guidance and support in the area of suspensions. More than 700 students with special needs were suspended last year. It is also concerning that more than 1,000 Black students were suspended last year. Studies have shown that suspensions are closely linked to the school-to-prison pipeline. The National Education Association of Teachers have expressed grave concern over the issue of suspensions:
“It is the number-one predictor— more than poverty—of whether children will drop out of school, and walk down a road that includes greater likelihood of unemployment, reliance on social-welfare programs, and imprisonment.” – Source: NEAToday
We need to have candid and courageous discussions about this issue and provide teachers and administrators with the tools necessary to transform the mindset around suspensions. The last thing a teacher wants is for their students to drop out of school and waste their potential. The School Board, administrators, teachers, students, and the community need to work together to embrace a culture of restoration to mitigate the negative consequences of suspensions.
We also need to have serious discussions about expanding our Pre-K program. A free, publicly funded, high-quality Pre-K program is the most effective way to address many of the issues facing our district.
Teachers’ jobs are especially difficult because we are required to teach new content while supporting those who struggle to keep up with the pace of instruction. As one can imagine, this is a daunting task. We can alleviate this problem by helping all students develop their cognitive and social skills before they reach Kindergarten. The National Education Association of Teachers support universal Pre-K education because:
“Individuals who were enrolled in a quality preschool program ultimately earned up to $2,000 more per month than those who were not. Young people who were in preschool programs are more likely to graduate from high school, to own homes, and have longer marriages…Children in quality preschool programs are less likely to repeat grades, need special education, or get into future trouble with the law.” – Source: NEA
One obstacle to universal Pre-K education will be the District’s concern over funding. This issue will certainly require many conversations and difficult decisions but it is important to consider that for every $100 that we invest in Pre-K education, we could see a return of $120. Investing more in early education means spending less later in remediation programs. Universal Pre-K education will help close the achievement gap and provide schools with an economic benefit.
Every single one of our students deserves to be understood, respected, empowered and supported every step of the way. If you believe that EVERY child deserves a fair chance at success, stand with me in our effort to make that a reality. We cannot do this alone. I need your vote and I need your voice.
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