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Our View: When trimming cost, schools are not ‘fat’

Our View
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Earlier this week the Journal profiled some of the exciting high-tech learning opportunities at Placer Union high schools. Placer High School offers classes in mechatronics and advanced mechatronics. Teachers are connecting with students through Twitter, e-mail, and Google applications. You see iPads in the classrooms, the use of software like Adobe, Photoshop, InDesign, Flash and more. The technological future is coming alive for students at Placer High. Jason Long, one of many bright and dedicated Placer High teachers, is working to bring an iPad pilot program to Placer High. That’s fantastic and the community should support him. The faculty is truly excited about finding new ways to communicate with and teach students in the 21st century, to prepare them for productive lives after graduation. Parents should encourage their children to take advantage of these offerings while they still can. Some of the classes, like advanced mechatronics, can be further studied at Sierra College and then taken to another level in engineering classes at area universities. Even the Placer School for Adults is offering more classes than ever in social networking, computers and other high-tech areas to re-train adults for today’s job market, and to help seniors communicate with the world in which they now find themselves. For Auburn, Placer County, California and the United States to compete and thrive in the new world economy, a basic understanding of new technology is critical. Offering today’s students the chance to lay the foundation and build the infrastructure for a successful tomorrow makes sense. It’s also cost-effective. That’s why it is so disconcerting to also read articles in the Journal about potential teacher layoffs, computer rooms and libraries closing, and other heartbreaking cutbacks in local education. Even community schools like Auburn Union and Colfax elementaries are in jeopardy. What many don’t seem to understand is there is no escaping spending taxpayer money. We either invest in positive, preparatory education programs and opportunities for today’s and tomorrow’s students, or in future law enforcement, prosecution and prisons. There is no free ride. It’s questionable whether today we have more jail cells under construction in Placer County or public libraries, computer labs and classrooms. What does that say about where we are headed? ”When we spend more money on incarceration than we do on education we’re doomed,” said Ken Tokutomi, a member of the Placer County Board of Education. Without a way for students to get a great education, there is little hope of breaking the cycle of poverty and incarceration. By offering hope and opportunity, our great state and nation can again rise to prominence and become the world leader in innovation, production and manufacturing. Mental health programs, drug- and alcohol-abuse prevention and other health and human services investments will create a much healthier, safer and happier society than robbing children of hope and opportunity by further cutting off education funding at elementary, high schools, junior colleges and universities. California is in a deep budget crisis. Many would argue that the bureaucrats take too much money into administration and pensions and too little goes to teachers and into the classrooms. There is some truth to that. Over the last two years, the Journal has taken a hard look at salaries and pensions in local government. And we will continue to scrutinize spending whether it’s pension spiking, double dipping or costly training programs that could be accomplished more frugally. All over our country the media is rightfully taking a hard look at government spending. We are seeing some reform and in cities like Bell, Calif., subsequent prosecution for extreme abusers. It’s vital that we vigilantly watch where taxpayer dollars are going. Gov. Jerry Brown is going to offer a budget proposal that would help stabilize education in California. It will most likely be a mix of cuts, tax extensions and new taxes. Yes, there is some fat that can be cut. Yes, government must be restructured and streamlined. But a child’s future, a chance at a quality education and a career is not “fat.” That’s the American dream. We would be well served to keep that hope, that American dream, in focus throughout the political debate, which will no doubt accompany any upcoming ballot measures. Our future depends on it.