What One State is Doing That No One Else Is (Yet)

August 9th, 2017 Statement

The President’s approval rating has now dropped to 25% in California, and while I doubt he cares-he should.

As the most politically progressive state in the union, California is often a leading indicator of future trends across a spectrum of opinions and issues. As one notable example, it is the only state with a policy specifically aimed at achieving student equity in educational outcomes in its community colleges.

Not only does the state have this policy, it also appropriately funds the policy’s implementation. While the President calls for a crippling $9 billion in cuts to the US Education Department’s budget, California’s Governor Jerry Brown has increased the state’s education budget, providing its community colleges alone with almost $9 billion for 2016-17.

Part of those funds are dedicated to the state’s equity policy-a program that stands to elevate California and its community colleges to the national stage as model of equity-minded policy implementation.

But for this to succeed, the policy must be strengthened. As currently conceived, the policy risks succeeding only in maintaining the status quo. Our research into a number of these plans at CUE revealed that they tend to blindly follow a formula for identifying equity gaps while not paying proper attention to race and ethnicity.

These are urgent concerns. And I’m aware that the world of policymaking relies on long sessions of bargaining and deal-making, delaying fixes. Fortunately, Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley has proven to be an advocate of equity, so I’m calling on him to be a leader now- to talk honestly about the imperative for racial and ethnic equity without feeling that to do so neglects the well-being of “all” students.

This is a huge undertaking, and CUE stands ready to support the work of the Chancellor’s office and the California Community Colleges with our Equity Scorecard process, tools, and research. These can help the Chancellor to effectively assert that a focus on racial/ethnic equity will truly help all students. And he can educate his staff, legislators, and community college presidents on why equity is important socially and economically.

Because that’s what investment in education is proven to bring-economic success. California may be the very best current example of this.

When those in the Oval Office make foolish decisions that ignore this, it has a tendency to lead not only to economic problems, but also to political problems. I predict it won’t be long before national approval ratings match the abysmal numbers we’re seeing in California.

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