2016 Platform: Education
We believe that the right to human dignity and equality can be preserved only with a universally well-educated population, and that only public education, free to all through high school and available and affordable to all through college and university, can achieve that goal. Further, public education improves our quality of life, strengthens our economy and provides a diverse trained and competent workforce.
California's K-12 education was once the envy of America. The California Master Plan for Higher Education made our California Community Colleges (CCC), California State University System (CSU), and University of California (UC) models for the world.
California students must have access to free world-class K-12 public education that will prepare them to live, work, and thrive in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and highly connected world. We must provide instruction in all the sciences and humanities, and we must prepare our students for postsecondary education, career technical education, and active citizenship in the 21st century. To assure access to jobs, strong support is needed for STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The passage of Proposition 30 in 2012 provided more than $24 billion in increased funding to K-12 and community colleges; and, it freed up state funds that have prevented devastating cuts to services for seniors, low-income children and healthcare. Yet, California is still near the bottom, nationally, in per pupil spending. In order to ensure continued improvement in California’s schools and correct years of underfunding we must prioritize the extended funding of K-12 and community colleges.
While Proposition 30 increased funding to K-14, only in the last budget has it increased funding to UC and CSU. These two segments should be prioritized dramatically to correct the years of underfunding that approaches $1 billion each for UC and CSU.
Financial aid programs, such as Pell Grants, Cal Grants and other middle-class scholarships must be fully funded.
To help educate California's young leaders for the 21st century, California Democrats will:
- Strive for full competency in reading and writing English and at least one other language;
- Provide instruction in social studies, mathematics, the sciences, literature, art, music, foreign languages, and physical education;
- Ensure that all California four-year-old children have access to preschool;
- Support career and technical education programs in high school, Adult Education, and Community College programs;
- Implement "debt-free college" and free community college, so students have a public college education financed entirely without student loans. We can move in the direction of expanding access by allowing refinancing of existing student loans, providing equal treatment of student loans in bankruptcy, and rolling back tuition increases. This can be done by reinvesting in public higher education at the Federal and State levels;
- Target reforms and resources to close the achievement gap;
- Ensure that districts' local accountability plans for grant monies reach the students with the greatest needs, for whom they are intended;
- Support restorative policies and practices that eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline. End zero-tolerance policies that criminalize student behavior, and develop school discipline reforms that encourage counseling, education and positive behavior interventions;
- Ensure that educators and classified staff receive wages commensurate with their expertise and responsibility, and have opportunities for professional growth;
- Ensure that “adjunct faculty” at our community colleges who do the same work as full-time faculty and meet the same professional standards are paid a comparable wage. Encourage community colleges to utilize full-time faculty to the extent possible to ensure student access to all courses and office-hour faculty support to increase on-time graduation rates;
- Ensure that teachers play a central role in the selection and creation of curricula, and are able to adapt curricula as appropriate for their students;
- Ensure that science textbooks fully reflect the strong scientific consensus on issues of science such as climate change, evolution and the Big Bang theory.
- Ensure a safe educational environment and school culture where students and staff do not feel threatened and are free from bullying and harassment, including racist and ethnic provocations. Provide training in tolerance, mediation, peaceful conflict resolution, and counseling. When incidents of racial or ethnic abuse occur, schools and universities should respond immediately and officially;
- Assure that sworn peace officers in schools are adequately trained to handle difficult situations and understand that the use of force against students should be used as a last resort when all other means of disciplinary measures have been exhausted. Peace officers should only be present when judged essential by the community;
- Support comprehensive, accurate, age-appropriate sex education, including information to help stem the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and to prevent teen pregnancy; and,
- Protect the inclusion in Pre-K to Higher Education curriculum of age-appropriate, factual information about social movements, current events and the contributions of both men and women, people of all races and ethnicities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and other historically underrepresented groups.