AN OPEN LETTER TO
                    (Sunday Ventura County Star Opinion Piece, April 2009)

Day after day, wonderful things happen in the schools and classrooms of Ventura County. Our
students are motivated, enriched and cared for by a cadre of talented and dedicated teaching
professionals and support personnel, ensuring steady incremental progress on virtually every
achievement scale. This is accomplished despite decades of “hand-to-mouth” funding for
education that has resulted in California’s ranking of 47th in the nation in per pupil funding. But,
rather than rehash this public policy embarrassment in dollars and cents, it’s appropriate
to tell the story this time from the perspective of those we serve – the kids.

A five year old girl is just entering Kindergarten. She is experiencing formal education for the
first time since she is one of the 16 children in her class who was not able to attend preschool.
Also, due to reduced funding she will be in a class with 24 children, four more students than her
brother, who is attending first grade this year. She will not have the opportunity to go on field
trips that help bring meaning to what she is learning about her community. She will be in an
older classroom with an antiquated electrical system that won’t handle state-of-the-art
technology. Her outside play yard was supposed to be renovated this year but that will have to
wait. Parents of the class will be asked to donate language, art and other classroom supplies that
will help the teacher with important hands-on classroom learning. Her teacher will most likely
use some of her own income to supplement her classroom supplies. She will have a wonderful
teacher who will work very hard to make sure that she has an excellent kindergarten
experience but, will the teacher have all the necessary resources to make that happen?

A young man is transitioning from fifth grade to his first year as a middle school sixth grader.
He is pretty nervous about leaving his elementary school. He has worked hard but has had a
difficult time learning to read. His teacher has provided extra help and a reading specialist has
given him vital support. Next year he will be in a class with 34 instead of 30 other 6th graders.
He might not get the extra help with reading that he knows he needs. There will be no Summer
School to provide an extra five weeks of readiness. He will be walking further to the bus stop so
he will need to get up earlier and will get home later. He has been looking forward to
participating in his first elective class but unfortunately, those were some of the classes that had
to be cut. His mother and father are supportive but sometimes they don’t understand the work he
needs to complete. Will there be someone available at the middle school to make sure he
and his parents get the help they need to help him be successful?
Ventura County STAR
April 2009
Page 2 of 3

This coming September, a young lady will be a freshman in high school. She will be joining her
older brother, who will enter his senior year. When her brother was a freshman there were
numerous general, elective, college preparation and academic preparation classes. Some classes
have been eliminated so she will not have this same advantage. The school wants all freshman
students to get connected to the school. They encourage everyone to participate in a club, sport
or other extracurricular activity. Funds have been cut so next year’s activities will need to be
supported by fundraising if they are to remain. When her brother was a freshman he had English
classes with 20 classmates. Now, his sister will be in classes with 30+ students. She will be
using eight year old textbooks that were supposed to be replaced this year. There will be fewer
electives for her to choose from and fewer counselors and administrators to support her if she
falters. Her brother has been taking a ROP computer programming course but due to budget cuts
many career courses may be dropped. The computer instructor was scheduled to learn a new
software program for this year’s students, but unfortunately, that training has been cancelled.
Will this young lady’s high school years reflect the same opportunity that has been
afforded her older brother?

Education is an investment in the future and the true base for America’s R & D; but it is not a
“business” of profit and loss in the monetary sense. School districts do not have the luxury of
raising the price of their product, but are expected to consistently deliver quality outcomes on a
regular and continuing basis. We recognize that many are suffering and losing jobs in this
economy, but it is doubly sad when our own children are shortchanged. Compounding this
picture is the advent of the May 19th Special Election, where the voting public will be asked to
pass five separate ballot measures, any one of which - to a greater or lesser degree - will unravel
the current State Budget if unsuccessful. Of particular importance are Propositions A, B and C;
the failure of which will result in additional billions in red ink. Current polls do not reflect
sufficient support for these measures – not by a long shot – which begs the question, “What will
happen to our children then?”

See next page for signators.
Ventura County STAR
April 2009
Page 3 of 3

         County Superintendent of Schools, Stanley C. Mantooth
         Briggs Elementary School District, Dr. Ken Moffett, Interim Superintendent
         Conejo Valley Unified School District, Mario V. Contini, Superintendent
         Fillmore Unified School District, Jeffrey Sweeney, Superintendent
         Hueneme Elementary School District, Dr. Gerald Dannenberg, Superintendent
         Las Virgenes Unified School District, Dr. Donald Zimring, Superintendent
         Mesa Union Elementary School District, Dr. John Puglisi, Superintendent
         Moorpark Unified School District, Ellen Smith, Superintendent
         Mupu Elementary School District, Jeanine Gore, Superintendent
         Oak Park Unified School District, Dr. Anthony Knight, Superintendent
         Ocean View Elementary School District, Dr. Nancy Carroll, Superintendent
         Ojai Unified School District, Dr. Timothy Baird, Superintendent
         Oxnard Elementary School District, Janis Duran, Interim Superintendent
         Oxnard Union High School District, Dr. Jody Dunlap, Superintendent
         Pleasant Valley Elementary School District, Dr. Luis C. Villegas, Jr., Superintendent
         Rio Elementary School District, Sherianne Cotterell, Superintendent
         Santa Clara Elementary School District, Kari Skidmore, Superintendent
         Santa Paula Elementary School District, Dr. Winston A. Braham, Superintendent
         Santa Paula Union High School District, Dr. David Gomez, Superintendent
         Simi Valley Unified School District, Dr. Kathryn Scroggin, Superintendent
         Somis Union Elementary School District, Dr. Mary McKee, Superintendent
         Ventura Unified School District, Dr. Trudy T. Arriaga, Superintendent

To top