Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson on Thursday spoke to about 100 California school superintendents on the current state of the education system.
Torlakson suggested that a bond and a tax measure may be necessary to rescue schools across the state from their dire financial situation, and although school superintendents “have done miracles” with their limited budgets, the perpetual cuts have eroded what once was a world-class education system.
“We’re in a crisis, and I don’t think many voters understand that,” he said.
Torlakson was a student of the in Daly City (Pacifica's high schools are also managed by that district), and his four children all attended public schools and universities.
He commended the level of public education he and his kids received, but is worried that his grandson may not be adequately prepared for the world when he graduates high school in 2026.
“I’m going to fight to get us back to the top of the nation,” Torlakson said.
While states like New York and New Jersey respectively spend about $18,000 and $16,000 annually per pupil, California only spends about $9,000, according to the US Census Bureau.
And, some superintendents at the conference said they receive less than half that amount.
“We also have about $20 billion in deferred maintenance,” Torlakson said.
In 2014, he plans to seek a bond to invest in infrastructure.
Another problem he pointed to in the education system is that schools that are doing well according to state criteria are dubbed failures under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Torlakson promised to work with Washington regulators to remedy the contradiction.
He also advised superintendents to reach out to their local business community during these tight financial times for additional revenue.
Torlakson will address business leaders and educators at 12 p.m. on Friday at the Cocoanut Grove, located at 400 Beach St. in Santa Cruz.