There is still room for improvement when it comes to lessening the achievement gap and it can be done by thinking critically about how we fund public schools.
By Isaiah Jurado
During this time of year, California high school seniors are celebrating a commendable accomplishment; their graduation. But high school seniors are not the only ones celebrating a major milestone. California’s high school graduation rate has surpassed the 80% mark for the first time in history.
The number of graduations has been on a steady incline for the past couple of years in California and nation-wide. What makes this achievement even more impressive is the fact that it has been done in the wake of budget cuts and financial stress. When Governor Jerry Brown took office in 2011, he cut down public school funding in order to make up the state’s $26.6 billion dollar budget gap. Since then, the public school system has had very little state support. But regardless of the lack of funding, no one could be more proud than LA school Supt. John Deasy, who stated in the LA Times that, “These results came at the absolute bottom of all the cuts, and we still saw improvement” and “Considering all the challenges we have in L.A., I’m very pleased and proud.” With success like this, the graduation rate can only be expected to increase in the future.
Even though the statistic is promising, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done behind the scenes.
The 80% statistic includes all California high school graduations. Although we should be proud of this increase that occurred despite the financial setbacks of the state, there is still a disparity among minority high school students. California has an extremely diverse ethnic composition, but even as minority groups such as Latinos continually grow to a predicted majority in 2014, they remain the minority in high school graduation rates. Latino and African American graduation rates are still lower than the average at 67.2% and 63.7%. These minority groups fall behind White and Asian graduation rates which are over 85%. These disparities can be attributed to the lack of public school funding in low-income areas. Due to the fact that public school funding is based partially on the property value of the school district, low-income districts receive the least amount of funding. To add insult to injury, experienced teachers usually flock to districts with higher wages and more funding. This leaves low-income school districts with poor funding and inexperienced teachers; with conditions like this, it is not hard to realize why minority groups have lower graduation rates.
If we really want something to celebrate, California needs to improve graduation rates among minorities and students who live in these low-income neighborhoods.
With all this being said, California needs to look at the bigger picture. The job market has grown increasingly competitive over the years and a high school diploma is not enough to compete for the modern “well paying” job. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most of the fastest growing jobs in the next 10 years are in the health field. Job applicants interested in the health field, require at least a bachelor’s degree to be considered competitive compared to other applicants. These high school graduates need to become college graduates to be competitive in today’s job market. In order to improve further, California needs to make college more affordable for our graduating seniors. To stop and celebrate for high school graduations, without the promise of further academic achievement, is like building a house and stopping at the roof.
The goal for California and the entire United States should be to create an environment, which promotes education for all and provides means for said education. If we really want something to celebrate, we would have an 80% four-year college graduation rate across the board. If we can improve high school graduation rates, why can’t we do the same for college? As college students, we should be all the more aware of the benefits that a college education offers the individual; we must pursue a society that can afford these benefits to everyone.