Last Thursday, the California State Senate voted in support of Sen. Wright’s SB 381 on an overwhelming and bipartisan vote of 32-2 (2 no’s: Simitian and Wiggins — 5 abstains: Alquist, Cedillo, Oropeza, Romero, Wolk). Over the weekend, the most emailed article out of the New York Times was a piece, written by Matthew Crawford, on how we have devalued working with our hands. The two items together represent a growing shift back to education reality and the fulfillment of all our students’ dreams.
Crawford summed up how, over time, our country has begun to view our children’s success:
"A gifted young person who chooses to become a mechanic rather than to accumulate academic credentials is viewed as eccentric, if not self-destructive. There is a pervasive anxiety among parents that there is only one track to success for their children."
The fact that SB 381 passed so overwhelmingly shows that we might be reaching the tipping point for a more balanced educational system that provides more than the traditional access to a resume of academic credentials, but options for technical skills and careers.
SB 381 calls for curricular balance in school districts that adopt the UC/CSU course admission requirements (known as "a-g") as a high school graduation requirement, by also requiring those districts adopt alternative graduation coursework that includes the core academics currently mandated by the state, along with a series of at least three career technical education classes.
We must not forget also, that this bill is a simple and clear reminder to districts of their legal obligation to maintain curricular equity and balance, as outlined in Education Code Sections 51224 and 51228:
51224. The governing board of any school district maintaining a high school shall prescribe courses of study designed to provide the skills and knowledge required for adult life for pupils attending the schools within its school district. The governing board shall prescribe separate courses of study, including, but not limited to, a course of study designed to prepare prospective pupils for admission to state colleges and universities and a course of study for career technical training.
California’s manufacturers offer high paying but very technical careers to our workforce. These jobs play an important role in our society and pay, on average, $20,000 more than service sector wages for our hard working families. At the very least, students should have the choice of exposure to these skills and this particular pathway. SB 381 takes a big step toward equality for all students’ dreams and, after weeks of internal legislative squabbling, garnered almost unanimous support. SB 381 now moves to the Assembly. Stay tuned.
The following floor debate videos are worth your time. You can view them here.