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  • Writer's pictureMario A. Guerra

When Politics Mixes with Education

May 19, 2015

My latest OP/ED Piece was recently published in The Downey Patriot. We must do better for our kids.

Click here to read the article.

“We Are Nowhere Near Where We Want To Be…”

When Politics Mixes with Education

By Mario A. Guerra

As many of our children, friends and family members prepare for their graduation in the coming days and weeks, we should all pause a moment and recognize their grand achievement.

It’s grand because there are several forces challenging our students on a daily basis here in California: politicking and ignorance to name just two.

California’s Education Code has just over 2,300 pages of instructions for our state’s teachers and administrators giving them guidance on what to do, and not to do, when providing instruction to students.

So many pages to read in order to be compliant with the operations of our educational system, but a lite read when dealing with actual teaching instructions or a student’s need to learn and graduate.

Just last week, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) announced 75 percent of its current 10th grade students are at risk of not passing the district’s college prep standardized testing and graduating.

After the horrible news was announced, a local report noted one of LAUSD’s board members stating, “Although we are nowhere near where we want to be, we are better than we were in 2005.”

Does this mean LAUSD has gone from tragic to horrible? And is this really an improvement an elected official wants to tout? Pretty scary to think it is.

The standards were implemented 10 years ago in 2005. The district had hoped to have its graduation goals achieved by year 12. What they ended up with is an entire class of students lacking the instruction and tools to graduate in a highly competitive academic state where transfers to UC or CSU colleges is becoming increasingly more difficult and costly.

So who is to blame here?

In my opinion it’s not the teachers or administrators ( having the teachers union fighting to keep bad teachers hasn’t helped either ) – it’s the politicians who are reckless in their attempts to gain media exposure and political points at the cost of our students’ future.

In the case of LAUSD, it seems an entire generation of students was used in an experiment without the district fully understanding the consequences teachers would face in the classroom and students would suffer at the end of their high school years.

And if tradition holds true, the district will certainly ask the state for more funding to fix the problem, with promises of working together to advance the cause of student learning, etc., etc.

Or they can look into programs already in existence showing great results with data supporting their achievements. (Ironically we will not be testing our students again this year ).

Proven academic programs such as Pathways where students are introduced to the concept of college in elementary school are guided through high school into a neighboring junior college then finally enrolled through the Pathways program into an area University.

Universal Design Learning is another breakthrough area in teaching and learning that is growing in use and acceptance.

The point is when academics, teachers, parents and students are removed from the equation, or are limited in the curriculum dialogue, politicians seize the opportunity to try something new just for the sake of saying they did something while serving on the dais.

As a parent whose daughter just graduate from Loyola Marymount University last week (my other children attended Cal State Chico, Cal Poly Pomona and Cal Maritime), I have nothing but praise for the teachers and professors who encouraged and educated her throughout her academic journey.

Our teachers deserve better pay and less intrusion by politicians looking to make a name for themselves. But I’m near certain the fiasco over at LAUSD will prompt someone in Sacramento to add a few more pages to the Education Code.

Mario A. Guerra is former Mayor of Downey and President of Independent Cities Association representing 50 cities and over 7 million residents. He can be reached at

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