Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Legislating lagging education

A helpful hint to the Legislature in Sacramento: You're killing our communities.

Think I'm exaggerating? Hardly.

Take, for instance, the case of Delta College. Despite its well-documented travails in the past year, it's this region's affordable avenue of higher education, with an enrollment pushing 25,000.

Higher education — and schooling in general — is one of the most important components in changing the Central Valley from a place of frequent double-digit employment to a self-sustaining economic engine. But without direction from the state, Delta and other bastions of knowledge are left without a game plan. Heck, they don't even know which field to play on.

Teresa Brown, the Tracy-area trustee for Delta College, told me today there is absolutely "No sense of direction from Sacramento."

Trustees are mulling staff-generated possibilities for expected budget cuts — a prudent move considering the state could end up being billions in the red — but exactly how tight the belt must get won't be known until the Legislature gets its act together.

Until it does — and given the level of competence in Sacramento, that could be awhile — Delta and other community colleges won't know what or how much to slash. Likewise, the Tracy Unified School District won't know if it will have to close rural Delta Island School. And, of course, parents and students will be in the lurch.

In short, no future plans can be made until local educators and administrators know the size of the state's bill of damage.

In the meantime, the valley and places like it fall farther behind in the drive toward a brighter, more educated, future.

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