Pleasanton Weekly

News - March 14, 2014

Buchanan hosts education talk

by Jeremy Walsh

Pleasanton residents and school officials had the chance to pick the brain of State Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo) on education issues last week.

"The problem with education in California is we don't fund anything adequately. It's a huge issue," Buchanan said during the workshop held in the Pleasanton Unified School District board chambers on March 6.

Approximately 20 people attended the 1.5-hour discussion, including district administrators, teachers, school officials and parents.

Buchanan typically travels to local school districts during the state budget-preparation process, but the conversation in Pleasanton this year focused primarily on overarching education issues.

"I think the real problem in education is not a teaching problem and it's not the laws we have there; it's a leadership problem," the assemblywoman said.

Buchanan said she's currently working to address a number of education topics in the Assembly, including making kindergarten mandatory, implementing full-day kindergarten throughout California and a potential statewide school facilities bond measure.

"You can raise the gas tax and get more money for roads. I can't charge kids to go to school, and so education is an arm of state government," she said about the need for alternative education funding options, such as a statewide bond.

Other topics the assemblywoman touched on included funding for special education, the need for more professional development time for teachers and reworking the student assessment system.

"Where I think we're doing a tremendous disservice to poor kids is this narrowing of the curriculum and making the test the whole goal of education," Buchanan said. "We've got to teach our kids how to learn."

The Common Core State Standards -- which promote curricula with emphases on critical thinking and depth of understanding -- could be part of the solution, she added.

"If all of us came in on a Saturday morning, I'd be willing to bet you we'd come up with a pretty good idea of what a quality education should look like," the assemblywoman said. "And from there, all you're then doing is applying cost factors. But I think until we do that, we've got a problem."

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