Recently much has been said about the next San Jose mayor becoming an “Education Mayor.” It is easy to make public statements that play upon parents with school-age children during an election year, but the fact remains that the city has absolutely no control over public schools. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
Section 1400 of the San Jose city charter lays out clearly that the city of San Jose is a separate entity, and that public schools govern themselves. This is different from the cities of Chicago and New York, where the mayor does oversee the school system.
Residents of San Jose, however, have always had a say in their public schools. They elect local school board trustees who directly govern their respective school districts, and I have the utmost confidence that the trustees not only do the job that is expected of them, but do it well.
Residents also have the opportunity to financially augment their neighborhood schools, and have done so with the passage of a plethora of school bonds and parcel taxes. And keep in mind that public schools already receive the lion’s share of property tax remittances (five times the rate the city of San Jose receives).
I care about our schools and have a personal connection to this issue, as I actually attended San Jose K-12 public schools. My teachers were hired by the school district, not the city. Textbooks were state approved, and discipline was handled by principals, not the police. Many of my classmates went directly to UC and CSU colleges.
What they had in common was personal motivation, excellent preparation, and in many cases, parental involvement — not the interference of the city’s mayor.
I had many wonderful teachers while I was a student, and both of my parents were public educators themselves. Perhaps either or both of these reasons contributed to my motivation to enter the teaching field. I obtained my teaching credential at San Jose State University, and completed my classroom instruction in San Jose public schools.
Some of my former students now pursue professional careers in fields such as dentistry, engineering, business and education. Good things do, indeed, happen in San Jose public schools, and I have witnessed much of this goodness first hand.
Often times, governmental organizations interject themselves into issues that are not within their jurisdiction, in an attempt to be all things to all people.
This may take the form of a city or county debating foreign policy, or Sacramento meddling in local affairs. In a similar fashion, while an English teacher could theoretically teach mathematics, one could easily argue that students are better served by an instructor who is showcasing his or her core competency.
It is my belief that we as a city should focus on what is actually under our legitimate and direct control. Whoever the next mayor is, he or she will have major challenges in dealing with issues that are directly under the domain of the city, such as law enforcement, roads, land use and budgeting.
What we do not need right now is further distraction from providing core city services by the efforts of some to muscle our way into other levels of government. The simple fact is there is not enough money to cover the current city obligations, never mind take on new responsibilities that are not in the city charter.