Five Questions For … The Sacramento Bee’s Diana Lambert
Diana Lambert covers K-12 schools for the Sacramento Bee, and is responsible for regional, state and federal education issues. She spoke with EWA about the big challenges facing the Golden State.
1. What would you say is the most significant hurdle facing public education in California right now?
The focus has gone off the classroom and it is now almost entirely on funding. Everyone wishes we could spend more time talking about what’s actually happening in schools instead of about money.
There have already been massive cuts to school funding, and if the state doesn’t meet its anticipated revenue projections in November, we’re looking at as much as another $1.75 billion in cuts to K-12. Based on the most recent numbers we’ve seen, things are not going in the right direction at all and there will be cuts.
The Legislature has already said those cuts can’t be met through laying off teachers, so that leaves transportation and instructional days. They’ve already cut five days, bringing us down to 175 instructional days, and they’re talking about cutting another seven days. (Click here for the story.)
I laughed when I saw they wanted the cuts to come from transportation. Around here, transportation has already been eliminated except for the required services for special education students. Some districts are even talking about finding ways to cut those buses, as well.
2. Has there been any good news on the beat lately?
We are seeing a fair amount of grassroots community response to try and save programs that face elimination because of the budget cuts, which is encouraging. We used to see foundations started to help an entire district, now we’re seeing them spring up specifically for an individual school.
As for good news on the academic front, students in the Sacramento area – which is five major districts and 51 smaller districts – are actually doing pretty well. Science scores were down last year statewide but around here it seems like that’s something our schools are having good success. (Click here for the story.)
3. Does that make educators worry that people will believe they can actually do more with less?
That’s definitely a concern, and I put that same question to them. Their answer was to wait five more years. Many teachers and administrators believe the strong test scores we’re seeing now are the result of what students were taught a few years back. They don’t believe the stronger test scores are going to hold.
4. When you get calls from parents, what do they want to talk about?
We get plenty of calls from parents of special education students who are concerned that their child isn’t getting the right treatment and IEP (Individualized Education Plan). We’re also getting lots of calls on bullying. Parents are exasperated and stressed out. Of course, we do get the good calls — like the woman who wanted me to know her daughter was going to cure cancer. It actually turned out to be an interesting story and that cold call turned into a nice profile. (Click here for the story.)
5. What do you like best about your job?
What I really enjoy the most is going out and talking to kids. You can’t help but come back with a smile on your face after going to a school.
This post originally appeared on EWA’s now-defunct online community, EdMedia Commons. Old content from EMC will appear in the Ed Beat archives.