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Part II Of a Two-Part Interview
By Business Journal Staff
October 23, 2012 - Long Beach City Councilmember Gary DeLong, a Republican, and California State Sen. Alan Lowenthal, a Democrat, will square off November 6 in a race for the U.S. House of Representatives in California's newly created 47th Congressional District, which covers Long Beach and West Orange County.
DeLong, 52, was born in Westchester, received his MBA from the University of Southern California and has served on the city council since 2006. He is the president and CEO of The RTP Group, a telecommunications consulting firm and software development company.
Lowenthal, 71, was born in New York City, earned a Ph.D. from Ohio State University and is a professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach. A former Long Beach city councilman, he has served in the California State Assembly and Senate since 1998.
Both candidates sat down with the Business Journal in September for lengthy discussions about the most pressing issues facing voters in this election cycle.
The Business Journal has chosen to run their responses side by side so that readers can compare and contrast the candidates' views.
In Part I, published October 9, Business Journal Staff Writer Joshua H. Silavent discussed job creation, tax policy and foreign policy with DeLong and Lowenthal. View Part I Here.
Part II covers education, environment and healthcare issues, and was conducted by Business Journal Senior Writer Tiffany Rider. It appears below.
The interviews were conducted at the Business Journal offices and included Publisher George Economides.
LBBJ: Scores from 2009 show the U.S. ranking 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in mathematics among 15-year-olds in 34 nations. The highest scoring countries are South Korea, Finland, Singapore, areas of China, Canada . . .
Lowenthal: Countries that do not have huge amounts of change in demography. We are one of the fastest changing countries in the world, so we are educating the first generation of the world.
LBBJ: In 2010, Newsweek published its first-ever “Best Countries” issue and ranked the United States 26th in education overall among 100 nations. What do you think of those statistics, and how would you address them?
Lowenthal: They are tremendously discouraging. Before we throw the baby out with the bath, we are still the envy of the world for our higher educational system. Hopefully we don’t decimate it. We have the finest public higher educational system here in California – the University of California, California State Universities – and we’ve done wonderful things in individual school districts such as the Long Beach Unified School District . . . I think that there has been a significant sense throughout this nation that our educational system has to change, has to be upgraded, has to reflect the realities of the 21st Century – a global marketplace, a global economy – and it has to engage in new kinds of technologies and new ways of teaching.
Because of that, at a national level, not coming from the top down by the president or the Congress or the department of education, but by the governors coming together . . . 46 states in the United States have joined together to create a common core, the new national common core standards and curriculum. California is one of the 46 states, meaning although there will be some allowances in each state to teach some curriculum, up to 15 percent, that is different from the national common core . . . in these 46 states we will now have, if you graduate from Topeka, Kansas, or Bakersfield, you will have the same core standards and the same kinds of curriculum. They are being created by people throughout the states in a sharing of what these common core standards are. We in California have already adopted some of the math standards that have been developed by all of the states together, and some of the English language standards. Some of the others are being developed, but we are committed to moving in this direction.
What is critical about this is not only are we going to raise the standards and have national standards coming from the bottom up – not being imposed by the national government, only on those states that volunteer – we will have an assessment system that will be online. We will not have the old way in which we do state standardized testing. Students will be tracked throughout their careers using national test scores, national standards. It can be modified a little per state, but we think that it’s going to radically change testing.
Right now tests are not very helpful for teaching of subjects. Teachers do not get immediate feedback on an ongoing basis on what skills their students are doing well in, what they’re not, what kind of remediation, what are the best practices. So I think we’re moving in a direction, and California is playing a role in that. Also, in California, with Chris Steinhauser, the superintendent of Long Beach Unified School District; the superintendent of public instruction; and Linda Hammond Darling from Stanford University, we are coming up with a series of recommendations in terms of what are the best skills that teachers need and what are the most effective forms of teacher evaluation and what role student performance plays in that. So we are moving in a direction in California that is consistent with the national level. We are going to upgrade our standards and we’re going to build upon the successes that we have, Long Beach being one of them.
LBBJ: Let’s talk about funding for education. How would you address public education funding? Do you support Proposition 30?
Lowenthal: I absolutely support Proposition 30. Let’s remember when the governor came in under the mantra that if people sit around a table and work together, Republicans and Democrats, we can resolve these problems. I will find out what the Republicans want. They will find out what I want. Then we will negotiate. . . . . Education lost out when the Republicans walked away in 2011. We’re now going to the ballot in 2012 for new taxes, which was just the maintenance of the existing taxes that we had before at that level. You have to go directly to the people. I think that it’s unfortunate that we can’t sit down and work this stuff out. You can’t run a system without any public funding. So what we’re doing in California in higher education is shifting the responsibility from the General Fund and the old master plan – which said all education, higher education especially, would be affordable and accessible to the fee payer – to do that. That is not the appropriate way to go.
LBBJ: What is your opinion of federal funding for schools, school vouchers, education tax credit systems, those types of things?
Lowenthal: I am not an advocate of school vouchers. I have been an advocate of charter schools. I have been an advocate of reforming education. But I am not an advocate of privatizing education by going to school vouchers. I also think that the federal government has a role. Remember, about 45 percent of our local school budget comes from the property tax, or what should be their share of the property tax. About 45 percent comes from the state, and only about eight to 10 percent comes from the federal government. So they’re never going to be the major funder for education.
The federal government has been mostly targeting those populations that are underserved, whether it is Title 1 and the various other titles, rather than doing the overall. They have been setting standards and tying grant monies, additional resources, to meeting No Child Left Behind or Race To The Top. But they are not the major funder, and I don’t think we should be waiting for the federal government to come in and rescue us. . . . I think we need the federal government to work with us on standards and improving education, but we cannot count on it to be the savior in terms of finances. That will have to be done with local control, I am a big advocate of state and local funding. That’s where it is going to come from.
LBBJ: Arts programs tend to be some of the first cut from public education. Do you feel the arts are appropriately valued as a component of education, and how might they be impacted by these standards you are talking about?
Lowenthal: I don’t know how to answer that question in terms of if they are appropriately valued. Yes, I think many people, especially educators, know but . . . arts education has to fight science and math and all of the others that are being cut. I think people are making decisions that are . . . .
LBBJ: Based on the future job market and global competition?
Lowenthal: That’s right. Now, does that hurt us by not having well-rounded people, literate people? Yes, it does. Does it add to your educational value to have arts education? Yes. Will we have a loss by not having it? Yes. Can we afford it? Maybe not.
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