Elementary and high school students from the Davis area will be questioning candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction at a public forum today at UC Davis.
Jeffrey Callison of Capital Public Radio will moderate the event, which is hosted by the UC Davis School of Education and the Yolo County School Boards Association.
“The School of Education is committed to fostering public discussion and understanding about issues in public education … to ensure that everyone in our region who is concerned about education policy and governance in California has an opportunity to hear from the candidates for the Superintendent of Public Instruction and to hear from public school students about the educational issues that are important to them,” said Donna Justice, representative for the UC Davis School of Education.
Four elementary and high school students from Davis, West Sacramento, Woodland and Esparto were chosen to participate in the forum, as well as a student at the UC Davis School of Education. Event coordinators will also have the opportunity ask questions.
Among declared candidates for the state superintendent position are Rep. Tom Torlakson (D-Martinez), retired educator Larry Aceves and public school teacher Diane Lenning, who confirmed attendance. They are running to succeed Jack O’Connell, whose term is closing.
“The next superintendent of public instruction will face challenges of an unprecedented magnitude,” said Harold Levine, dean of the UC Davis School of Education, in a press release. “Meeting those challenges will require leadership, skill and a willingness to think boldly and creatively.”
The students participating in the forum range from grades 6-12 and were chosen through interviews and teacher recommendations. In addition to questions raised by students, the candidates will be responding to the following questions:
– March 15 is the deadline for first notices of lay-off to go to teachers whose services school districts can no longer afford in the 2010-2011 school year. What do you say to the educators affected and the parents and students worried about the impact on educational services?
– California has a unique system of public education governance, with its Superintendent of Public Instruction, Secretary of Education and State Board of Education. How can you be effective within this system and accomplish your goals?
– What will you do to bring equitable access to quality instruction for all California’s students?
“This forum provides voters the opportunity to understand the various perspectives of the candidates and who is most worthy of their vote,” said Susan Lovenburg, vice president of the Yolo County School Boards Association. “It is also important that we make policymakers understand what is at risk for public education without their advocacy.”
Though the State Superintendent of Public Instruction has no direct influence on the UC system or higher education, he or she will serve as an “ex officio” member of the UC Board of Regents and will administer and monitor compliance for most of the state and federal programs that impact public schools in California.
“This event is important because it gives voters the opportunity to hear from three of the candidates for the elected position of California Superintendent of Public Instruction,” Levine said. “This is an extraordinarily difficult time for public education in our state because of the dramatic cuts in funding. All voters with an interest in our schools should attend.”
The two-hour forum will start at 7 p.m. in Freeborn Hall and will also be webcast from a link on the UC Davis home page.
SARAH HANSEL can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.