A couple of weeks ago I noted that “The latest Standardized Test Results showed that 79 percent of the Lompoc Unified School District students could not meet Common Core statewide standards in math or English Language Arts (ELA) and Literacy.”

It gets worse. Apparently LUSD knew that something was wrong as far back as May 2021 when they approved a one-year contract of $650,000 plus to hire a third-party consulting firm using Expanded Learning Opportunity Grant funds. They recently extended this contract for another year, even though the problem still exists.

According to the California Department of Education website: “The Expanded Learning Opportunities (ELO) Grant provides local educational agencies (LEAs) the opportunity to provide supplemental instruction and support to students, including those identified as needing academic, social-emotional, and other supports, including the provision of meals and snacks.”

That’s the plan — carrot sticks, and rice cakes is the answer.

Of course, LUSD is blaming it on the Covid pandemic; there was no mention of the role teacher unions played in causing “distance learning,” which turned out to be both unnecessary and a total failure.

Nor was there any mention of whether any of the infrastructure demands made by unions as a condition of their return to the classroom such as Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning upgrades were ever accomplished, even though LUSD received millions in Covid relief funds for the task.
Once again referring to the California Department of Education website, The Expanded Learning Opportunities program encourages participants to “engage, plan, and collaborate on program operation with community partners and expanded learning programs.”

However, they “are not required to implement each supplemental instruction and support strategy; rather they are to work collaboratively with their community partners to identify the supplemental instruction and support strategies that will be implemented.”

So, after spending all that over $1 million so far to hire outsiders to give LUSD a plan forward, they really don’t have to do it at all if they don’t want to.  Does this make sense to anyone?

One parent told me: “At the high school level the teachers say they don’t have time to look at the test results because their union contract says they only get paid to come in a couple times a year early. So therefore, they don’t get paid to collaborate, which means all this testing appears to be a waste of class time!”

Another parent told me their high school son and his friends were “counseled” by their teacher because they were joking about some Marvel movie cartoon characters in a fictitious country; the teacher, supposedly a college graduate, said they shouldn’t laugh at the people of emerging countries in Africa. Apparently, this “teacher” couldn’t separate fiction from reality.

So, while it’s true that parents have a responsibility to help with their children’s education, once again the teachers and their unions seem to be at the heart of the problem. Instead of hiring expensive outside consultants to do their job, the LUSD superintendent (they’ll be hiring a new one soon) and his/her administrative staff should focus on teacher performance.

But, once again the teacher unions will resist any effort to hold their members accountable for failing to properly prepare your kids, which are the nation’s most precious commodity, for life after school. Because once these kids graduate, they’ll need to at least be able to read, write and do basic arithmetic to get entry level employment and even more education to acquire the better paying jobs in the construction, manufacturing, or aerospace industries.

Even though this was a grant, and schools and union their staff are funded by your tax dollars, and the LUSD is wasting it, and it’s your kids who are not getting the education they need to succeed.

Carrot sticks, and rice cakes or expensive “programs” that do not require implementation are not the answer.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry. He has been following Lompoc politics since 1992, and after serving for 23 years appointed to various Lompoc commissions, retired from public service. The opinions expressed are his own.