A statement of the blindingly obvious on the one hand, but not something that you hear from most members of the California legislature, or from many of the candidates running for office across our state in this election year when the future of our public education system—from early childhood education on up to the University of California—is on the line. Which is why, as a left-winger who is generally suspicious of candidates who describe themselves as a-political or moderate, I’m impressed with Jann Reed, who is running for aState Senate seat in Northern California.
Reed clearly gets what Republicans don’t—that a well-funded public education system is key to our state’s social cohesion and economic prosperity. And she’s willing to say what Democrats won’t—that Governor Jerry Brown’s ballot initiative, Prop 30, is just an effort to kick the can down the road and put off until another day the underlying discussion that we urgently need to have about our communal priorities and the mangled, labyrinthine political structure through which we negotiate those priorities.
Any voice prepared to discuss rational reform—in the long-term the only way out of our current cycle of decline—is welcome in Sacramento, particularly if it were to be supplanting one as feeble and mis-directed as that of Jim Nielsen, State Assemblyman and Reed’s primary challenger for the Senate seat. A voice like Reed’s would be all the more welcome given that she is interested in the issue of education, something which, because of its centrality to our economy, our budget, and the fibre of our society, is also at the heart of our politics. The positive effects of “getting education right” would spiral outwards into the criminal justice, employment, technology and innovation, and economic spheres.
I don’t know what Reed’s particular take on the issue of rational reform would be—for all Californians, the best place to start for some well-written insight into the issue is Mark Paul and Joe Mathews’ California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It—but the fact that she is willing to broach the issue bodes well. Neither Republicans nor Democrats have shown any enthusiasm for taking steps to spark a public conversation about making our state’s future more manageable, so let’s give someone who is able to make the correct diagnosis about our state’s ills, and willing to speak the name of that ill aloud, a chance to represent the North State in the California Senate.