In recent years the Los Angeles Unified School District has focused its curriculum almost entirely on preparing students for college. While attempting to prepare every student for college is certainly an admirable and understandable goal, it is not a realistic one. First of all, not every student wants to go to college. Secondly, a college-bound curriculum is not well-suited for some students. This situation has resulted in numerous students leaving the LAUSD (some graduating and some not) without the skills necessary to find good jobs in our community.
In recent years career and technical training has been eliminated from our public schools. Our schools no longer teach students the trades. The wood-shop and machine-shop classes that were offered when I was in school are no longer offered.
The elimination of career and technical training and trade classes has resulted in many students being left behind. This is harmful to our community in numerous ways. We no longer have high school graduates that are ready to begin a career in welding, masonry, metal work, plumbing, the hospitality industry, or in countless other important trades. These are important jobs, good-paying jobs, and jobs that cannot be shipped overseas. Yet our public school district has eliminated classes that train students for these careers that enable them to enter the workplace with a good job upon graduation.
There is another serious problem that has developed since career and technical classes have been eliminated—more students drop out of school. Career and technical training and trade classes are classes that some students will excel in, and offering those classes will give those students a reason to stay in school and graduate. By not offering career and technical classes, students interested in numerous trade-tech careers are being told that they don't matter—that they are not important—that if they are not "college bound" they are not a good "fit" for the LAUSD. We are sending the wrong message to these students. Our schools belong to our community. And as a community we are harming their chances of being productive members of society as adults.
I believe the LAUSD should should reinstate career and technical training and trade classes, including wood-shop, machine-shop, graphic design, drafting, and construction-related classes. I believe the LAUSD should also create a trade-tech diploma so students that choose a path other than college have an additional reason to stay in school, to work hard, and to graduate with a diploma that will help them get a job in a field that interests them and in which they have been trained.
Students that decide to seek a trade-tech diploma would have the choice to elect the trade-tech route after the 10th grade.
There are many ways that the LAUSD can cover the costs of the trade-tech curriculum. It is very likely that the trade-tech curriculum would be cost/revenue neutral because many students that seek the trade-tech route will be spending more time on campus and in class which will increase the amount of "ADA" (Average Daily Attendance) funds received by their school.
Furthermore, additional revenue covering the cost of the trade-tech curriculum would be created through internship opportunities with the private business sector. Students could participate in work-study programs where a company pays into a program that enables students to spend time working for the company to gain on-the-job experience. Obviously, students that do a good job as an intern through such a work-study program would have a leg-up in getting a full-time job after graduation with the company the student interned for.
There may also be opportunities for state, federal, and private grants as a result of such a new job-placement program within the LAUSD.
Finally, a quote from Michael Theriault, writing for the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council, in an article titled, "The Return of Shop to City Schools," sums up the academic benefits of a trade-tech curriculum:
"[Shop] acquaints students with its ties to mathematics and the sciences. It could point toward possibilities in the arts, which arise in one degree or another from craftsmanship. Through discussions of its materials—wood, metal, rubber, plastic—it could point toward history classes, and through the materials those classes could draw the student into study of the Industrial Revolution, colonialism, conquest of native peoples, systems of government, and on and on. The shop class could even give practical lessons in English; imagine, for example, an exercise in which a student is handed an incomplete specification for some required task and to complete it is made to write an RFI. On finishing the shop class a student should have some idea of how to answer the question, ‘What use is x in my life?’—and we could substitute for x any of the litany of usually detested classes."
As mayor, I will be a strong advocate for education reform with both the LAUSD and in Sacramento. You can read more about my education platform here, including my creation of an Education Information Officer within the mayor's office and an education liaison who will serve as an education advisor within the mayor's office.