By Carlyn Obringer

The precarious state of California’s public education system was the focus of the Lamorinda Democratic Club’s Thursday, January 14th meeting. The Club welcomed Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Ovick and California State PTA Education Advocate Nancy Vandell. The discussion took place days after Governor Schwarzenegger released his 2010-11 budget proposal. With California facing budget deficits of more than $20 billion, education could be in for another round of debilitating funding cuts despite the state’s near bottom per pupil spending ranking.
Nancy Vandell, whose passion is “a quality education for children,” serves on the California State PTA Board of Managers as Education Advocate on the Legislation Team. During her presentation, Vandell urged the public to write letters, followed up by phone calls or visits, to their elected officials about the need for stable increased revenue as a key to success for education in California.

Commenting on the impact of the Governor’s budget proposal on education, Dr. Ovick lamented, “The budget keeps getting cut as the population needing to be educated grows. As an elected official, I don’t create policy, but I have to implement it.” As Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools, Ovick is the CEO of the County Office of Education, an agency that provides an array of education programs for students and staff in the county’s 18 school districts. A lifelong Democrat, Ovick stated, “Education is not a partisan issue, yet some groups don’t seem to understand this,” citing an instance where he had been uninvited to speak to a Republican women’s group after his party affiliation was discovered. He recently announced his intention to seek reelection as County Superintendent of Schools. Emphasizing that children today deserve the quality public education that he received, Ovick says, “I’m going to be around and be a thorn in the side of those who don’t want to support children!”