Entries by John Oliver-Santiago

John Oliver-Santiago

Support Gap in Kinship Care

By John Oliver-Santiago, Jun 18, 2012 4:10 PM

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There are currently 2.7 million kids in the U.S. who are under kinship care. And according to a recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, this number has increased 18% from 2001 to 2010. There are many ways children can end up in kinship care including parental death, incarceration, abuse, or service in the military.

John Oliver-Santiago

Recipe for Educational Failure

By John Oliver-Santiago, May 22, 2012 5:18 PM

Here's a recipe for educational failure: cut deeper into school funding and then completely restructure schools with the money that's not there.


John Oliver-Santiago

Why Not College? The Sociological Mindset of Echo Boomers

By John Oliver-Santiago, May 11, 2012 4:39 PM

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, authors David Wessel and Stephanie Banchero discuss a growing trend of young people opting to either skip their college education or settle for a two-year course in the service industry. Apart from citing common reasons such as the grim job market, the growing costs of school, and higher entry wage for the service sector compared to white collar jobs, I believe what the authors have overlooked are the sociological reasons.


John Oliver-Santiago

District Superintendents and Free Agent All Stars

By John Oliver-Santiago, Apr 26, 2012 12:56 PM


Anybody versed in educational reform has heard of Paul Vallas.

His fame isn’t baseless: he turned the Chicago Public School System upside down and raised test scores with a balanced budget while maintaining improved union relations. He privatized Philadelphia’s school system, with mixed results but overall gains in scores, and led an effort to reinvigorate post-Katrina New Orleans.

John Oliver-Santiago

Penny Pinching Progress

By John Oliver-Santiago, Apr 17, 2012 2:51 PM


In a recent article, the Wall Street Journal’s Sue Shellenbarger discusses a small but growing trend across the nation where high school students are electing to graduate in three years. It is a trend supporters say helps ease budget woes in the nation’s public high schools.

In support of this fast tracking of high school, states like Texas and Indiana are offering college scholarships for students who can graduate and get a diploma in three years.

Opponents argue the shortened length of time in high school can be detrimental in many ways. For one, these three-year diplomas make it harder to get into elite colleges. Many of the elite and highly competitive universities look at Advanced Placement classes, a type of class that a student seeking a three-year diploma might shy away from due to the added rigor and coursework that it would add to the extra units they’re already taking in order to shorten time at school.

In mid-2010, Utah Sen. Chris Buttars pushed for the elimination of senior year completely in his state, projecting $60 million in savings. But is it really worth it to shorten the depth and breadth of high school education for the sake of cost cutting?

As it is, students working towards highly competitive universities are bending over backwards trying to balance Advanced Placement classes, regular coursework, community service, and extracurricular activities. For these students, four years is already a short time to space these out.

More so for the California high schools that serve low-income communities where students are unable to complete the necessary credits needed to fulfill their A-G (Academic Guidelines) class credit requirements in order to get into the CSU and UC school systems. Others aren’t graduating because they’re having to balance school with jobs and/or family matters.

The move to shorten high school is another example of administrative misstep, an out-of-touch and top-down reform that means well but for the sake of penny pinching just further aggravates the problem.

John Oliver Santiago is a fellow with New America Media's Youth Education Fellowship. The fellowship is a six-month long program for youth reporters aged 16-24 on education reporting. It is sponsored by the California Education Policy Fund.

John Oliver-Santiago

Competing Tax Initiatives Could Stymie Education Funding

By John Oliver-Santiago, Apr 10, 2012 2:32 PM


The differences between Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative and that put forward by Molly Munger, a private attorney in Pasadena, Calif., may be smaller than one might think. Both propose to increase taxes and allocate the extra revenues towards education. Where they depart, as Vauhini Vara writes in the Wall Street Journal, is just how far across the board to cut and how the revenues are spent.

Both will appear on the ballot come November.

According to the UCLA Anderson forecast, which recently released its quarterly outlook, California can expect “2% GDP growth projected through 2012.” In other words, “slow, steady gains.” Albeit small, it does give policy makers some wiggle room for budget restructuring.

Still, pro-tax and pro-education spending factions have failed to unify.

Brown wants to increase taxes for the top income earners and allocate the revenues for other spending beyond education. Munger’s plan involves a tax hike across the board with more allocated for education spending. Also on the November ballot is the Tax on California Oil Initiative, a tax on all natural gas and oil extracted in the state. A third of the revenue would go toward education with the rest allocated to the general fund.

All in all, the November ballot is oversaturated with multiple tax initiatives that try to achieve the same result with different allocation ratios and levels of taxation. Choices are nice, but combined with an overall lack of civic engagement in California (59.6% voter turnout on the 2010 gubernatorial elections) this multiplicity just stymies progression.

John Oliver-Santiago is a fellow with New America Media's Youth Education Fellowship. The fellowship is a six-month long program for youth reporters aged 16-24 on education reporting. It is sponsored by the California Education Policy Fund.

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