July 2014 – Vol. 26 No. 11

Second Year Science Graduation Requirement Elimination: Governor Stands Firm

Posted: Monday, June 4th, 2012

by Jessica L. Sawko

In his May revision of the 212-2013 budget, the governor made several changes to his education block grant proposal (designed to reform the education mandate system, of which the graduation requirement is a part). One thing he did not change was his proposal to eliminate the “Graduation Requirement” mandate, which requires high school students to complete two years of science to fulfill their graduation requirements.

CSTA has been reporting and acting on the Governor’s proposal to eliminate the Graduation Requirement mandate since February (MarchAprilMay). In May, CSTA teamed up with the California STEM Learning Network (CSLNet). Our combined efforts have resulted in gaining support for our position of opposing the Governor’s proposal in the Assembly, but there is still work to be done in the Senate. 

At one time there were thoughts circulating that there was a way to maintain the graduation requirement, but eliminate the burden and expense of the mandate. CSTA has since learned that this is not the case.

What can you do? Contact your local Assembly and Senate representative at their local office (simply enter your home address and click find) and let them know that you oppose the governor’s proposal to eliminate the second year science graduation mandate and weaken science education in California. Eliminating this mandate could result in serious equity issues, with those students in districts with the means to continue to provide two, three, and four years of science doing so, and those students in districts forced to make difficult choices eliminating their physical science courses. Let them know that

  • overturning 30 years of existing law requiring two years of science is short sighted and lacks a vision for a future, for that matter today, that requires students to have a solid basis in the skills only learned in a science classroom (critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, etc.).
  • eliminating the the second year science graduation requirement will place students in jeopardy of being ineligible to apply to a CSU or UC.

Budget discussions are on going and your action is needed today!

What would the elimination of this mandate mean for your school and district. Let us know your thoughts. Please also let us know if you have contacted your representative and any response you may have received. You can let us know via comment below or by sending an email to csta@cascience.org.

For information bills CSTA is tracking, please click here.

Jessica L. Sawko is executive director of the California Science Teachers Association.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

16 Responses

  1. How unsurprising. Note that after all the cutbacks and shuffling off of non-core classes over the past decade it was clear that the biggest chance to save money is by zapping science. Science is expensive, especially in consumables.

    The “brains trust” in Sacramento probably see no other way to save money in significant amounts and are probably hoping the the CTE “replacements” such as the dubious PLTW program will still cover enough science for those who care, if they can continue to get grants for them.

    They’ve blasted teachers and will again. They’ve removed pretty much all but the core and are now attacking that. It’d have been smarter to get rid of districts and let schools self-manage and have the counties do oversight. Who knows, maybe they’re next.

  2. The concept of reducing the cost of public education by cutting any specific high school graduation requirement does not make any sense to me unless it is coupled with the reduction of the number of credits required for the high school diploma. That would appear to be false economy. There is no differential in teacher salaries based on the subjects they teach nor is there any special state funding for science classes that I am aware of. There is a minimum number of credits for the diploma. For the sake of discussion, let’s say students must earn 240 credits for four years of study, six one-year courses per year each worth 10 credits. Where is there a savings if students still take the same number of credits? Certainly reducing the time that students spend in the classroom per day and per school year may allow savings if school employee salaries are cut based on reduced service. That makes sense fiscally. But, of course, any reductions in educational time will have a long term impact on the student’s education as well as society in the long term. If we are unwilling or unable to maintain the level of funding for a quality education, we will certainly get what we pay for and that is a less educated citizenry. Singling out science or any other subject areas for reduction does not really add up.

  3. Most districts fund science through their “discretionary” funds therefore there are no “earmarked” funds for science. A student who takes a non laboratory class cost the state the same. One might think, oh, it’s the textbooks. Wrong again. Textbooks pretty much all fall in the same ballpark when it comes to cost. I can see no logic what so ever to the state cutting specific course requirements. I can understand to logic of reducing the teaching day and the teaching year in that employees spend less time working, the get paid less.

  4. Cutting out a 2-year science graduation requirement is just plain foolish. It should be expanded to 3 years. That said, science courses are ripe for targets of cost-cutters. They just plain cost too much.

    I cannot say whether the state’s estimate of $400 per high school student is anywhere near accurate, but it certainly gets people’s attention. There’s the cost of building lab facilities, of maintaining them, of insuring them, of the equipment in them, of repairing and replacing that equipment, and of consumables. You don’t have those costs in your basic math classes.

    The answer is really simple. Use technology to save enough of that money to make the state back off. So far, technology has been used in ways that increase costs (e.g. probes) or that pervert the science (simulations as labs instead of as visualization aids or models for comparison with real data). That can change because you now can do real experiments online with actual point-by-point data collection. No predetermined data either by formula or by data table. The student determines what data are collected and what their values are. Just search for “online science labs” to find out more. Do not settle for simulations. Do not allow the state to single out science for bad treatment just because labs are expensive.

    You can flip your science labs and have time in class to discuss the results and so get more learning. Students can understand the nature of science and engage in scientific thinking more than ever. They can do hundreds of experiments each year instead of dozens. You can have everything, all student work including data points, online and ready to be analyzed. It’s a new era in science education.

  5. In my 32 years of teaching chemistry, the utmost in consumable lab materials, I have NEVER been given $400 per student to fund my labs. Therefore, I have learned how to do lab on a budget either by doing more small scale labs with less supplies or by getting my community to support our lab by way of donations of old equipment from beakers to hot plates to baking soda!
    Teachers are resourceful and will find ways to deal with less money for their classes but if we cut the graduation requirement to one year of science, the inequity for students will grow as less students take science and we will graduate less citizens able to comprehend and make good decisions about the rather technical world around them.

  6. I am not understanding our state government. The White house says more more, and Brown says less less less. So lets eliminate science requirement, that will put us in the lead of the rest of the country in science and technology. We need to vote everyone out of office in Califronia, and find some people with forward thinking not backward.

  7. Thank you for all your comments. Please keep them coming. Please also spread the word and contact your Assembly and Senate representatives.

  8. i am appalled at the dumbing down of california atudents. Years ago we moved to California specifically because of the high quality of education available to our children at all levels, including the university. Those opportunities are no longer available to young people. Is it a wonder the jail system is so crowded? Uneducated people are unable to earn, and turn to whatever is at hand for i ncome.
    Especially now in world competing so intensely in the sciences, we should be increasing not decreasing the amount of science taught in schools.

  9. The issue is the funding owed schools by the state, that they are not paying anyway. As long as it is a requirement the state owes the school district money. As soon as this is no longer required the state no longer owes school districts money.

    The state wants to stop accumulating an unpaid bill. I understand part of the problem is that school districts here in california are funded much differently then they are in other parts of the country, for example, the east coast.

  10. Lusa, yes, funding for California schools comes mostly from the state level. A good summary of the funding of schools in California can be found on Ed Source: http://www.edsource.org/sys_edsystem.html

  11. Recent media coverage on this issue:

    LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-science-schools-20120606,0,2454775.story

    KQED Forum: http://www.kqed.org/a/forum/R201206070900

  12. I am deeply saddened that Jerry Brown would even consider this avenue of cutting state costs. To cheat our children out of one of the basic foundations of their education will most certainly have long term detrimental effects. How does this huge cut help our young adults to be successful in college and in turn give them more options for their future? I strongly urge Jerry Brown and his advisers to search elsewhere to do their “fat” trimming.

  13. [...] The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe in its June 9, 2012 episode did a service to anyone concerned about science and science education with three news stories highlighting three attacks from three different angles. One of those stories was the decision by the South Korean Ministry of Education, Science, and technology (MEST) to “…produce revised editions that exclude examples of the evolution of the horse or of avian ancestor Archaeopteryx.” (via NCSE) But, the Rogues also ridiculed North Carolina for legislating the selection of data involving the effect of AGW-altered sea levels on coastline erosion and California for dumbing down high school science requirements. [...]

  14. our district superintendent makes $300,000 a year.
    I buy my own lab supplies, and use as many of the broken microscopes as i can.
    My equipment is old and out of date.
    I have students who want to go into the medical field.
    Other students look at me like I’m nuts to talk about education. They see a future in selling drugs.

  15. [...] Second Year Science Graduation Requirement Elimination: Governor Stands Firm [...]

  16. [...] Second Year Science Graduation Requirement Elimination: Governor Stands Firm [...]

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