Over the past year, our communities have been hit hard by the economic recession, and our schools continue to pay the price. California, once known for having a top educational system, has now declined to a ranking of 50th in education spending, with no sign of relief in the months to come.
Despite the lack of funding, East Los Angeles residents and community stakeholders have begun to demand the improvement of our public schools, and see this as a time of opportunity for bold and innovative solutions that ensure we reach 100% graduation, with a graduating class prepared to meet the demands of the 21st century workforce. I am honored to join an effort that continues a legacy of struggle in East LA- I have always advocated on behalf of this community, as a community organizer and elected official.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will open 50 new schools throughout the city; our greatest challenge will be to ensure they provide a world class education.
One of the schools soon to open is the new Esteban E. Torres High School, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2010 in Unincorporated East Los Angeles. The new Esteban E. Torres High School will open with 5 small schools of up to 500 students each. Small Schools of 500 students or less will provide the opportunity for personalized instruction where students will no longer slip through the cracks and become another statistic.
We must work toward closing the achievement gap that exists in which only 45% of incoming freshmen graduate within 4 years from Eastside High Schools. There's a clear urgency for our communities to begin working in collaboration to support community schools to reach academic success. The East Los Angeles Education Empowerment Zone (ELAEEZ) is a bold new vision for secondary education in East Los Angeles schools. The Empowerment Zone would create a network of small public schools that will include Esteban E. Torres, East Los Angeles Star Learning Center and Garfield High School.
This would be the first time in East Los Angeles history that families, parents, and students will be empowered to choose the type of school they want to attend within the East Los Angeles community ranging from Small Learning Communities to Pilot Schools at Esteban E. Torres High School.
Students will no longer be bound to the traditional notion of enrolling in a school based on attendance area; rather they will have the ability along with their families to choose a school based on their personal interest and needs in order to prepare them for college or 21st Century careers.
As new schools begin to open, I encourage us all to step up to the plate to define a new community driven vision for our schools, where our children are at the center and provided with the best teaching practices available. Secondly, in order for us to reach our new vision, we need to begin working in collaboration and
build new traditions as we strengthen partnerships between parents, students, teachers, community stakeholders and local decision makers. I attended Garfield High School and know the rich tradition that exists. My hope is that the Esteban E. Torres High School will provide families and young people with the opportunity to excel in life. Finally, let us be the leaders in education reform and take the opportunity to reshape education and develop best practice models that will once again move us to the top in education.
Esteban E. Torres, U.S. Congressman (Ret.).